I decided to take a two week hiatus on the Canada Council Digital Originals video production. I’ve produced one a week now for six weeks and it seemed like a good time to take a pause and re-energize creatively as well as look back at what I’ve learned from the project so far. Here are the top five lessons learned so far.
#5 A week to produce a video is a good constraint
I’ve found that it is pretty intense doing a video a week. I’ve started on Saturday night and not finished until late Friday afternoon when all the steps are taken into account. I’ve had a lot of research to do, questions like: how to make a book levitate or can I find a good font and background for the aesthetics of the Cormorants Diving video. The amount of material on YouTube (often by youngsters) on how to do some of the effects I’ve ended up using is quite mind boggling. When I have an idea and need to research I end going to a rabbit hole and then there are the frustrations of learning these techniques using the software I’m using (Final Cut Pro X) and the the satisfaction of it working. Anyhow, the good thing about the constraint is that it forces me to focus, there’s a point where I have to get producing which means stopping the research and practicing and actually make something. The constraint does that, as well sometimes means I must make what I’m doing simpler from the concept I have started with which is almost always a good thing and one of the best lessons learned.
#4. A week to do one is good, doing one a week is tough
Those six weeks were pretty intense. Every week, a day or two off then back into it. Exciting but also tiring. I find I’m thinking about the current video all the time, even when I’m sleeping as evidenced by the solutions I’ve had for video problems upon waking. That’s the thing about creativity and constraints, the constraints can be useful to drive work but you also have to remember the reason for the constraint..it’s purpose is assist in creating work not an end in itself. So I’m cutting myself some slack when needed, like this hiatus.
#3. Get out there and shoot footage
There is something a little daunting about taking a big video camera and tripod out into public. Far easier to use the GoPro. But once I did it a few times I realized nobody seemed to care much. People hanging out on the streets downtown were the most curious… what is that thing, what am I doing. But the people rapidly walking to work mostly just ignored it. So that became more comfortable for me. The value of getting out there and getting material often was not the material I captured but the ideas I got for different material. In the Black and White Image… video I appear to be sitting in a bar, which is just my dining room table with some sound effects and a glass of beer. But the idea for that came from a trip to Port Dover where I thought I’d use summer beach footage, the beach being closed because of Covid. I got that material but found it wasn’t very interesting. What was interesting was the sounds of the outdoor patio next to the beach, that triggered the idea of that intro to the poem. That happened numerous times where I changed the concept based on something that came up while I was filming. The conclusion is get out there but pay attention for what might come up, a great lessons learned.
#2. The video experience is very much like writing poetry
I find the thing about writing poetry is how the poem can surprise you as it comes into focus. You start with an idea of what you think it is but by the time it is finished it is something else, usually much more than what you thought you were writing to start. Making the videos have been like that. An idea to start with that turns into something different than I expect. I mentioned already the discovering of something from filming something else, or the idea the constraint of one week forcing me to change concepts. But there is also the video making itself, like poetry, that requires the gathering of image and sound and then ordering it, and how that takes you in unexpected directions.
#1 The video making and blog writing deepen my own experience with the poems
The videos have me going back to poems written a few years ago and looking closely at them, thinking about them. This idea I had that I didn’t want to just show in images what was being heard as I read the poems means I have to think of new approaches, what is under the poems. That has been a very rich experience and has meant developing an understanding of some of the work I might not have had. It, at times, has also meant selecting an interpretation because the medium requires that as opposed to the more collaborative open experience of a reader with a book. That has also been interesting as friends familiar with a poem tell me the video gives them a different experience than they previously had. So like reading a poem is a collaborative experience between poem and reader, creating the videos is also a collaboration between the poem and the video work. The blog was not part of my original proposal the Canada Council but I’ve found it very useful and from of the feedback others have as well, it seems perhaps giving non poets more access to how poems work or how my creative process works.
Here’s the six videos so far in reverse order. Here’s where you can see the book
And this video gallery is being developed with funding from: