A few days ago I was phoned up by a Video Artist (please don’t stop reading, this Is actually rather interesting) in the middle of his latest project called "The People”.
His name is Ian Flitman. So I checked out his website ( www.blipstation.com ) and the work he’s best known for, Hackney Girl - it’s been exhibited round the world - and started to watch it.
To say that he is a video artist who “creates self-editing, randomly-generated narratives that are different each time you watch it” sounds a bit poncey and pretentious, but you really have to watch Hackney Girl a few times to see how he goes about it - and, because there is an over-arching 3-Act construct, it all does make sense.
Indeed, twenty years ago, when I was Chair of the London Screenwriter’s Workshop, I tried to get our writers to address these ideas of non-linear narratives where, for example, the audience could choose and decide the course of the stories they were watching. And it’s only in recent years, with the advent of digital technology, that linear film-makers like Mike Figgis (with his piece Timecode) have begun to explore the possibilities of non--linear / multi-linear narrative.
So what Ian is doing is actually quite clever and taking the concept of randomness yet still working within a 3-Act construct.
So what happened? To summarise: yesterday we filmed near the Royal Exchange (on top of Bank station in the City). A tight head-and-shoulders close up of me listening to an MP3 playing a reading of the W.B.Yeats poem The Wild Swans At Coole, 1919. Then, when it was over, I’d take the headphones out, look straight at the lens for a minute or so, then make a ‘Cut’ sign to camera.
It will be curious to see the end result when it starts to get shown in 2010 (I am Number 50 out of the fifty people Ian has filmed). I’ll no doubt keep you in touch of the exploits of this piece.
[I could let you into a little secret. I could say that the tear slowly forming in my left eye during the piece was my emotional response to the power of the poetry. It was actually the result of a slight breeze constantly blowing into my eye throughout the shoot. But if I said that, it would be giving the game away, wouldn’t it?]. And I got paid for it.