Michael Ch├Ęze Productions

Life stories

Filming process

The person being filmed needs to compile a year by year chronology of significant events in his or her life: this is simply a list for reference purposes. The actual narration is not scripted, but told spontaneously, using the chronology, or else questions which I ask, as a prompt. The narrative is enriched as the story teller incorporates a selection of anecdotes or short accounts of entertaining, interesting or moving incidents. Another dimension emerges, as the story goes beyond being a simple chronology of events: the person telling their story may want to talk about their feelings and views about certain events, or explore their thoughts on life in general, and the wisdom they have gained. They may also wish to include extra sections in which friends or family are included in the filming, and in which they reminisce together.

 

From my point of view, it is important that the person being filmed set aside the time and provide an appropriate and relaxing space in which to be interviewed. The filming can take several days or more, and the actual recording time needs to be uninterrupted. I spend time beforehand observing the setting and lighting conditions. The space in which the filming takes place should ideally be personal in character, with a certain aesthetic (an interior space, or one that incorporates natural beauty, for example). It needs to be cool, not too bright, and quiet (this is important  to allow for

concentration and also for the quality of the sound being recorded). If artificial lighting is required, there needs to be access to electricity. It is important, in between filming, that both I and the person telling his or her story, have the opportunity to relax. To do justice to the story teller and the filming, the process should not be rushed. I take time, in setting up my professional equipment, to ensure that the images are appealing to the eye, compositionally, and (and this is of fundamental importance) in the way that the face is lit.

 

Photographs and other visual material need to be compiled, with the date and the circumstances of the taking of the shot marked on each photograph. These are used to build montages which are set to music, and which punctuate the film. They add considerable atmostphere and a moving dimension to the film. Old photographs come surprisingly to life, as I track into them, creating a sense of movement and emotional sweep. A particularly rewarding aspect of this process is using digital technology to restore old photographs: removing blemishes, rebuilding sections where the surface has been torn, brightening and adding contrast to dull photos. The process requires technical proficiency, but is also an art, producing results similar in a way to those of restoring an old painting.

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