Sound Stage


For the moment I am attempting to disregard what I want to take from or do to the material in the archive in order to get to know it. I need to see what is actually there rather than what I imagined I would find.

EASY COME / Film No 182 / 1933
A fictional film, shot in Salford. A family seen at breakfast and teatime; they wonder if they have won a competition in the local paper. The mother sits down to rest; the remainder of the film is her dream. The father announces they have won the competition. They go to Blackpool; scenes of all the attractions at Blackpool. But disasters happen to each member of the family; the daughter is abandoned miles away by a man who picked her up, the father gets in a fight in a pub, and the brother falls off the Big Dipper. The mother is relieved when she wakes up and is told that they did not win the competition.

The absence of projector noise exaggerated the absolute muteness of the film, (the screening copies are on DVD) perhaps the whirring, clicking, humming and rattling of a projector working suggests the possibility that the voice is present but drowned out.

I was surprised at how low-key the performances were as I had expected exaggerated gestures and expressions (perhaps to overcome the lack of recorded sound). There were scenes in which the actors appear genuinely engaged with what they have been directed or scripted to do, such as sitting around a table eating or talking to each other. These scenes are occasionally interrupted by an action intended for the viewer, when the performance breaks through in a shrug, a double take, a stunt or the introduction of an unconvincing prop.

Being amateur fiction film there is no sound stage; the locations are the locations of the actor’s everyday lives. In the moments when the narrative progression stalls both the characters and the actors that are playing them inhabit a location that is rendered both fictional scene and factual document in the same instant.

In order to allow a fiction to occur within everyday surroundings the central character often falls asleep or gets drunk. With the films made by children there is no need for such devices.

THE TIME DESK  / Film No.3886 / 1964.
Drama made by students from Sir John Deane college in Northwich. A boy harassed by his classmates discovers a time-travelling device. This first transports him back to 1954, where the school is populated entirely by girls (and an attempt at a cross-dressing escape is swiftly found out) and then to 1944, where an air raid is in progress. He returns to 1964 when after a disconcerting interlude where all the pupils seem to have vanished, normality is restored.

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