Friday, 15 March 2019

AVANT KINEMA / UNDERTOAD - "Ghost Worlds (Animal Rites)" soundtrack album - Indie/Alternative Handpan Collaboration

by Avant Kinema / Undertoad 
soundtrack album for Avant Kinema's 
Expanded Cinema Performance of the 
same name (Alchemy Film and Moving 
Image Festival, Hawick, 2018)

The soundtrack to Avant Kinema's Expanded Cinema Performance, Ghost Worlds (Animal Rites), is a collaboration between Newcastle-born Handpan player, Undertoad (aka Neil Coles) and Scottish Borders based artist-filmmakers & indie/alternative musicians, Avant Kinema (Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian, who also create music as The Bird And The Monkey). 

The track's evolution began with Undertoad creating an improvised Handpan jam. To this recording, Avant Kinema then added their own musical elements: Sarahjane Swan's voice and Roger Simian's instrumentation.

The album is available to download from The Bird And The Monkey's Bandcamp page.

Here's Avant Kinema's 10 minute long trailer for the full length Ghost Worlds (Animal Rites) experimental film document of their 25 minute long Expanded Cinema Performance (part of Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival's Celebrate Super 8 event at the Auld Baths, Hawick, Friday 4th May 2018).

The duo describe the film as their "Vegan Art-Film" and advise viewer discretion.


Thursday, 14 March 2019

GHOST WORLDS: ANIMAL RITES  (The 10 Minute Edit) -
 Document of an Expanded Cinema Performance by AVANT KINEMA 
at Alchemy Film And Moving Image Festival, Hawick, May 2018

This is the 10 minute edit of GHOST WORLDS (ANIMAL RITES) - the video document of a 25 minute long Expanded Cinema Live Performance by Avant Kinema (Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian) at Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, Hawick, May 2018.

An experimental hybrid of both digital and analogue filmmaking, Ghost Worlds makes use of expired Kodachrome 40 filmstock, home-processed using the Caffenol recipe (coffee, washing soda, vitamin c) and handcrafted by directly scratching & painting the film. 

The Super 8 footage was filmed on location throughout Scotland (Scottish Borders, Dumfriesshire, Perthshire, Ayrshire & The Orkney Islands). 

The full 25 minute version of the film is currently in post-production and will be released at a later date. 

The soundtrack is a collaboration between Avant Kinema (who also make music as The Bird And The Monkey) and Undertoad (aka Neil Coles, a Folk Musician & Psytrance exponent from Newcastle, also one-time friend and collaborator with Ozric Tentacles). Undertoad here provides the improvised Handpan phrases which act as a rhythmic and melodic underlay for Sarahjane Swan's vocals and Roger Simian's instrumentation. 

Ghost Worlds (Animal Rites) is a Vegan Art Film, inspired by Avant Kinema's interest in animal rights, veganism and the work of such activists as Earthling Ed and Joey Carbstrong. 

**Warning: the film contains some scenes which viewers may find disturbing** 


Friday, 5 October 2018

Review: Scottish Indie Psychological Thriller, "Far From The Apple Tree"

We would really love this Scottish Indie feature film to do well when it gets released next year. If you like the trailer, please feel free to share it around...
Tartan 14 - Far From the Apple Tree
from Year Zero : Tartan Features on Vimeo.
The film in question is the Arthouse Psych-Horror, Far From The Apple Tree, starring Netflix-star, Sorcha Groundsell (lead actor in the 2018 shape-shifting horror romance box-set series, The Innocents) and directed by Scottish low budget film director and Indie Music obsessive, Grant McPhee. McPhee's previous features have included documentaries on the history of Scottish labels & bands, such as Big Gold Dream (on the Post-Punk labels Fast Product & Postcard), which was broadcast last year on BBC2: a good year and a bit before the Beeb's Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop and the National Museum of Scotland exhibition of the same name.

