I’ve been shooting film since I discovered how to use a darkroom during college some 7 years ago. Where I learnt the processes from shooting, developing and printing my own analogue film. It resonated in me such a visceral feeling towards the art of making images. This, with my love of cinema sent me on a journey of wanting to recreate it for my first short film. I love to shoot portraits. I’ve collaborated with many different people, including projects of my own self portraiture. I always strive to create cinematic imagery, even in my 35mm or Medium format work.
I finished post production on my short film ‘Preserve’ during the first UK lockdown. Those first few months gave me time to reflect without having to juggle a full time job. Lockdown was almost a blessing for me to get it finished. A key influence to the film was 35mm and analogue imagery. After researching how to make digital not look digital per se, I knew this was the direction I wanted to take aesthetically.
Budget was one of the reasons I decided not to literally shoot on 16mm or 8mm, let alone 35mm. The majority of the film was shot on a Canon 5D mkii, with a couple of shots taken on an iphone. It was important for me to use the skills and make it work with the equipment that I already had.
Creating art is never easy. Even without the consistent learning of the craft, there’s always a self doubt looming over you. Preserve was inspired by stories that my Grandmother would tell me. She’d recall endless afternoons spent in the wheat fields on the outskirts of North London reading and eating jam sandwiches. It was her own escapism from her mother and an unpleasant home life during the 1930s.
This meant that there was another personal layer I was showing to the world. The project became an isolated one, not for the pandemic but for it being a micro team of myself and my mum assisting on occasions. Not to mention that I was starring in it as well. I was merely the vessel for the character of Patricia to tell the story. Some of the shots are even myself holding the camera in one hand and hoping it’s in focus or setting up a tripod in my room and taking it from there. Everything is my creation, apart from the music. I worked with composer Connor Scotford remotely to achieve something that could be a character in itself. Listen here
For me, I see the film as an experimental piece. The element of horror drives the escapism theme. Yet, with its calming imagery and focus on music, it resonates like flashbacks or a dreamlike scenario. No dialogue is spoken. It is a reflection of the stories we experience from our family members, like looking back at old photos in awe how rich the analogue photos feel. As if they’re from another world. As a result, emulating the analogue pushes the richness further into the forefront.
The use of a film grain filter is excessive. I wanted it to look like a discovered film, in poor condition. Like some unearthed home video. My intentions were for it to look like a 16mm film. I shot on digital but emulated a film stock to produce a certain emotion. Film stocks are incredibly varied. Each different type provides different effects on an image’s colour, contrast, and texture.
Essentially, each stock is unique. My use of colour and black and white was also to produce a variety of emotions. The richness and tangibility of the colour scenes, with a heavy use of red pushes the horror elements. Whereas the black and white scenes symbolise the quietness and intimacy of the film. I tried to make sure by shooting the majority in black and white that I could represent it being from a certain time. Especially from a time that colour film was not so widely available.
The Cinema of the World film festival 2020 in Mumbai selected Preserve to be included in their Series 5 honourable mentions. It was also selected to be screened online for The Lift-Off Sessions, and First-Time Filmmaker Sessions. These were part of the Lift-Off Global Network 2020 at Pinewood studios. Most recently, it was selected as part of FANS Youth Film Festivals 2020 ‘All About Access’ strand. Aimed at showcasing the talent of young, emerging filmmakers. I’m so grateful to receive this amount of acknowledgment in my first film-making venture.
It’s natural to look back on a creation in a critical light. To see its faults, see what could have been better or what you could have changed if you had more time. As its creator, you are seeing it from a unique perspective. Once you have let it go, it is best not to dwell on your own feelings towards it. Continue to learn and create, by telling more and more stories.
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