If the apple tree did not die (working title)
most recent draft formatted and proofread with links: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1FECR1d8xgqxGvbFKHZrmI6hAxT241__mFNBsbZEihjY/edit
most recent draft
I am making a documentary film. It is about the making of, exile from, search for: home; it is, eventually, the discovery of home in oneself. The project reflects my continuing research on the creation of meaning and evocation of feelings through image-making. I have themed the storylines as homemaking, homecoming and home-carrying. In a similar fashion to the short films I made last year [link to 3 vimeo clips - lara, mia, renate], I identify stories within people. The current character list, subject to change as the project develops, consists of:
- Marieke (peer from Piet Zwart)
- Tom (friend in San Francisco)
- Sören (tentmaker in Southern Sweden)
At the moment of writing, I have completed the shoots with Marieke and Tom, and have been creating footage for my own storyline. I am in the process of researching Sören's character as well as planning for a new one.
On a personal level, making this documentary has enabled me to articulate loss, transcendence and new beginnings. I have been in search of form, just like I have been in search of home. Through reading, making and writing in the first year, I have started to own my practice with conviction. What was once topical and typological have given way to the existential and spiritual, a realization that came as I wrote my text on practice. 
In this film I hope to evoke the tenderness of grief, the resilience of hope and the very solidarity of being human.
The individual stories
Marieke: Home is safe, non-judgemental; home is where we share
Story: I offered Marieke a haircut in my living room. We shared memories of a book that had been traveled with me and one of Marieke's childhood experiences.
What I want to achieve with this story is a demonstration of vulnerability, which notates home as a space of safety and non-judgement. I scripted our acts but left conversations to be improvized. I have used the shots from this story to develop a grammar of my filmmaking — a style that I feel confident in conveying my intentions.
After showing a rough cut in a group critique and asking what people see, I received feedback about the scripted-ness. I plan to do a second edit in which I will take a closer look at the role of the dialogues and use them more sparingly. Here is a link to the current rough cut. [link to current cut]
Tom: Is it painful to lose something you cared about dearly?
Story: Tom's bonsais died because of the heat in his apartment. He had been caring for the trees for a few years, one of those was an apple tree that he grew from seed.
The original story I had in mind was one that told Tom's dedication to his plants as a way of making home in an unfamiliar city. But when I was on site, I knew the story would change. Through our chats I sensed an aloof uncertainty he had about his home/self, which lay beneath his obsession with productivity and side projects. Also, due to Tom's sickness we did not follow the our plans discussed before (i.e. purchasing new plants at a shop and potting them). Instead, I interviewed him and recorded a lot of still shots in his apartment.
I will make a rough edit with new (and somewhat limited) materials and . (I have a slight feeling this story does not fit the overall arch, but will be able to infer further when I have the edit.)
Myself: home is lost and found; home is routine, ease, quietness; home is a collection of small yet necessary activities and objects
Story: I am creating a series of imageries that allude to the dream and return to home by organizing domestic activities into narrative events. I brought daily objects I use at home — including a coffee maker, a toothbrush holder and an aromatic stone — and filmed myself conducting quotidien activities with them in other people's apartments (well-lived Airbnb's and a friend's place).
By showing some rough cuts at the group critique, I learned that the images spoke comfort and ritual. The silence was well-received. I will produce a couple of new edits from the most recent shoot in SF.
Sören: (still researching)
I met Sören and his wife during a hike in Iceland this past summer. During our encounter I learned that he knows everything about tent construction and makes his own (without any help of a tutorial). He also makes other gears such as backpacks and stuff sacks. He used to be a pastor and works at the equivalent of Salvation Army in Sweden. After all, Saint Paul was a tentmaker.
Two methods have emerged in the process. First, the method of making: before each shoot, I devise situations with/for each character. As a conceptual aid, I alternate my roles as a metaphorical host or guest. Each situation becomes a self-contained story, which I plan to weave together in the editing phase. As part of the pre-production, I turn the situations into scripts, storyboards and shot lists. During the shoot, I leave space for improvisation and make adjustment based on circumstantial changes. I try to cultivate trust and define boundaries with individuals through clear, open and ongoing conversations.
Second, the method of reflecting: after each shoot I re-evaluate the story, find its nuances and reassess its link to the bigger story I want to tell. I examine the images and, by showing them in tutorials and group critiques, ask whether they carry the weight I intend. If the answer is not positive, I try to phrase a part of the feedback into a question, which I attempt to answer in the next shooting. For example, during the shoot at the Airbnb in the Hague, my question was "how does an object imbue meaning?" and, to find the solution, I tested my visuals with varying shot lengths, camera movements and focus change. Each occasion becomes a building block that inform the next shoot/round of communication with the character.