Far From The Apple Tree - written by the talented screenwriter Ben Soper and produced by Steven Moore and Olivia Gifford (both producers on the Outlander series) - is number 14 in the Tartan Features series of low-budget-but-high-production-values full-length Scottish independent films made since Grant McPhee's 2014 feature, Sarah's Room
It's scheduled to be released some time early next year "through one of the UK's most daring art-house labels", and there will also be selected BFI screenings.

The soundtrack for the film is by songwriter Rose McDowall (who came to fame in the UK in the 1980s as one half of Scottish Post-Punk Pop Duo, Strawberry Switchblade) and Canadian based "electroacoustic music composer and media artist, Shawn Pinchbeck.

Unlike the majority of feature films being made anywhere around the World today, the FFTAT production is notable for having an entirely female cast. We ourselves - being a micro-collective comprising of one woman and one man - were pleased to discover that the crew on the shoot was made up of a similar 50/50 male/female split. Mainstream cinema should take note and learn something from this new, more progressive breed of independent filmmakers. It is also heartening to learn that Grant McPhee and the rest of the Tartan Features / YearZero filmmakers are striving towards paying all crew members the Scottish Living Wage wherever possible. 

Before we go any further - in the interests of transparency - we should disclose our involvement in the production of Far From The Apple Tree. Last year, after reading our Avant Kinema blog post detailing our experiments with shooting Super 8 film using expired filmstock, home processing with household products and handcrafting film with scratches and colours, Grant McPhee invited us to join the crew on the shoot of his latest feature. We were blown away by the generosity and open-ness of this approach and also fascinated to see first-hand how a bigger budget production with full crew and production staff operates.

So, we joined the 2nd Unit for the first two days of shooting in Perthshire in March 2017 - along with performer Ashley Sutherland and photographer Lucas Kao - and we were given free rein to wander the house and its environs in order to help create an authentic looking archive of Super 8 and 16mm film for Grant McPhee. and his editors to draw on whilst making the feature. It was an amazing and quite mind-blowing experience for us, and we were both really impressed by the friendliness and generosity of everybody we encountered. 

Here are some analogue stills we shot of Ashley Sutherland with our Lomography cameras during the two day shoot, whilst setting up shots to be captured in Super 8 and 16mm.


apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

The working edit of the Far From The Apple Tree movie, which we were priviliged enough to be allowed to preview recently, was, in our estimation, an exceptional example of the way that certain 21st Century directors are able to draw on their 20th Century influences (in this case the 1960s & 70s arthouse horrors / psychological thrillers which Grant McPhee and writer Ben Soper love so much) to create something utterly fresh, utterly contemporary.
The film, which is based mostly in a grand but spooky Scottish stately home, follows the increasingly fractured and disorientating interactions between up-and-coming artist and intern, Judith (Sorcha Groundsell), and the disfunctional, Mother Figure, artist she admires, Roberta Roslyn (Victoria Liddelle: "The Loch" tv series). Bringing the Scottish story-telling tradition of the Other Self / Doppleganger and the Duality of the Individual - as in Dr Jekyll or Justified Sinner - bang up to date, Judith is hired by Roberta to create an archive around the Lost Girl of the House, Maddy - a near double of Judith herself - whose absence is ever-present.
FFTAT glories in a smorgasbord of filmmaking techniques and formats, both digital and analogue, which helps McPhee and his team reference a whole history of cinema at the same time as looking forwards towards the future of cinema. 
We love the film and were honoured to be involved in its production. 
Share the trailer around if you like what you see, click on some links below and spread the good word about Far From The Apple Tree...

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Interview w/ artist, James Craig Page (Scotland)

From Sarahjane Swan's hometown of Dunbar, in East Lothian,
self-taught artist, James Craig Page, has been producing vibrant, exciting and hyper-imaginative paintings for many years now. As well as his Church of Gloss art-movement, inspired by a cloud over the Wicker Man Festival, JCP has garnered a great deal of attention for the meditative practice of stone stacking, appearing several times on prime-time BBC1, setting up the
European Stone Stacking Championships in Dunbar, and travelling to Austin, Texas, for the World Championship.

