”….....Is Desire, a reflection of man’s inability to physically fly? Is he more like the Scarecrow than an Eagle? Let the Spirit fly and you will become that great bird!…...............”
"'Desire' is an abstract black and white visual interpretation of a Talk Talk track from the album 'Spirit Of Eden' and was filmed all over Scotland. It's atmosphere threatening, unpredictable, and unstable. The film scratches the surface of sex, religion, madness, inhibition, and presents an undercurrent humour. Desire is complex and intense, yet confronts the elements in a spontaneous and honest manner. Desire was filmed in locations that mean the world to me and I'm proud to have worked with all involved..."
Steve Mackay - May 1995.
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'DESIRE' TALK TALK [FULL VERSION] EXHIBITION CREATIVE RESEARCH OUTPUT 1995.
This project is an exploration of visual communication, branding, graphic design & multimedia - Over a duration of four years and in final year producing an exhibition and presentation music video with mixed media called ‘Desire’. This degree required me to research and develop appropriate image and identity that encapsulated the atmosphere of the composition ‘Desire’ a sublime production from Talk Talk in 1991. From 1991 to 1995 I explored fields of ‘Musical Identity’ and produced a 40,000 word dissertation called ‘IDENTITY’ which explored the world and role of contemporary record cover artwork from artist such as James Marsh & Anton Corbijn.
My Honours Degree Exhibition held the most Sponsors to date at Grays School of Art including Kodak UK LTD, KJP Photographic Ltd, Prontoprint, The Colour Company - Edinburgh, Andrew Knowles Brown/The Scottish Hawking Club, his Golden Eagle ‘Gorby’ and I received a letter of support from the band's enigmatic singer/songwriter Mark Hollis in 1994. Talk Talk’s ‘Desire’ went on to win a drama category at The Kilmarnock Film Festival and was Officially Selected for the Claremont Ferrand Film Festival in France.
A Letter dated 5th March 1995, from songwriter Mark Hollis of Talk Talk.
Spirit Of Eden Album. Left to right: Paul Webb, Mark Hollis & Lee Harris
This project was produced over 18 x months at Grays School of Art, Robert Gordon's University in Aberdeen. Taking visual communication using multimedia components, at this time in 1995 this pre-dated the term 'multi-media'. It was a concept to completion design, and the quest was to interpret an abstract form of music and produce visual imagery that was in synergy with the atmosphere of the music. Absorbing oneself in the work of Film Directors; Anton Corbijn, Tim Pope and observing the work of cover artist James Marsh. The challenge was to push video onto a new abstract level using subliminal and abstract elements. The degree exhibition had to maintain the signature and style of myself, the artist. The emotion of the music coupled with the visuals would take people on a journey. The film was shot on Super 8 Cine film and SVHS, Mini DV and it was my intention to make the SVHS and Mini DV look similar in quality to the 8mm Kodak cine film.
From the early age of seven I became aware of my fascination with the great outdoors, at this stage I collected birds eggs in an attempt to introduce myself to wildlife. It maybe said that poetic justice prevailed as my extensive bird egg collection was destroyed by a Kestrel's egg that burst open. To me these eggs epitomized the beauty of the birds who had laid them with their refined speckles and flecks and spectacular colours, an amazing product of the natural world. An excellent example of this would be 'Blake's Proclamation'; that "...We see the world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wild flower, If we take the trouble to, hold eternity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.." and my intrigue in natural history is extensive today and always will be.
Ornithology, sport, music and art have always been where my interests lie, and I knew if I maintained these in my life it would be the key to an enjoyable future. From the early 80's was born an era of 'Electronic' music which has fueled my earliest creative ideas and thoughts, and the main bands that influenced this were Depeche Mode and Talk Talk. These two bands were continually misunderstood and considered misfits, which I could totally relate to as I developed as a teenager. This need to express myself became stronger and louder which led to me investing in the journey of a BA Honours Degree education at Grays School Of Art in Aberdeen.
Through this music and other bands I have always questioned the artwork of a record sleeve, which led me to analyze 'The Importance of Image & Identity' which became my forth year dissertation. This began with the commercial identities of musicians such as U2, Depeche Mode, Talk Talk, The The and The Cure, and introduced me to video producers such as Anton Corbijn, Tim Pope and D.A. Pennebaker. I thoroughly enjoyed their approach and theories to their art and photography which have been inspired by society, human nature, inhibitions, humour, and their craftsmanship has driven me to create 'Desire'.
