The voice

Today I’m thinking about the voice for the film. Of course, we are planning for the film to feature many voices, but for the film, this equates to a ‘we are one’ voice – what are all the voices that fold together finally saying as THE voice of THE film?.

The voice is what is actually formed in the minds of the audience, and its our job to think about what we want that voice to be and importantly; how do we make sure that voice is understood by the audience in the first place.

I’m also thinking about how the voice comes out in the film, voice over is the obvious one that I will be including. However, i’m very keen to use subtitles in the film too as subtitling is something hugely linked to my own understanding of a/v images.

As well as v/o, I am going to try using dialogue from the interviewees and have single sentences for a moment on black on the screen. It breaks up the picture an gives the voice a chance to work in its own space. These ‘cut outs’ can at as punctuations in the film or as the line between paragraphs. I’m going to try out a few things – many won’t work but they will take me close to what eventually does work for the film.

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Making sense…

Preparing for interviews with cyclists

Interviews went really well. The people never cease to amaze me. Incredible insights into the past, their hopes for the future and the rules of their game. I talked to cyclists and their wives – three blind cyclists and two veterans. It struck me that the passion for cycling runs deep in the family. There were some nice insights from them all, including the wives about their first memory of riding a bicycle and what it was like riding bikes just after the second world war. It was a great insight into the past. I now just need to make a story from it all…

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The outline

Cote D'Azur
Hurrah – the scene by scene is now coming together for me  as i read and re-read these blog posts. Of course the narrative can be broken up at some point so the audience pulls the story together.

1. Shots of preparation beforehand – people waiting to have their go and being led to the track. Their desire and anticipation to get on the track.

conversation about the rules of the track – talking about the lines – the blue line – where you get on and off and the other lines

2. Building up speed on and off the track

the ground outside – this is when we can hear a single voice – it will help focus the mind.

3. Gesturing on the track – looking behind

Link to early memory – kid on cyclist, men smoking and chatting, families, track racing,

4. Back to the track and seeing overtaking on the track

Link to future – talk of hope, image of person practising on their bike at home or people walking about touching the track, view from a moving train, the moving sky.

5. Repeat 2, 3, 4 until the brain (audience) gets it with an *interlinking segment

6. End (link end shot to the beginning)

Same sound of shoes on track but not seeing that – seeing something else e.g. bikes lined up in corridor –

*Note: The film will be cyclical and episodic in nature – aim for three short loops – with three different voices – all essentially saying the same thing but through a different voice and different images – with an interlinking segment e.g. coach giving a chat of encouragement and the whistle and the coach watching.

The archive and/ or non-velodrome shots will carry a single voice to make it easy to focus in on what is being said there.

The film is the journey archive.

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The Story so far…

On Friday i scheduled some interviews with some of the cyclists and their families. I have two people scheduled for today and two for Monday. I am kind of annoyed with myself because i perhaps should have done these interviews before we shot the film to give the opportunity to be focussed on one or two people round the track. Never mind water under the bridge. We are where we are.

This morning I have been watching footage again and have done a practice interview with Caroline the director last night. Having listened back to the interview there were some moments there that i can feel that drama is being created and it can link into a moment on the screen.

The tricky thing is matching each cyclist to a voice and whether that matters. I am nervous and worried about the recording device working and ensuring everything is set up right. In effect this is part of the production and its about creating real moments that can be used in the film. It reminds me of the moment just before stepping on stage to do stand up poetry (many years ago) – the poems had been written and were on paper – but its the performance that counts – its that moment of bringing it all together – you have to shut out your inner critic, ignore all the questions of ‘why didn’t you do this or do that’ and pull yourself into the moment of stepping up on stage – seeing the audience before you and kind of tuning out and letting the flow of words take over (this is very similar to the Zidane monologue). I tended to find that if i knew how i was going to start everything would be fine from there. Thinking about the audience they will have this anticipation as well – wondering can this person pull it off…

Well this same fear will be in me when i pick up the phone to interview people later today – indeed it was there a bit last night and is returning now.