Last year Avant Kinema were privileged to be able to add these two James Craig Page originals to our collection.

Here's our interview with James. Avant Kinema: Who are you? Where did you grow up and where are you based now?

James Craig Page: Who am I? I am a singular aspect of consciousness having a living experience. I was born in Dunbar and remain there.

AK: Could you give us a history of your involvement with creating visual art?

JCP: I began creating art in my early 30s after being made redundant from my gardening job working with Sir George Taylor at Belhaven Gardens, Dunbar. I had written poetry and short stories for many years, but I remember the first piece of wood I found on the beach that I took home and painted on. I had no money for materials, and remember going to the early learning centre in St James Centre in Edinburgh to buy Poster paint for £1.00 a bottle. My brother in law worked in a paper factory and gave me large sheets, which I stapled together to create a canvas. I mixed up the paint, threw it on, and began experimenting like a child with primary colours. I'd wait till it dried then identify shapes, faces, creatures and then outline them in black line. I learned more from the paint that day than I ever did in art class at school. After a year unemployed I painted every day, more for my sanity than anything else. After another 6 months I got put on a job club course to encourage me to get a real job. I left after a day, walked home from Musselburgh penniless, and booked the local library, free of charge to hold my first exhibition. I decided I had nothing to lose and a houseful of art to sell. So a month later I sold 6 pieces at my first exhibition and never looked back. I've also never had a "real" job since.

AK: What were the major influences in the arts and in life which encouraged you to become involved in this field?

JCP: Finding I enjoyed playing with paint and general poverty encouraged me to keep going.

AK: What does the word experimental mean to you?

JCP: The word experimental means the starting point of an interesting journey.

AK: At Avant Kinema we have a particular interest in low budget, DIY or LoFi forms of creativity. What are your thoughts on creating work this way?

JCP: I have always created stuff with inspiration not money.

AK: Could you talk us through the whole process of how you generally go about creating a work, from the initial concepts through to the finishing touches?

JCP: I have never started a painting or a rock stack with any thought whatsoever, preferring to work from a Dwamic state of doing without thinking. Then I may reach a point where I consciously interact with what's been created, but not always. I have studied meditation, mediumship and palm reading from my teenage years, so find it easy to switch off, tune in, then create.

AK: What do you use to generate ideas and stimulate your creativity?

JCP: Nature has become my muse, and I've never failed to be inspired by her beauty.

AK: Have you been able to get much in the way of funding towards travel to festivals or for your art in general?

JCP: Through creating the European Stone Stacking Championships in Dunbar, and curating a major Land Art Exhibition at Summerhall Gallery, Edinburgh, it has opened doors to funding opportunities. I have had very little in the way of personal funding, and find writing applications to be the 2nd most arduous task I've come across in life. AK: Could you tell us what Stone Stacking is and how you came about the practice? What is your philosophy? Is it art or meditation?

JCP: Stonebalancing is a process of creative meditation which teaches you more about yourself and the inner life of Nature than 25 years of modern schooling ever could. I became aware of this practice through online videos and the photographic work of Michael Grab aka Gravity Glue, then through meeting and working with Sterling Gregory, Travis Williams, Tim Anderson and such like Land Artists from around the globe.

AK: Can you tell us what The Church Of Gloss is? How you created it and what it stands for?

JCP: The Church of Gloss or C.o.G was formed around 2007, after I met a cloud in the sky above the Wicker Man festival. Shortly afterwards I was given a word that came to me as a sound. This sound/word then revealed itself to me over a period of five years. I was in the presence of a another friend when I received this. I then chose a few trusted creative and spiritually minded friends to share the word with. We now have 111 members around the world: including a few well known musicians, actors and artists I've been fortunate enough to meet and trusted enough to share the word with. It was initially an art collective started with Callum Easter, with a spiritually minded ethos for self exploration and colloboration, and has evolved into something much more.