With Hindsight, 'Desire' is autobiographical, and an abstract interpretation of a Talk Talk composition. My concern was the way we were all moved emotionally by music in whatever shape and form - Reflecting on; childhood, our nature, companionship, love, and the source to which we exist. 'Desire' is complex, intense, and has been filmed in locations that mean the world to me. It can be said I have taken a huge risk making this ambitious film, which confronts the elements in a spontaneous and honest manner.....I have never felt so alive making this film and I'm proud to have worked with all involved.
CONCEPT AND DESIGN
The concept was born of the themes that I could feel from the music from the track 'Desire'. This film had to be black & white. Through initial research I wanted to use the Dice as a symbol of risk, life is a risk, this project is a risk and I wanted to project to provide me with spontaneous unpredictable results on film. Then I wanted to make a dice that had images on each face.
I came across the superstitious and yet delightful saying of '....Seven blackbirds in a tree, count them and see what they be...one for Sorrow, two for Joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold and seven for a secret that's never been told...!' This was the perfect imagery for my film.
I designed Images for flashcards and the dice, that would correspond to each bird, for example; The Raven was the biggest of the crow family and that became 'One for Sorrow', The Magpie 'Two for Joy', The Rook, Three for a Girl, The Hooded Crow, Four for a Boy, The Carrion Crow, Five for Silver, and the Jay, Six for Gold. Both the flashcards and dice had the same design on them. Further to this I designed a tree flashcard in the shape of a crow to illustrate the 'Tree of Life'.
THE SCARECROW TUNIC DESIGN
I needed to keep this design simple, yet effective, the idea to use a scarecrow appealed, because I wanted in someway to relate to scarecrows within society such as Priests, Politicians, Police, Government, or even ourselves, etc. therefore the scarecrow symbolizes guilt, within the film- the prevention of something natural or unnatural. My original idea was to place the scarecrow in situations you haven't seen it before like: in the middle of the ocean, on top of an mountain, but as the film progressed it took on a shape of its own.
In terms of the Tunic Design, I employed my sister to cut and make the garment. I wanted a black tunic with tapered sleeves. Instantly recognizable! The black and white tunic was made to represent guilt and our conscience, a reminder of what is and what was! So a Priest-like vestment seemed appropriate, and I gave I passed on the specifications to my sister and material to make, and these were made very well and were quality garments. Now my work was not only Graphic Design, it became Filmmaking and Costume Design and this was new territory for me. The Scarecrow Tunics were made of black sheeting, white treated cotton, and black canvas.
THE STRAIT JACKET DESIGN
For a while this was a problem, trying to source an existing one was hard. I had approached all the jails and nuthouses in Scotland like: Craiginches in Aberdeen, Peterhead Prison, Craigdunain in Inverness, and Carstairs in Glasgow, all of which stated that they no longer use them. So, I decided to design and make one whcih would be a lot more fun.
My Colleague Raymond Wilson, who took up the role as the madman in 'Desire' had suggested we approach Brett Smith in the Universities' Textile department to see if he would oblige us. Raymond was later to wear this strait jacket in the film and was considered the main character.
BIRDS OF PREY
For me, Birds of Prey are a constant source of inspiration for me, very threatening and unpredictable looking survival machines, unlike the crow family which are more cunning and calculating in the survival stakes. I wanted both types of bird in my film for their characteristics.
Towards the end of October '94, I began to phone around falconry centres and wildlife parks in different areas such as Stilings Safari park, Kincraig Wildlife Park in Aviemore, and the Scottish Falconry Centre in Hawick, in search of a Raven Wrangler. I had no luck look for this entity, I settled for filming at the North east Falconry Centre in Huntly where I was quoted £60 for a days filming. The problem was the birds were being fattened for the winter months and few were allowed to fly. All I could film was a Barn Owl ad a Sea Eagle. I tried other centre for flexibility but had no luck. I was quoted £500 to film the Golden Eagle at Gleneagles Ford Falconry by the famous Emma Ford, or £250 for a half days shoot. All of a sudden I settled with John Barrie's offer at the Huntly Falconry Centre due to budgets being very tight indeed.
