Text and Context

This project was about exploring narrative structures and realising how they are often the same throughout many stories but in different contexts. We were given a handful of different texts and settings to pick from and form a new story. We were to essentially re-tell the narrative but in a different form. The new story we were making needed to exist of elements and key events from the original, and it had to be either a book or graphic novel, video or animation.  I picked The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka and surreal.

I started the project with the intention of creating a graphic novel, but in the form of a collection of GIFs. I broke the narrative structure of the original story up into a list of key events:

  • the main character wakes up and realises he is a bug
  • his family freak out
  • a period of time passes and his family don’t want him anymore
  • the main character buy man dies in the night
  • his family move on

And then I reduced that to a more basic and anonymous version (out of context to the original story):

  • being becomes another being
  • family reacts negatively
  • being dies
  • family moves on

After a ponder, I decided that I was of course going to change the bug factor, and I came up with a list of possible ideas for the main character to wake up as:

  • spiderman
  • a bbq
  • radioactive
  • underwater
  • made of watermelon
  • caveman times
  • left handed

I decided to go with the character waking up left handed. I researched why left handedness could be seen as a bad thing and any historical or religious connotations. I came across a website of the ‘Landover Baptist Church’ as the forums contained very questionable and aggressive statements. Upon closer inspection, I found that it is a fictional, satirical website (yay). The site contained an extreme amount of silliness which meant that I loved it. Someone with the username ‘Bob4God’ who is an ‘Arms Dealer for Christ’ commented on the ‘issue of the disgusting, alternative lifestyle of being left-handed’. The website also contained a map of the fictional park called Jesusland. It contains a racial profiling centre, an airport, ‘S.S Noah’s Ark 2’ luxury escape ship, a gift shop, a rifle range and the world’s largest gold cross amongst many many other things. I decided that this is the perfect place to base my narrative, and so the other characters would be beings of the cloth.

When having a mid project crit, my idea completely changed. The tutor asked us what we would do (outside of this project) if we had an unlimited budget and all the space we need. Something which I have been considering for a while is creating a surreal video/ comedy sketch. And so, I applied this to the project at hand and got cracking.

I bundled inspiration from the League of Gentlemen, Boosh, Monty Python and such and began considering and conceiving relevant thoughts. I wanted this video to be funny. The problem with that is, which I buoyantly discovered, trying to make something funny isn’t all that easy. I wrote a few ideas up but frustratedly lost hope with them, leaving them outside the creative house to die. And then! I realised! I’m a fool! I had already brewed a narrative from my previous expedition which I had instantly dropped the moment I decided to change my outcome. So I lovingly hopped back to my original left handed crusade. I had a few ideas, and even pumped out a poem (wow!). After all this splashing around, I only had a week to get things done. I embraced this and started storyboarding something together.

My idea was to have someone wake up, drink some water with their left hand, but the hand chaotically scrambles this attempt leaving the person all watered on, they exclaim loud sounds which gains the attention of a second person who asks what the shit is going on, the wet person can only talk in connectives so tries to write down what has happened, the second person sees they are writing with their left hand and reacts monstrously.

And then for some reason I felt compelled to spend my time wisely and create this digital drawing of the sofa bed which I would be filming around..

I decided to swing straight into it and started filming. I shortly discovered that the funnies happened when actually filming. Ideas came as to how to cause smiles which was reassuring and fun. Also my main star actor and fool Mr Harry Cole was brilliant at both acting and coming up with ideas. The process of doing was where most of the direction happened for the video, no matter how much planning. Also I played around with editing as well as different shots and perspectives. From the Narratives of the Unconscious project in semester one I learnt of the excellence of sound effects and music, and so had a fiddle. Below is the first video I made, originally intended to be just a mockup and a test but turned out to be quite the piece in itself.

After editing I was satisfied with the video as a whole. I fully acknowledge how much I’ve strayed from the path in context to abstracting the original narrative and how inconclusive it is compared to my original plan however, I carried on playing around with video and created this separate video as I had an idea for there to be a dream sequence at the beginning of the video. It features myself staring into the camera with no audio. It is a living execution of an idea taken a step further regardless of relevance.

My aim was to create something which felt politely uncomfortable and surreal. I believe I have achieved this by the use of slightly slowing down the speed and the lack of audio. The lack of audio was something I felt I needed to do as every time the camera was focusing it generated noises from the lens movements.  The almost constant re-focusing also brings a lot to the piece, I was able to do it handsfree using a wired shutter controller to the camera. In the moments it is blurry, the viewer is working to establish what it is they are looking at, which works in favour of the vibe I was going for. The staring brings a level of intensity to the video since direct eye contact is often intimidating. The choppy editing of different scenes and use of black screen forces the viewer to pause and consider what is going on. The use of prosthetic hands relates to the precious video as I wanted to bring focus to the use of the left hand. The ripped baby head mask is what I wore on Halloween and so had it lying around, and its concealment of half my face also raises an uneasy and confusing atmosphere. I learnt a hefty punch about methods of achieving certain vibes from this video, in context to recording and editing.

Another joust into the depths of relevance was using the previously written poem and spending two hours editing it to exist as this video.. I wrote it all with my left hand.. that is partially the reason it took so long.

