neil cummings

Community film-making

The second in Open Cinema's workshops was developed and lead by Ed Webb-Ingall.

Ed's research looks to recover, reactivate and revive the history and practice of community video. Ed gave a brief  account, from 1968 to 1981 of the development of a medium and moving image style that continued the tradition of direct cinema (cinema verité) although with radically different in form and content—that of community video making.

Supported by public funding, the community video movement enabled groups and individuals to use a media that was often used to misrepresent them - through broadcast television, to  engage in new forms of collective self-representation. Women’s groups, working class communities, gay liberation activists, tenants associations and people of color had the means to explore and represent their own experiences collectively.  Video’s DIY possibilities was often a technology to encourage community organization.

After the introduction we participated in a series of exercises that Ed has developed from researching 1970's community film practices. We turned to our neighbour and asked their experiences of film making, we brainstormed good and bad qualities of collaboration and made pen-and-paper tag-clouds. We then watched a 10 min clip from Fly a Flag for Popular 1974  - a rarely seen  Liberation Films documentary about Poplar and the people who live there, seen through their day-to-day lives and through the organisation of the Teviot Festival. We discussed our experiences of community belonging, and how they might be different from those depicted in the 1970's.

We also collectively listed all the communities we were part of; i.e. Turkish, neighbourhood,  particular activities, special interest, etc, then all the things necessary to support a community.....

Community film making

Then Ed introduced a simple camcorder, how it works, how to record, zoom, pause, etc. We passed the camcorder around, and while practicing recording and zooming, asked our neighbour " If community were a colour, what colour would it be?" or "If community were a fabric, what kind of fabric would it be?"  their response, recorded, would have to start "If community were a colour........" It was playful, yet revealing.

Then we played The Spectrum Game. This involved the camera mounted on a tripod, pointed at a wall, and at the limit of its frame, left designated agree and right disagree. We massed in the frame and each took it in turns to operate the camera, while operating we asked a question like "Do you feel represented on Television?" or "Is it important to be part of a community?" and those before the camera moved on the spectrum - agree/disagree to where they felt comfortable.

To finish, we each wrote down what we would like to make a film about, who we thought its audience would be, and who would make it. At a future session, we'll sift through these and see how we want to proceed.

And that was that, it flew by. There was real enjoyment and no small amount of excitement. Ed was great. Next session is the media drop

Read about the introductory session to Open Cinema, or visit Open School East





Submitted by neil on