HUNTLY FALCONRY CENTRE SHOOT WITH BARN OWL AND SEA EAGLE
This proved to be a hard task at first, as I wanted the film to be as spontaneous as possible, yet I had to plan specific shots and an undercurrent story line. The introduction had to be clear and concise, to present the narration, humour, sexuality, atmosphere and nature of the characters. The whole film was a dream involving powerful symbolism, and was going to change in texture and mood as it evolved.
I had to illustrate that it was a dream so I used the opening shot of a man taking out his contact lens, and then at the end of the film him replacing it to suggest he is 'now' awake. Using home furniture on the beach in the form of a sofa, really appealed to me because of its outlandish feel. I would say the intro was the most structured part with the gravely voice-over from the Irishman Roger who highlights the superstitious script of 'Seven Blackbirds in a tree...count them and see what they be....." and so on. Although the storyboard gave me a general thread to this work I intended the film to take a life of its own and for things to happen of their own accord.
The filming of the birds of prey were planned for the fast cuts of the song, the rest was left to unfold. When organizing the traveling - I approached Bob Hole who have a huge white van, this allowed us to store props, costume and two large storyboards in the back as we started out adventure.
The locations as well as the whole video concept were influenced by the Talk Talk track 'Desire'. The song is very much me, then so must the locations. I wanted to film on the West Coast of Scotland as it has always been a rugged and unforgiving landscape, yet awe inspiring and is nothing like the central belt of Scotland where I grew up. I felt the need to go to Plockton, Eilean Donan Castle at Dornie, and Kyle of Lochalsh.
However, as we drove out of Aberdeen we found a mind blowing location just north of Inverness called Evanton, and overlooking the Cromarty Firth. Said to have been constructed by General Sir Hector Munro of Novar (1726-1805) who served in India, to represent the gates of Negatapam, the scene of one of his victories, and to have provided work for local unemployed people. Once I saw that I was focused on getting up there in good time as it was a hell of a climb to the top to shoot. Bob, Raymond and I had taken turns to carry the generator on our backs tied to us with rope, it was hellish on the Fyrish hill, that was for sure. I think that climb nearly killed us all, it certainly wiped us out that evening.
Other desired locations which were realized were Cruden Bay, Braemar and Ballater which again were ideal locations for this film.
Glencoe certainly won hands down when it came to insane weather, however this did not deter me and I did have to persuade the others to get out in storms and try and film this sequence in the very heart of the pass of Glencoe.
We were all soaked to the bone and shattered afterwards, I did not think we got anything that was usable on that day, however when I look back at the material it was perfect for the edit and the atmosphere. This shoot started on Thursday 8th December 1994, and ran until Wednesday 14th December in numerous locations.
The External Locations were as follows;
Cruden Bay - 08/12/94
Huntly Falconry Centre - Sea Eagle/Barn Owl Shoot - 09/12/94
Glencoe - 10/12/94
Dornie and Duirinish - 11/12/94
Plockton and Lochalsh Dam - 12/12/94
Evanton and The Fyrish Monument - 13/12/94
Burghead, Duffus Castle,The Bullers of Buchan 14/12/94
East Kilbride - Peregrine Falcon Shoot - 22/01/95
Broughton Heights, West Linton - Golden Eagle Shoot, Sun. 19/02/95
Lin'o'Dee' Ballater, Royal Deeside - Re-Shoot, Saturday 12/01/95
After filming a Peregrine Falcon on Jackton Moors in East Kilbride we then went onto Broughton Heights in West Linton to meet Andrew Knowles Brown the head of The Scottish Hawking Club, to film his Golden Eagle hunting. This was amazing, however filming a Bird Of Prey with its Jessies on doesn't work for me.
Watching 'Gorby' the Golden Eagle hunt rabbit was pretty intense so I knew what part fo the track I would place this action. Due to the amount of bad weather whilst on the west coast before Christmas I decided to re-shoot a few locations and plus I wanted to return to 'Lin'o'Dee' near Ballater to film our model Mhari and Raymond the madman running along the road. I needed a conclusion to the film and I thought either the Scarecrow igniting with fire or it being thrown down into a gorge, the later prevailed.
One thing is for sure, I didn't know at the time this was Guerilla Film-making as I lay on a double bed mattress in the back of a large white van with the back doors open as we filmed Raymond 'The Madman' chase the vehicle as I filmed in Super 8 Cine film out the back.....These were lovely results and amazing light on that day. I was pleased I made the decision to re-shoot.
