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The Making of Eb and Flo

St Leonards based painter and film maker GLENYS X JACQUES made a feature film that became a prize-winning short, to be shown by the BFI soon. She writes about the experience.

I think of film as liquid painting. Adding movement to the image adds magic. Things change. Film leaves behind the object of painting and becomes a subjective dream, carrying the viewer, who surrenders while weaving its spell. That is the hope.

I had made a few films for galleries, exploring these dynamics. Why do we become spellbound? Listening to Debussy is a close musical equivalent. The music is unpredictable yet compels. What are the qualities which compel?

Eb&Flo was a new challenge because I wanted a story. This adds another dimension offering the problems of narrative. Who changes, what happens, who grows?

I began with a voice of a young black boy trying to do well at school, keeping away from the influences of gangs. I wrote pages of his thoughts and observations juxtaposed with more dramatic scenes of his life. Soon the gang members were dropped, including a gangster who harassed the father for debts. The dramatic story line fell away to allow a microcosmic view of a child’s perspective.

The spareness of the narrative was propelled by funding conditions set by Screen South who agreed to fund it as a ten minute short. They offered £1200 to pay for an editor and a grade. This gave further definitions with which to cut my idea according to my cloth. As I had a 50 minute film which I had edited, I had a lot of cloth to cut.

My biggest weakness is admin and filling in forms, and this was the most painful part of the whole experience. I cannot understand why funding bodies create complex prohibitive forms and claim to support artists. My only tip is, insist they give you help, and more help. Enough of that.

I wanted every sequence to include a quality of water, delivering the promise of the title. Pouring rain, gushing taps, drips, spray mist. I wanted a wet experience to be the element of the visuals which could contrast with the scientific and rather dry voice- over of my clever eleven year old.

Thinking of these contrasts for film is fun and crucial. They are the conscious musical notes which you drop into the unsuspecting ears and eyes of your audience. I learnt that what becomes most powerful is what is hinted and understated.

By working with my editor Emma Collins (Mebv films) I learnt that I had to drop sequences which I loved, if they didn’t support the story. Working with an editor was probably the most priceless gift of making this film. It gave me the opportunity to have the difficult arguments that straddle the art and film world. Namely, the ingredients which create a compelling film.

Emma’s eye was on the narrative while mine was on the aesthetic. She was endlessly patient, saturated by water imagery and soaked by my exuberant overblown theoretical blather. Editors in the film world are under-rated and rarely named. This was an experience which was successful because of the team and in particular the sharp questions asked by Emma. Making films for a gallery had been a solitary activity, being part of a team was a wonderful new experience in which to make art.

Posted 12:40 Tuesday, Dec 22, 2009 In: Film

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