AK: What was it like appearing on The One Show on prime time BBC1 and having such wide media coverage?

JCP: Appearing on The One Show and Landward earlier this year was a great way to communicate my passion for this art form, and to make people aware of the many amazing artists and human beings that make up the ever expanding balancing community that I now feel a big part of. It encourages me to keep on doing what I truly love, even if the wages aren't that great!

AK: Do you have any future exhibitions, installations or artworks you would like to tell us about?

JCP: I'm currently curating the Dunbar Street Art Trail event 17th-26th Aug including a shop window pop-up exhibition featuring international and local artists and musicians. I will also be creating a Zen Balance Garden at Summerhall for the Edinburgh Fringe festival with Sterling Gregory. There will also be photographs from the Art of Balance exhibition, held earlier this year, featuring some of the best stone balancers and land artists from around the world. We are currently looking at options to tour this show in London and New York.

You can see more of my work at:

Art of Balance short film.
By C.o.G Productions.

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, James Craig Page.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Interview w/ filmmaker, Dagie Brundert (Germany)

Not long after we started our own experiments in home-processing Super 8 film in 2016, our friend the American filmmaker, Walter Ungerer, suggested that Dagie Brundert in Berlin was a lady we might want to connect with. Dagie Brundert is a pioneer in the art of home-processing analogue film in household and/or natural products. She long ago moved on from the standard Caffenol recipe (washing soda, coffee, vitamin c) to messing around with everything from red wine to wild flowers or seaweed as developing agents in the service of her art, always with fantastic results. Dagie is ever generous with her knowledge, being a firm believer in the open source approach to information sharing and is regularly booked to host Super 8 film processing workshops.

AK: Who are you? Where did you grow up and where are you now based?

DB: Hi there, I am Dagie! Aka Dagmar. Aka Poly Phenoly ;-)

I was born somewhere in the middle West of Germany, lost and bored but also surrounded by trees, meadows and hidden places to play… but I needed to find a way out of it so I went – via some unimportant stations – to Berlin. 30 years ago. I call it now: home.  My lovely ugly shiny Berlin!

AK: Could you give us a history of your involvement with creating work involving still or moving images?

DB: Before I discovered the moving image I was always drawing, writing, taking weird photos … and then one day my professor (I studied art in Berlin meanwhile) brought a super 8 camera to us students to play with … and that’s exactly the historical magical moment when the arrow hit me: I took it, checked it, made a simple film and whoooooosh a new universe opened its doors for me!!! I was able to set up a world on my table and make plastic figures act like I wanted! Animation! Yeah! Animate stuff, animate myself, play all along in my little bubble, I loved it.

AK: What were the major influences in the arts and in life which encouraged you to become involved with this field?

DB: Other films that showed me that there are no limits to fantasy, that there doesn’t have to be a classical story, that I was allowed to follow my funky instincts and just trust that something will evolve. Also music. Music helped me to survive lonely times. Like: The Beatles (honestly! I loved them when I was a kid!), John Peel who opened up the music universe for me (yes I was able to listen to him at night in Germany, broadcasted for BFBS in Germany), Dada, Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger, Schmelzdahin, Jacques Rivette …

AK: What does the word “experimental” mean to you?

DB: Playing with material and ideas.

AK: At Avant Kinema we have a particular interest in low budget, DIY or LoFi forms of creativity.
What are your thoughts on films, music, zines or other artworks created in this way? Is this a way that you personally like working? If yes, would that be for aesthetic reasons or more because of budgetary constraints?

DB: Somehow I can’t think of any other way than no/low budget DIY … I have always been … well I cannot say “poor” since I’m quite privileged in this world that I happen to live in … but I love to tinker on my own, immediately when an idea strikes me, I wanna do it all at once, all by myself, now … If someone gave me a million I wouldn’t say no but it is not necessary. I don’t want to be dependant, I don’t want to wait.

