Paul Jackson Music

Paul Jackson Music

Sunday, 28 July 2013

#14: "Lights, camera..... "

There is a camera shop in Brighouse that I remember first visiting when I was ten years old in 1984. I went there specifically to buy some film for a cine camera that I had been given by a relative. However between me receiving the cine camera, and me going to buy some film for it, I spent several months on a creative high. After receiving the camera, there was only one thing on my decade-old mind to do: make a movie.
I started plotting out a story and developing characters and soon began writing a script. I had a toy blaster gun which was to be used as a prop, and my dad helped me paint a large piece of hardboard jet black before I used a brush to spray white painted dots everywhere, resulting in a makeshift ‘space’ backdrop. This was to be a sci-fi adventure film heavily appropriating elements from Star Wars, Battle Beyond The Stars and Battle Of The Planets. I scouted locations for various scenes on the industrial estate and fields near where I lived in Elland, and I started casting at my primary school, persuading friends to take on various roles. At no point during this process did I consider how, where and when to buy film, or how I would edit it or even how I would dub the sound, as this was a silent camera. Regardless of that I started compiling a soundtrack which would include a recording I had of Finlandia by Sibelius for the main score, and a Hammermen recording of Duane Eddy’s “Rebel Rouser” for the end party celebration sequence. Besides music I also picked through a couple of BBC sound effects albums I had. I drew various scenes and poster ideas for it and very soon I felt ready to start making it. I went to the camera shop to inquire about buying film for the camera, somehow expecting to be able to afford it at ten years old. I learned that three minutes of silent film, which couldn’t be erased and used again, would be £15. This was in 1984. I was planning the film to be a lot longer than three minutes, and I hadn’t allowed for retakes or anything. That was when the creative flow came to an abrupt end and the idea of making a movie remained just that.

However, the sadness in failing to realise the vision I had seemed to disappear quite quickly. The creative process had been so much fun that it never felt like it had been a waste of time. I’ve always looked back on those months fondly and wonder if the end result, had I somehow managed to cobble together some movie footage accompanied by an audio cassette, might have been so bad that it would have ruined the whole experience.

El Mariachi
by Robert Rodriguez
By the time I was introduced to video cameras where you recorded directly onto a video cassette, my destiny was leading me on a more musical journey than a filmmaking one. The times when I did borrow a video camera at school and at university were more based around making little music videos and filming live performances.
My passion for films and how they are made and who makes them has never diminished. In fact it has grown and grown over the years. While I’ve never had plans or aims to consider making films, I’ve devoured many books and films on the craft of film making. Robert Rodriguez’s book on how he put his film El Mariachi together is still one of my favourites and I’m forever lapping up DVD commentaries and documentaries on the filmmaking process. Kevin Smith’s podcasts are now a regular fixture for me,particularly his Film School Fridays series where he talks and advises new filmmakers, and his series of Q&A shows give a fascinating insight into his journey into making movies.

While my path led me into focusing on making music, I occasionally have flashes of an alternative universe where I somehow managed to make a three minute film, and then continued down that road. The fact that I didn’t has never diminished my appreciation and interest into those who did.

Black Out
by Derek Boyes

At university I met an incredibly talented guitarist called Fil Hill who I also discovered had made some movies with friends which I found fascinating, inspiring and highly entertaining. A friend I made in London, Jason Young, went from acting to writing and directing his own films including three shorts that I contributed music to. And more recently, via MySpace, I came across a filmmaker based in Kent called Derek Boyes, whose DelFilm website is not only an impressive piece of design, but packed with  content that makes for an outstanding CV. It not only features completed short films, but also earlier film experiments and tryouts that tells his journey into film, as well as his ongoing work, in a very engaging way.

In a recent Q&A by Kevin Smith, he is asked by an audience member why he does all the different things he does, and how he finds time. His response is an outburst of passion, in very colourful language, for being creative and why everyone should – be it a film, a piece of music, a YouTube clip, a podcast, a blog, a cupcake store etc. It is highly motivating and actually pushed me into starting this blog, for no other reason than to create and put something out there while I continue to work on making music.

I’ve found over the years that regardless of the outcome and where it takes you, the creative process is such an important thing. Success in something doesn’t always have to be tied to how much money it will make. Music artist Moby has referenced filmmaker David Lynch saying ‘creativity, in and of itself, is beautiful’.
Nearly three decades on from the creative process of making a movie coming to an end in that camera shop, you can essentially make a movie on your phone and upload it to the web for anyone, anywhere to see. Similarly with music, any audio or visual creation can now be more easily accessible and discoverable to any audience. What happens after that isn’t something you can really control, but you can control the creation and realisation of those initial ideas. And the result, or future course, shouldn’t deter one from embracing the creative process. 

As well as being inspired what other filmmakers, and in fact creative people in general, have done, what I have more recently found most inspiring closer to home, is that my 6 year old son has taken an interest in film making. He has been planning out stories with his Thomas the Tank Engine toys, and together we have filmed and edited shots on a computer into mini-movies. Even as I write this he is mapping out a camera shot list for his next creation and it feels great that he has us to here to help and guide him. And should he continue down that road (or track in his case) he is growing up in a world where tools such as a camera and editing software are more easily available and affordable than they were a generation ago.