As a filmmaker, I’m used to working on diverse projects. From commercial video, to more conceptual moving image work, every project is unique. When you arrive at a location with your camera, your brain is throwing out tens of questions a second… What story am I telling? How can I tell that story visually? What’s that buzzing sound? Do I need to switch off those lights? Do I need a shot of that door handle? Will I get enough footage?
When I was asked by the Expecting Something in Wester Hailes group to collaborate with them on a film that celebrated their creative playgroup, I knew the challenge wasn’t going to be getting enough footage. Having worked with the group before, I knew how colourful, creative, and visually interesting these Thursday mornings were. Ten minutes into our first session (where a group of dancers from South Africa performed a traditional gumboot dance) I realised that the real challenge was going to be conveying how exciting the sessions are for their little participants, and how to incorporate some of that magic into the film.
During our second session, we worked with the group to identify words they associated with Expecting Something:
This became a logical way to structure the film. Like the sessions themselves (where the group participate in a different activity every week) we’d show the audience to a range of colourful events. Using the group’s words, we’d take the audience on a journey from the creation of a living sculpture with lengths of brightly coloured crepe paper, and quiet story time with The Tiger Who Came to Tea and cupcakes; to a mums and babies’ dance lesson, and a collaborative artwork – drawn on the windows of the room with paint sticks… With the group so involved in each activity, I was able to capture some really lovely, candid moments on camera: a mum and her daughter drawing together; a toddler having a tiny taste of a raw potato; two girls sharing balloons; and lots of clapping hands and little dancing feet.
On the third, and last, filming session we were joined by Rory Clark, and an amazing array of musical instruments and percussion. As I filmed the new Expecting Something noise-orchestra at work, Rory audio-recorded the mums and their little ones: singing, drumming, talking, playing keyboards, shaking shakers, laughing, stomping their feet, and eating their lunch.
The final task was to pull everything together into a film that the group would screen as part of Changing Perspectives: Wester Hailes Film and Moving Image Festival at Whale Arts. Using animation, I wanted to add an extra layer of magic: in part to illustrate the sense of wonder I’d seen when the group’s little participants were introduced to something new, but also to make the film something that children would want to watch. Colourful outlines were added to the dancers’ gumboots; stars flew out of a little boy’s feet as he joined in the dance; the window drawings came to
life; and snacks fell from the sky during story time. Adding Rory’s brilliant soundtrack (where he’d used snippets of the audio recordings to transform the
group’s music-making session into an immersive sound piece) was the final step, and really brought the film to life.
We hope that the film shows that Expecting Something isn’t any ordinary playgroup. So expect colour, friendship, balloons, play, gumboots, creativity, fun, and Dairylea triangles.
Check out the film and read more about the Changing Perspectives: Wester Hailes Film and Moving Image Festival here.