I know my opening question and then i need to be aware of how and when to bring it to a close. Its creating opportunities that people can just talk… and then listening listening intently…. and hopefully some pivotal moments will come. Both Caroline and another cyclist that i interviewed on the track talked about ‘living in hope’. I feel this needs to come out near the end. Another commonality was about the joy and enjoyment cycling brings and the ‘being in the moment’ not having to think about anything else and that that is different from some aspects of everyday life. They both also talked about ‘equality’ on the track and that cycling is a great ‘leveller’. This is the kind of meaning i want the audience to come away with – the empowering effect of cycling but this can’t be totally on the nose on the conversation on in the picture.

The track is the present tense. The conversations are also in the present and they are the jumping off points into the past (talk about key life moments) and the future (the talk about hope). Essentially people can only experience themselves in the present but a heightened awareness of themselves and their actions and words can cast them into the past / future. In a way if we leave enough space for this to happen – the film can achieve that. The cutting in-between scenes and the sound will be really important and keeping some kind of movement going so that people are on their own journey (into and out of their life) for the short duration of the film.

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Beer Meeting

This afternoon I was happily distracted and then the director called me for a beer meeting. She had a list of questions about the intention of the film. I was grumpy because as far as i’m concerned it is very clear to me. However I played along with her questions and now we are both clear.

This is always a good conversation to have and reassuring because now we are on the same page.

Key things we are looking for in the footage are the gestures and mannerisms that shows the interaction, camaraderie and the world of these cyclists. The phone conversations will give us insight into the everyday lives of some of these characters and this dialogue will be hung off and between the gestures on the track. These are the questions the director asked me – its a funny old world – but it works…

Questions for Story

  • What’s the main intention question? Whats the angle? Come up with a single main intention question.

How is cycling a metaphor for overcoming the struggles of everyday life?

  • Who is the story about?

Its about the cyclists told through the eyes of their non-cyclist partners. Their passion for living, their overcoming of adversity, their drive to ‘get back on their bikes’ and keep moving.

  • Where does it happen?

On the velodrome track but also in the hearts and memories of the audience as the everyday stories touch them. This happens through recorded conversation and archive footage to access memories past and present that the audience can relate to. The director likes the idea of the phone conversations because its created in the present ie ‘moment to moment’. It isolates the voice – the action is all in the voice as the voice searches for the understanding of the other – there is gesture and action –

  • When does it happen?

In the present – with jumping off points into the past and back again. The drama is hopefully in some of this cyclical jumping and returning… like an eternal return – ah yes this is what i want – an eternal return – we talked about how the start and the beginning are linked by the symbol of the blue line – as the point at which you enter and exit. the velodrome is kind of a stage on which all life is lived out through the tactics and rules of the game.

  • Why should the audience care?

Because they will empathise with the cyclists and that they keep coming back, keep trying. And that the sport is a great leveller as far as diversity is concerned –

  • How can we get the killer opening – what will get people gripped?

There needs to be an opening question and kind of ambiguity that launches the mind into itself and creates anticipation  – so you hear footsteps (a sound) and you wonder what is this – indeed you ask the question – and then this is answered in the image – this is how we must build the narrative – with question – answer – silence – dimensionality. We need to be on the track somehow i think. And this can be done through sound but also the blue line and the voice of the cyclists.

So the cyclical narratives are creating anticipation, reward and reflection. Those that really watch the film and stay the distance – have endurance – will benefit most – again this is the everyday life metaphor. If people don’t watch the film or listen closely enough they won’t get this – its the feeling the film creates – in enticing and drawing in the viewer to open themselves up to the movie. So in the beginning we need to create this thing that will open people up…

  • Whats the one big moment – the talk about thing in the film?

I think this will be different things for different people – for me it might be about the amazing strength of the veterans and for others it might be the partially sighted cyclists. I hope people will take away some common meaning across their stories.

  • Whats the journey?
  • What characters do we need to tell the story?
  • What other sound effects, visuals do we need?