I recognize the importance of a team in filmmaking and would like to keep building relationships and learn ways of delegating as a director and writer. I have asked Cem to be my director of photography and cinematographer (whenever we are on location together) based on our past collaboration and rapport. As a result I am putting more emphasis on pre-production and Cem has brought his patience and insight to help shape the project. In our meetings we walk through the shot list, sketch alternative shots and discuss the equipments and setup, all of which help me make decisions when I am shooting by myself. I also have talked to my housemate, a musician from the Fine Art program, about potentially composing for the film.
By the end of 2019:
- I will make three edits: a first rough cut of Tom's story, a new cut of the Marieke's story, and cuts of new activities I shot in SF. The first two should inform me further about detachment of audio and visual image and how one element can enhance another.
- I am going to look into potential sponsorship and funding for a trip to Sweden. (I have an inkling about shooting in the middle of the winter, with lots of snow and very little light. So the trip might take place in Jan/Feb 2021.)
- I will start investigating the next character, Youqing (peer at Piet Zwart) on the migration of one's mother tongue.
- A recurring image of lemon. TBC.
Support I need
I have had valuable feedback from the tutors and would like to continue having these conversations. I could also benefit from another group critique once I make more edits. For editing, I would like to get feedback from a professional editor for one or two consultations, so that I learn new perspectives and shape my story better.
- readers with no prior knowledge will be able to assess my project based on the text
- develop the language regarding context in the way that I am comfortable with
what, how, relation to previous practice
I am making a documentary film. It is about the making of, exile from, search for: home. It is the discovery of home in oneself.
As a continuation from last year, I am devising individual situations for and with people to construct storylines. The current character list consists of: Marieke (peer from Piet Zwart), Tom (friend in San Francisco), Sören (tentmaker in Southern Sweden) and myself. I choose these characters because I have identified stories within their lives. (The list is subject to change as the project develops.) I place myself in the documentary and alternate my roles as a host or a guest, a constructive framework. Through the process of creating these situations, I organize seemingly dispersed activities into meaningful narrative events that illuminate one's interior.
I film what happens within well-defined boundaries, a method similar to what I used last year. I work with non-actors and communicate as clearly, and with as much care, as I can in order to create trust and safety. I have asked Cem to be my director of photography and main cinematographer, since we have collaborated in the past and established a great rapport. For this project, I have put more emphasis on pre-production where Cem can bring his insight to help shape it.
why, relation to a larger context
I have been in search of form, just like I have been in search of home. Through reading, making and writing in the first year, I have started to own my practice with conviction and overcome an insecurity of not doing enough.  I have shifted the way I frame what I make and how I make them: what was once topical and typological have given way to the existential and spiritual.
The documentary is a site of mourning and transcendence. While I am concerned, formally, with the poetics of image and the permeability of memory, this project comes from my heart. Through crafting the images and narrative in this documentary, I hope to evoke the tenderness of grief, the resilience of hope and the very solidarity of being human.
Sep, 2019: I have already shot the first story with Marieke, which I will use as a prototype for workflow, visual language and story direction. In this act: I offer Marieke a haircut in my living room, after we have tea.
Oct, 2019: 2nd story: I fly to San Francisco and stay at a friend's place. I will film him taking care of his plant. I am envisioning a voiceover of his reading part of the letter he wrote me in August, 2019.
?, 2020: 3rd story: I visit a couple in Sweden and film as Sören, the husband, shows me his tent collection.
- Inhabit an apartment in the Hague for three days. I am a guest to a stranger's home, an analogy of the space that I once had and no longer do.
- Use the audio of a conversation taken place in friend's living room and make new visuals to go along with it.
pragmatics: support I need
- for storyboarding/planning: feedback after each shooting with Simon and Barend, ideally in slots longer than 30 minutes; looking at the rushes
- for shooting: depending on the scene: 1-2 cinematographers (or creative blocking so that I can manage to shoot the scenes myself), my guest/host, recordist
- for editing: ideally feedback from a professional editor (perhaps just one or two consultations, so that I learn new perspectives/potentially new ways of working)
- for funding: information and planning for available travel/project funding (esp. for Sweden)
What do you want to make?
I am making a documentary. Perhaps right now it is useful to think of it as a single screen film. I have described it as "an essay." (I am aware of the term "essay film" but have not read anything about it. I will.)
I am currently writing a few scenes.
