Proposing the Project to my Brother: Ethical Dilemmas and Participation
As sure as I felt about making this film, I still had to propose the idea to my brother. This was probably the most difficult part because there were many reasons why he wouldn't want or be able to do it. Firstly, we would have to organise filming sessions way in advance, due to the long distance from Canterbury to Plymouth, and his working schedule (he would have to travel to Falmouth in Cornwall, where he lives to Plymouth). However, the most significant reason would be because making a film about us and the distance between us growing up would require us both to talk about that sensitive time. He might not want to share with me what happened to him growing up. He might not want to revisit the memories and incidents that happened. He might not want to bring up dark feelings, feelings of guilt or anger or sadness that he might have forgotten about buried. I always wanted to emphasise that the film was about understanding: understanding his point of view so that we could reconcile everything that happened to have a healthy relationship now.
So I rang him up and just explained that I wanted to make a film about us. That I wanted to understand what he went through, and that I wanted to show our journey up to now. I explained that I also wanted the film to be something to bond over and a way to spend time together, which would mean a lot to me, as that has always been difficult since being away at university. We were on the same wavelength straight away.
" I would absolutely love to do that. I think there was this really big gap, and we’ve never really addressed it. We can spend time together. You know I’m probably going to cry. I could always take a GoPro, and do a video diary on the way to see you. "
He understood exactly why I wanted to make the film, and what it would do for us. We both felt like it was almost a perfect way to approach our past, something we have barely spoken about since coming together again when I was 18. Creating something together makes approaching this time less daunting. Jack almost immediately began suggesting ideas: where we could go to film, what we could include in the filming (e.g. visiting our childhood home together), what activities we could do together (e.g. cooking, climbing, hiking). I joked that he was going to be a 'backseat director', but then realised that this participatory approach, where he was not just a subject but heavily involved in the film's direction, was a logical approach to a film that was about the both of us.
My Symbolic Camera
Creating a symbolic camera facilitated an appreciation of how the camera itself was a tool for provocation and communication. It also allowed me to think deeply about what exactly I wanted to convey with my film and how I was going to do this. I made my camera out of wire because I wanted there to be space within the camera, space that represents room for growth within mine and my brother's current relationship. This space also importantly symbolisises space for interpretation by the audience of my film. Although I present a particular story, it is my aim that the themes in my film will be evocative in a general sense for my audience, allowing them to relate to the visual and audio media and interpret it in terms of their own experiences. In this way, I wanted my camera to appear unbounded, which is why I created a camera 'skeleton' out of wire. I drew the outline of my brother and I from a recent picture on acetate to keep in line with this transparent look and so that the outline of the pen matches the outline of the camera. I also chose this outlined approach instead of a full colour picture to represent the unknown future of our relationship, the potential that will be 'filled in' over time. The images that extend out of the end of the camera lens mimic how a camera works: how the sensor 'takes in' a fairly wide angle of imagery in through the lens and then processes it onto the screen. The images are in chronological order from our childhood, with the earliest being the furthest away. They are taken in by the lens and processed to reveal my drawing of my brother and I as we are now. This reflects how the camera and the film are a means to process our past and reconfigure our relationship now.