Caught by the River


15th October 2009

A short film by Carl Hunter & Clare Heney. Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

ACCELERATE from carl hunter & clare heney. on Vimeo.

When is a film not a film? by Carl Hunter

A couple of years ago I produced a film – Grow Your Own – Its real audienece was discovered in Cumbria. For some reason it sold out and went down a storm at the Keswick film festival. We were so recklessly grateful that we promised Ann Martin – the festival director – we would make a brand new film just for Keswick to celebrate the festival’s tenth anniversary. The idea of telling a story as a series of stills, punctuated with bursts of stop-frame animation came partly from neccessity – how else can you make a film quickly and for nothing. But it was also somethign I’d always wanted to do. I love Chris Marker’s “photo-roman” La Jetée, for instance. The death of Oliver Postgate also influenced us – after all the stories of Noggin and Ivor were mostly told in stills, with the odd puff of smoke or wave of a sword. The Buzzcocks too were – as ever – an inspiration, their idea that you can be rough and ready and lo-fi as long as the melody is good. The melody in this case was a story – Accelerate – by Frank Cottrell Boyce. It’s a sci-fi yarn about a single Mum who shops at Lidl. Imagine Doctor Who working for the NHS. Its premise is that the woman finds away of making time pass more quickly, by selling some seconds out of every minute so that her days become “the edited highlights of themselves”. It was the perfect marriage of subject and medium – after all, what is a still photograph but a moment pulled out of the stream of time. If you had all the money and time in the World, this would still be the best way to tell that story. Young people seem to photograph everything nowadays. If you go to a concert, the audience is watching it but also filming it on their mobiles. We’d found a story and a storytelling style that tapped right into that jumpy, digital way of seeing things.
So we shot our sci-fi epic with a Lumix LX3 on the top deck of a number 555 bus (thank you Cumbrian Tourist Board) as it trundled around Keswick. The cast came from the Keswick Amateur Dramatic club. They socialised, played games and hurrieed in and out of costumes downstairs while Clare Heney took close to three thousand photographs on the top deck. One of my favourite places on any film location is the catering bus – an old double decker fitted out with tables and a condiment rack always parked behind the caravans. Here the catering bus had become the location. And the costume department. And the production office. It reminded me how thrilling filming can be. And also had stomach churning a long bus ride can be. I skipped the catering myself and spent the day sucking on crystallised ginger.
The film begins and ends with a stop frame sunset and sunrise. Clare and I dressed up like two shiny Wombles, slogged down to a lovely spot on Derwent Water, set up a tripod and took a photo every thirty seconds, waiting for dawn. While Clare carefully took meter readings and kept a close eye on composition I would hold a golfing umbrella and decant tea from our Thermos. The importance of this role must never be understated. The sun never did rise in the way Turner so lovingly portrayed in his landscapes, it just got gradually brighter, as though a cost-conscious God was fiddling with his dimmer switch. Well, you can’t rush nature or God and I suppose that’s the point Frank is making with this story. Slowdown, wait a while, enjoy the small moments, look what it can bring.
Would I do it again, too right.