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‘City Inn fifty percent off’ meeting

This evening after a great day at work (the bit that pays the bills – ahem – note to director) we went to City Inn cafe and capitalised on their 50% ‘neighbours’ deal – £27 pounds for 2 courses each plus fluffy blankets and bread rolls; attentive staff with cute, furry eyebrows. Tomorrow we will meet officially at the BBC to schedule the interviews, check out the phone equipment and stuuuufff like that. Its getting sunny which means summer nights, walks… ah yes – the film… so we are going to get some postcards made from the pictures and we hope the velodrome people like them. The people we met are so lovely and chatty and helpful. There might need to be some pick-up shots to capture the warmth and chattyness – but that’s the director’s problemmmmm.

We watched Zidane and his monologue and of course it is depressingly brilliant and perfect all at once. i need rest to let my brain come up with something equally surprising and brilliant. We had a play with editing a few little snippets together last night – we need to do some more of that – and i still want my burning ember shottttttttttttttt….. goddamnit – or at least i want it considered to think about how it is signified in the film.

We came across a mildly comedic shot with the coach alongside a sign post – i’ll see if the director can post it with this entry.

What we realised from the beer meeting was that we need to watch the footage and see how it touches us – come to it and it stirs something inside and that thing is you – which is why the ember shot and other signifiers are needed along with a good deal of silence and funny gestures and the cutting to break into memory / connection – in the outside world.


Over and out – i must now watch luther on iplayer – (one thing the BBC are very good for).

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Images from the Velodrome

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Shaping the movie

So – its a weird one… tuning into the rhythm and the heart of the film as it is being made, as it is being shot and editing between the first days shoot and the second. My role of writer is more editor talking to the director, watching what’s been shot, interviewing people and listening between the words – trying to create a space for the meaning to emerge between what we see, hear and subsequently take away from the film. We’re trying to create an impression in the mind of the viewer that connects into everyday life – something universal. Its difficult, especially when i feel the weight of truth on my shoulders –  on the day of the shoot, a number of the cyclists came up to tell me things – it needs to be their story and yet connect into the non-cyclist. i want the film to be inspirational – i was inspired by these guys – men of 70 and 80 flying round the track.

i know that there are mirrors of real life in track cycling – so much unfolded around me on the day of the first shoot. As i talked to people i could see the pure enjoyment of just talking about cycling. There was a man who’d had a heart attack and was on his road to recovery and keen to get back on his bike, waiting for the all clear. They share a passion – and for those who don’t cycle that’s an element of what we want them to come away with – find your passion in life and nurture it – dedicate your life to it. One potential starting point is a family who are connected through cycling and the passion has spread through the family. Another is a coach who understands that there needs to be goals set and a basic level of fitness in order to achieve the wins or to just stay on the track and another coach who really understands this group and how to work with them, even in just the way he introduced me to everyone. Then there are the benefits that cycling brings – the camaraderie, the sense of freedom. There is also the director’s connection to the film and her passion for cycling which was the starting point.

My job now is to get something in a nutshell. Its elusive but at least with the director the start of the film has emerged and we are communicating properly so the good stuff can flow. Its having faith at this stage that we can pull it off – find the voice – you have to try different things – talk about it, fall asleep and wake up dreaming about it.

I did fall asleep thinking about the film and some insights slipped through just before i fell asleep. I woke up still thinking about it. Indeed this is the thing that needs to grow – its a red light in the dark – of someone riding home from the velodrome – its images like this that becoming a touching point – and this out of context image helps to make a connection with something in the non-cyclist. It could be like a red heart – a signifier for passion. unspoken but true. (Note: must talk to director about this – she didn’t like it).

My instinct is that the monologue is wrapped in a cacophony of telephonic voices and sounds that tie the ‘soundtrack’ together. I feel i won’t get the story i need from one person and i won’t get it from interviewing people on the track. They need to be interviewed in their homes away from the track so that they can dip in and out of their lives. I need to look at the Zidane monologue and what that achieves. I am on an uphill slant at the moment and the trick is to keep trying things – to go away from it and come back to it. There’s progress… and later today we are shooting again…

We know in today’s shoot at least that we need to film the blue line – film the lines of the track – that’s really important. And also the corridor perhaps with people but also empty – so you can hear the footsteps and imagine the people walking away. This is kind of a legacy poignancy shot. Hearing the footsteps and not seeing the people makes the mind imagine them – their laughter their cacophony and the poignancy that these old guys will be gone… see i am welling up with tears now – i know i have hit on something… and that’s the beauty of writing.

