Making Progress maker’s films: Filming with Jennifer Cantwell

20 Aug 2011 in Crafts Blog, Visual Arts & Crafts

In the run up to starting on my fourth and final Making Progress maker’s film I was pretty excited for a variety of reasons, not least because finally I was to be working on my home turf! Throughout this project I have loved very much travelling around new and strange parts of the Scottish Highlands, meeting & working with new and interesting people, but there’s something to be said about getting to work in a place you love already. And it’s especially interesting to spend time being taught to observe a place you think you know well through somebody else’s eyes (or ears as the case may be…).


So after my initial meeting with Jen Cantwell in her cosy wee Forres studio we arranged that when the weather conditions were just right she and her partner/collaborator/sound technician/chauffeur Dave Martin would travel down and pick me up on their way to a day’s sound recording in Smirisary, near Glenuig. So one beautifully sunny Wednesday somewhere in the middle of July that is exactly what happened.


After a quick hello and cup of tea at mine we all piled into Dave’s car and hit the road, chatting all the way about anything and everything: the project, people we knew in common, zombie films, electric ceilidhs… and of course about how lucky we were to have such a cracking day for roaming around the countryside. Now I don’t know if it comes with being a mum or from juggling a conceptual knitting practise with a commercial sporran design practise or if you’re just born with it or a combination of all of the above, but I got a strong impression from Jen that she had just the right balance of being super organised but within that framework of organisation left a lot of room for playing it by ear and just seeing how it goes. So this was how I decided to approach making Jen’s film. I knew I wanted to document the sound recording process, reflect in some way the sense of place and exploration that Jen has running throughout her work and perhaps get a couple of shots of wee birdies larking around but other than that I was very happy to just see where the day took us.


And as it happened, not only did we go to Smirisary, we also popped into the Glenuig hall (where we bumped into Pamela) and the forest beside it and then, on our way home, into the Lochailort Post Office, which is without a doubt the best post office I have ever visited in my entire life. By and large the day’s events ran seamlessly (well, after I learned to stop crunching loudly through the undergrowth with my camera and tripod, scaring away all birds in a half mile radius while Dave was trying to record them…).


That night Jen and Dave dropped me back at my house  and I had the opportunity to go over the day’s footage before the next day of filming up in Jen’s Elgin studio and see how the playing it by ear had gone and where I thought I would like to go next. For this reason, the next day in Jen’s studio was very straightforward. It was also great to be able to see the audio to visual transition of the bird sounds, from twittery chirping birdie noises to the clean and crisp sound waves on a glossy screen to a multicoloured textured piece of knitted fabric. And after this, our second and last day’s filming, I left Jen to her seemingly infinite pile of work while I went back to my much more manageable process of putting together all our sound and video footage. And now it’s all done, three weeks on, I genuinely hope that the resulting wee video from our two days filming together adequately reflects Jen’s practise in a way that she’s happy with.


And so I’d just like to say thanks to Jen and Dave for a great day out (and for my Solero, yum :) ). I haven’t had a chance to pop into her exhibition but I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews so am very excited about taking a gander up this week!