Winner of the 1995 "Centenary Reels" award (previously called 'First Reels') run by the then Scottish Film Council (now Scottish Screen) and a processing lab in London. Shot entirely on a clockwork Bolex 16mm camera with a few prime lenses. This is not the best tele-cine job in the world, and it was much brighter when it was shown in cinemas at the time but it set a stylistic precedent for my works over the next decade and a half. Even now I still make pieces which are soundtrack-based and shoot images over the top of the aural clothesline. See vimeo.com/53817100
Also, I have been quite unwell since this film was made (over 13 years ago) - and since the beginning of my illness, films which were straight documentaries began to fracture and split. I call myself a 'fragmented filmmaker' now. So this piece, it shows the beginning of a habit of splitting up images and sound - or making loose parallel works of sound and images at the same time, hoping for happy accidents and associations when edited together. I'm a great believer in this kind of thing.
"Beacons" was made to commemorate the centenary of Cinema in Scotland. But on a personal level it was about the places I'd enjoyed in Skye and North Yorkshire where light drew me closer after hill-walking. There's a great pub that is almost too dark to see in the film on Blakey Ridge, North Yorkshire, which used to be one of my favourite places ever. But the "Beacons" of the title is also about human survival against the odds, carving "safe warm places" as one Irish voice on the soundtrack describes it...
Made by myself and occasional collaborator Alex Norris over a four month period in 1995, and shot by Andrew Conway, the film features in the main many London landmarks, filmed from odd viewpoints - and some imagery of Scotland, North Yorkshire and Cheshire. But it the main, it features London. One sequence even shows The Guardian being printed. Two weeks later the IRA blew it up.
We made the soundtrack first. We ambled around Edinburgh, Manchester and London and asked complete strangers with the most varied accents possible - to aim to make the film as 'universal' as possible, two questions:
1. How do you light your home? Describe the quality of light
2. Have you had any paranormal / spiritual experiences?
Deliberately cutting the answers up, we made a deliberately ambiguous work about light. We wanted light to be the star. Also, you may be able to hear we managed to get a quote from David Icke in the middle of the film "We can be on this plant six billion Beacons... but we hide our light... because we fear being different from the 'standard-issue' 'off-the-peg-norm'..."
I was trying to make a piece about mortality and about the nature of light, and so compared to a lot of my other works, it probably comes across as 'less Scotland-based'