Anyway, I regrouped and did some more filming and built on what I had learnt from A Left Watering and pursued the idea of utilising a dream sequence but of a foretelling nature.

I enjoy the notion of the left hand having its own disruptive agenda and a mind of its own, especially in the context to everyday experiences. I also experimented with using and not using a tripod as an attempt to emphasise the atmosphere. I found that no matter how much filming I had done, I was always being really selective when editing which meant I had short end results. I view this as a positive and a negative. Yes it is dampening to know I spent so long filming different angles and shots again and again, but keeping it short and sweet enables a much more interesting and enjoyable end result for the viewer.

I feel the two main pieces of video I have produced are strong in structure and quality, however I am not going to jiggle around the fact that they are rather nonsensical in their narrative nature. The viewer doesn’t really have any idea what is going on and why other than a rough idea from the title. While I like this, it doesn’t entirely fit the brief.

I went to the final crit with my videos and received useful feedback which I intend to act on and take this project further post-crit to create a finished piece. The main conclusion which was concluded was the realisation that I had, quite impressively, created just a middle segment of the narrative. We discussed how in order for the piece to make sense, it needs context in the form of a separate beginning and ending, to which I agree with bells on. We spoke of how this could be achieved through the use of perfect right handed people doing everything absolutely perfectly perfect, which would contrast to the chaotic nature of the left handed person doing everything unperfectly unperfect. I also showed a blooper collation I had made, as I was exploring the notions that come with unintentional creation. I liked the idea of a blooper reel as complete freedom compared to creating the videos, it is a mixture of things that went wrong and silliness. It does not conform to the guidelines of a polished outcome and it is allowed to. Also it acted as a good editing exercise. Below are the notes from the crit.


Although that was the ‘end’ of the project I still had work to do in order to finish it. When showing my work and speaking to another tutor, he pointed his admiration towards the previous video of the written poem. We spoke of the power of it and the audio in itself. This led me to show him some of my soundcloud audio pieces (click here to visit that region) and how much fun I have with titting about on garage band and working with audio in general. We spoke many-a-word of audio stories such as radio series such as The Goon Show and podcasts and such. This joyful encouragement propelled me towards the idea of creating a spoken/audio narrative. Since I now had this project to work on on top of other projects, I decided it would be good to create something simple and politely limit the amount of time I will spend. I could have drawn the line here and moved on, but I wanted to work towards bringing my enjoyment of sounds into the project.

In the piece ‘The Words Spoken’ (linked above and previously mentioned) and in my soundcloud sounds I use a ‘written text to spoken word’ feature which my laptop lovingly provides. It enables me to type words and add them to iTunes as a spoken track. There exists a marginally long list of different names featuring different accents and voices to choose from. I thought if I wrote a script/spoken narrative, I could use this talkie feature to create the different distinguishable character voices. I used 3 characters: a narrator, henery and the mother. I also found a handful of sound effects from freesound.org (very good site) to beef it up a bit. And so off I went. I wrote the script and then typed it out for the 3 individual voices:

Next I added them to iTunes as spoken tracks after picking different voices and then got to work splicing them up into the correct narrative order and added some other sounds, which cost me 1.6 hours of my life. I was pleased with it. However, (obviously) there existed no visuals. For me, I found this boring. I thought about writing or typing them out so they appeared on the screen as they are spoken, but I knew that this would take me 16 years to do properly. So I had an idea, create talking heads. I drew 3 heads and turned them into GIFs with a simple mouth opening and closing. I then added this to the mix and spent at least 1.8 hours syncing and editing them in time with the audio. I then slapped a title on there and voila! A new thing!

I really enjoy the presence the faces bring to the piece, even though its repeating the same faces and same movements, I do not tire of it. The mundanity of them allows full focus to be on the audio which is what I wanted since that is where the story lies.

I prefer this outcome to that of my real life video edits because it feels much stronger. It holds a staple narrative and gives the viewer/listener a whole story. I found myself feeling over-encumbered and frustrated with choice and decisions when filming real things, there were too many variables to consider and try and control to get a message across. What things mean, objects, time, faces, lighting, angles, camera shake, sound, focus, background, foreground, visual composition etc. And then theres the whole editing part. But with an audio piece, everything is controlled much easier since I am building it up more directly. The lack of visuals enables the listener to use their imagination more. This means there is no fixed ‘look’ as it is interpreted differently. For example, if the narrator said “the table is blue” everyone who hears that is picturing a different blue table. I find this more fun than a truthful video depiction of a blue table as it seals of what the blue table can look like with the hard truth of what it does actually look like. I can also see the negatives of this as the listener can easily be confused within the narrative, but overall I view it as a positive. The lack of truthful depiction in audio allows for a richer invisible world to be created, enabling it to be completely different from person to person but the same in focus.

I am very proud with all that I have achieved with this project, I have experimented with video and gained a deal of valuable experience with editing and patience. By taking this project for a walk outside of its allocated time slot in the semester I have enabled myself to create something that makes me happiness. By allowing myself to blur the boundaries between what I do for projects and what I do outside of them (my soundcloud seances) I have enabled myself to create something fresh. I really enjoy this direction of working and will explore it further in other projects.

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