One thing is for sure, Analogue editing is hardcore, It's not like the software we have today such as Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere Pro. It's what they call character building without all the swearing. This was old equipment for sure and on its way out.
SVHS Panasonic Camcorder.
JVC Video Cassette Recorder - BR S410E.
Canon Auto Zoom 518 SV, Super 8.
Kodak 40 ASA Cine Super 8mm Cartridges
SVHS and VHS Video Cassettes.
Iamnebeam 800 Watt Redhead Spotlights.
Post Production Equipment:
JVC Editing Control Unit. RM-G81OU.
JVC BR-S611E Video Cassette Recorder.
JVC BR-S611E Video Editing Recorder
JVC 13" Monitors
NAD Stereo Amplifier 3225 PE.
SPONSORSHIP & HONOURS DEGREE SHOW
At the Honours Degree Show Exhibition in May 1995, I held the most sponsors to date at Grays School of Art with a total of Seven Sponsors. They included; Kodak UK Limited, Cameron Communications Ltd, Colorwell Limited, KJP Photographic Ltd, The Princes Trust, The Scottish Hawking Club, The Dogs Of Autumn and Miller Brothers. Andrew Knowles-Brown brought 'Gordy the Golden Eagle to the Degree Show Launch and it blew everyone away, whch was a true highlight of the production and the degree show.
BACKGROUND, CONCLUSIONS & ACHIEVEMENTS
Taking visual communication using multimedia components, at this time in 1995 this pre-dated the term 'multi-media'. It was a concept to completion design, and the quest was to interpret an abstract form of music and produce visual imagery that was in synergy with the atmosphere of the music. Absorbing oneself in the work of Film Directors; Anton Corbijn, Tim Pope and observing the work of cover artist James Marsh. The challenge was to push video onto a new abstract level using subliminal and abstract elements. The Degree Exhibition had to maintain the signature and style of myself, the artist. The emotion of the music coupled with the visuals would take people on a journey.
This inspired the birth of my own font and typeface ‘Smack’. It pushed all media in synchronicity to form what became my Honours Degree Exhibition attended by 5,000 people. I produced 2 x CD Covers for the ‘Dogs Of Autumn’ album cover artwork. I produced 1 x 7 minute abstract black & white film edited on analogue video equipment shot on SVHS & Cine Super 8 Film; 20 x exhibition framed film stills for the exhibition, black on white; 1 x A3 Making of sketchbook; 100 x SVHS Copies of video in Red & Purple designs - 100 x VHS Video labels and laser print covers, initially for sale at £5, then given as gifts; 500 x Postcards. 200 x A5 flyers.
The significance of my work was I managed to achieve things I could only have dreamed of prior to attending a four year honours degree course. Having the singer/songwriter Mark Hollis write personally to me was a real joy, and a boost to my project and endeavours. Talk Talk’s ‘Desire’ went on to win a Drama Category at The Kilmarnock Film Festival and was 'Officially Selected' for the Claremont Ferrand Film Festival in France. This piece inspired a member of the public to state the following after enjoying the video: ”…Is Desire, a reflection of man’s inability to physically fly? Is he more like the Scarecrow than an Eagle? Let the spirit fly and you will become that great bird!…"
In 1996, I was asked by the Eask Kilbride Arts Centre to repeat the Honours Degree Exhibition in my home town and therefore took them up on that offer. This was a stills exhibition and video presentation. I also hosted an 'Introduction to Filmmaking' night at the Arts Centre to launch this with Scottish Bafta Award-winning actor Peter Mullen, and Morag McKinnon. which was a great success.
OUTCOMES & SUCCESS
LOCATIONS COVERED DURING PRODUCTION
LOCATIONS COVERED DURING PRODUCTION
I also decided to create an Illustration of 'the burden of film making' and the huge responsibility for it all. Not only did you have to be creative, but you have to deal with travel logistics, food & accommodation, petrol, health & safety, equipment maintenance, weather, personalities, storyboarding, communication, marketing, crew moral etc etc etc......So in the end, "....it wasnt just a dream, ....it was a bloody nightmare!"
'DESIRE' - Composed by Mark Hollis and Tim Friese Greene
That ain't me babe, That ain't me babe! That ain't me babe!
I'm just content to relax,
Than drown within myself.......
That ain't me babe, That ain't me babe! That ain't me babe!
Ain't got a bed of excuse for myself....
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'DESIRE' MUSIC EXPERIENCE