On the weekend, the director also captured blue sky and road shots.

Its slowly coming together.

The basic story is this living a passionate life – not quite knowing why you are doing it but doing it anyway – you know you are going to die but you have lived a passionate life and shared it with others. The tiny revelation in this film is that they are men of 70 and 80 whizzing round the track.

I am still worried about the middle – but then – conventionality would worry about that.

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Visual Inspiration

There are a few clips which have really inspired what I want the film to look and be paced like.

1. Moloko’s video: The Time is Now

  • 0 sec: the singer rises to the microphone in slow motion. I want a simular thing where the cyclist is slowly coming into the picture and into focus.
  • It cuts briefly with an extreme CU of the tip of a drum mallet. I want to use some close up of the cyclist just before they start off. This could be a CU of clips in, hands on handlebar or a shake of the shoulders for instance.
  • 23 sec: there is a line of blue light. My equivalent is the POV shot of the Blue Ribbon – the Cote D’Azur, filling the whole screen and moving.
  • 38 sec: the singer looks up above the camera height and moves to the sunshine at 44 seconds. I want the blue ribbon to fade to a POV shot outside cycling on a rural road with green trees and importantly, the blue sky.
  • 1.24: Slow motion with high detail.
  • 1.37: Slight movement of the camera and splash of colour across the frame.
  • 1.49: Male head shot CU and at 1.51 where the head is to the left of the frame looking beyond the camera and leaving the frame.
  • 2.17: Camera angle looking up to the singer.
  • Light moving across the floor, and short shots with fade-to-black transitions around the pace of blinking.
  • 3.30: extreme CU of face with eyes focus of the frame. I want a lot of CU of cyclists and almost no medium shots. Each shot really has to say something. In a way this is breaking from the basic camera instruction, which is fine in this case as I’m looking specifically for aesthetic.
  • 3.34: The is a movement shot of the camera running over the sea, again this is very much like how I want the blue ribbon shot.
  • 3.48: This is followed by the camera ranging across mountains. I see this as the equivalent of an archive/memory shot.
  • 4.00: Obviously, the blue sky shot.
  • 4.19: The singer is isolated. This is the same kind of moment I want for the cyclist, that they are isolated and focused – the only person in the arena.

2. Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner

3. The Brown Bunny 

4. Ziane A 21st Century Portrait

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Day 1 of the Shoot

After lots of rush around and hurly-burly getting the paperwork done (with much appreciated assistance!), ordering kit, taxis and briefing 3 woman crew (Me, Writer and Camera person), I woke up this morning with the one aim all this has been in aim of, day 1 of our filming in the velodrome.

Our choice of kit included a DSR 450, so we could have a choice of lens that will enable us to get better footage from afar as well as in difficult lighting conditions.

Between us we had a good pattern of moving the kit between sites. As we entered the velodrome I’ve never been greeted with such enthusiasm from contributors. All the riders were cheerful and smiling – really happy to include us in their couple of hours on the track and share their experiences.

I briefed the schedule to Sarah (Camera) and Erinma (Writer) and went with Sarah to set up the shots. What i’m looking for are medium and close shots of the cyclists, coming towards us on the straight, going round the curve, the group relay where the lead rider rides across the track and back down to the end of the line of riders, happening every  half a lap, and all the little details in their preparation, rituals, banter and routines.

It’s essential that we shoot over two sessions as we really need to review and tighten our shots. Today’s session was structured training for veterans. Everyone had a story and you could clearly see their enthusiasm for the sport; its infectious and I hope to get more time on the track once the shoot is over.

Tonight i’m going to upload the footage and review it, selecting the best shots and those I wish we had got. One thing I would like to try on Monday is shooting from inside the track. We also need to get some POV footage, including a continuous shot of the blue ribbon. For this we have the MC1 and a little handlebar bracket.

I would really like to say thanks for everyone today who made it so much easier, it’s all the little moments in the process that makes this fun.

Shoot over we packed up and had lunch at City Inn restaurant (50% off vouchers came in handy and a saving on our miniscule but much appreciated budget for the film).

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