- intimate situations -
Some of them came to me during the summer, when I went on a long-distance hiking trip in Iceland. I met a guy named Sören, who makes tents in Southern Sweden as a hobby and used to serve as a pastor. His story, intriguing by itself (as prelimary research suggests, Saint Paul was a tentmaker), affirmed something I had been thinking about my own tent, the journeys I went on with it, mobility, nomadism, unsettledness, beauty. The tent became a symbol of a moving home. And home is a subject I seem to be obsessed with: the home I grew up in caused me much pain, I chose a new home later in life and lost it, I moved around the world, bereft, searching. Search, saudade, loneliness are a few recurring words. (Empathy is another one, but it is more of a process than a result.)
I also sketched out a (more self-contained?) film with a simple story. It was inspired by an instance when I went to the darkroom to develop an old roll, only to find no image showed up. In this story a female photographer documents beauty and cherished moments with her camera. The end scene hints at the unavailability of the images. I have not decided whether she is aware she does not want the physical images all along. In the knowing case she will open the camera at the end, understanding the void of film. In the unknowing case she will go through the development in the darkroom (like what I experienced) and found there was no image -- but even in this version she somehow feels at peace at the accidental (fateful) loss.
Depending on what I unearth during the process, I might produce a few side projects, mostly in the form of zines. One thing I have in mind already is this essay I wrote two years ago: https://medium.com/@bimoribaye/the-rule-of-novels-2f83fd0e0c95
How do you plan to make it?
I am going to discuss the scenes with Simon and Barend on Sep 12/13 -- mostly about the scope, the extent of iteration and how to focus best. I want to be better at production management this year -- to organize the crew, communicate the shots to cinematographers more effectively and not get caught up by editing due to the lack of planning.
Talk with Simon 16/09
- Filmmaking as bearing witness
- What is the form of the film?
- What is your mission statement/purpose of making a film?
- This film is not a steady state.
I have storyboarded a scene that takes place in my current living room. I am using a documentary method similar to what I used last year (non-actors and use of reality). And, like the scenes I made last year, I am setting up a situation in which the protagonists exist and take actions. This time I plan to be a protagonist in some of the scenes as well.
I have a few questions: when I am a protagonist, do I interact with the cinematographer? To what extent am I creating this world/framing the story? In my talk with S&B I also want to discuss these (definitely to come up with something I can create to help answer the questions.)
One scene I developed around "home" can be shot easily in my living room. Another scene will follow my action at the studio/fabric station and end at the living room. (It involves the making of two cushions, so will take a few days to shoot, which requires planning!)
I am going to visit friends in San Francisco for ten days in October. I wrote a possible scene that would take place in my friend's living room. Similarly, I see a potential scene in Sweden, which requires a great amount of research and coordination. I don't know if I will include (or able to make) them yet. I will decide once I know more about the scenes in Rotterdam.
What is your timetable?
Sep-early Oct: definitely shoot the scene in my living room, perhaps shoot the scene in studio/fabric station In the meantime: decide whether the scenes in SF are feasible
October holiday: SF, recalibration of the project
Nov 9: project proposal (at which point I would know better about the direction of the other scenes)
Post Nov 9: TBD
Why do you want to make it?
I have always been in search of a form, just like I have been in search of home. I call this feeling (with the help of some tutors): loneliness.
Last year I realized that, through reading, making and writing, film would be the form. (Keywords: narrative, autobiography, memory, transcendence)
I am able to have a true practice now with film, where the topical and typological become existential and spiritual.
I want to convey the universal through the personal (not necessarily my story but any one person's story).
Who can help you and how?
- feedback after each shooting with Simon and Barend, ideally in slots longer than 30 minutes; looking at the rushes
- depending on the scene: 1-2 cinematographers, my guest/host, recordist
- I have a general idea about the film, but would appreciate feedback from a professional editor (perhaps just one or two consultations, so that I learn new perspectives/potentially new ways of working)
Relation to previous practice
In a structural way, the film resembles something I wrote titled "The Rule of Novels."  I turned my focus to film last year, the medium of where I will ground myself for a while. The short films I made last year helped me understand image-making and the way I want to convey meanings through images. My previous of writing and playwriting have helped me in and around filmmaking. See Jujube/text-on-practice-2019
Relation to a larger context
making as existing
the everyday; realism
Theories (film or not, feminist or not, queer or not, critical or not) and historical analysis are only useful to me if they help me 1) understand the medium I am using and 2) define, clarify, further my own practice.
Feedback from Paloma: how are the scenes linked?
For 19/09: theme thesis + annotated bibliography with 5 key texts (synopsis)+ a mini prototype/sketch/gesture in relation to your project proposal.
Steve feedback ahead of 3/10: https://pad.xpub.nl/p/juSteveComments