AK: What was your earliest experience of using analogue film, video or photographic equipment?

DB: I choose analogue film and tell you a story: in my early Berlin student days when I just got the camera I strolled along my street together with my friend and we saw a stand at Woolworths with a mass of Barbie dolls. They looked so sad! In one second we knew we had to free them and make them actors in our first film! We checked our cash resources and freed 23 of them: blonde, brown, black hair; pink, blue, yellow dress, simple cheap barbies without knee or elbow joints. At home we lined them up and had so much fun just making them collapse. It became our/my first film “23 Barbiepuppen kippen um”. The bug had bitten me.

AK: Where did these initial steps lead?

DB: To my super 8 career!! At the beginning I didn’t really take myself and my films serious … but they grew. And now I’ve been doing it for more than 30 years, I have discovered so much, I have dived so deep into the material and into experimental ideas … there’s no end. It’s my sense and it’s my satisfaction.

AK: Did you have any guidance in using this technology or did you work it all out for yourself?

DB: Almost no guidance (there was no internet in the late 80es ;-) When I found out about self developing … it was all trial and error and some books that I read and some people that I
talked to. And my earlier darkroom experiences as a photographer. Now it’s easier and that’s what I like on platforms like facebook: the open minded and sharing mind of the groups there. Mostly.

AK: What specific models of analogue equipment / stock do you favour, and why?

DB: All expired films!!! I especially adore 40 years old colour films …. Ektachrome 160 is my goddess … I just found an alternative E6 recipe that made it possible to use this fallen out of time stock and receive fantastic images. And of course testing new eco soups with my favourite b&w film & TriX. Nothing can make me more smile than shaking some TriX stripes in a tank full of rhubarb soup with soda and vitamin c, to open it after fixing and to hold the images in my hands! Oops, when I write and read it, it’s like giving birth! Only less painful!

AK: What is your process for using analogue technology and techniques? How do you shoot, process/develop, edit/correct, add effects or, in other ways, manipulate this raw material? How do you then present it to the World?

DB: I process now almost all of my films myself. Give them to some pros to have them scanned and then I edit them (FinalCut). I don’t manipulate them at all, only some time stretching here and there. And then I spit them out and throw them into the world. All my films are on Vimeo. I appear on film festivals from time to time.

AK: We're very interested in the way you've taken the Caffenol template and used it to experiment with everything from wine to seaweed in your processing. Do you have a strong understanding of the chemistry involved in this or do you just try lots of things out to see what works?

DB: When I began I had no idea about chemistry. I thought I understood b&w photography, I understood how the silver molecules in the emulsion got hit by light and then been transformed from silver salts to metallic silver … but that was almost all. Meanwhile I read a lot of articles about the processing components, about phenols … and I believe I understand it deeper and deeper: phenols are everywhere in almost all plants, phenols are mostly bitter (except for in raw potatoes which makes an amazing developer by the way!!) … briefly said: my instincts evolve with reading and just doing!!

AK: Have you shared any of your skills in the Analogue Arts with others through workshops, tutorials or other forms of training? How was this experience?

DB: I am an analog hippie, I share all of my knowledge. Caffenol belongs to everybody, there is no patent on it. Some of my “soup films” are tutorials, like “Tullamol”

 I write the recipe in the credits at the end of the film. I want people to try it themselves, to have fun and to make some beautiful art. When I give workshops I very often have students that are completely digital … I mean: they grew up with digital devices that made it possible to film at almost no costs. But they yearn for something after a while. Something tactile. Something that really consists of something. I show them. It is contagious!
AK: The Digital Revolution has opened up the World of High Quality, Low Cost filmmaking and photography for a lot of people. It's still relatively expensive to use analogue movie or stills stock and it's also generally a more time-consuming and complicated way of working. So, what's the attraction? What is it that makes the expense and effort worthwhile in the 21st Century?
DB: See question above! It’s a total different approach. A different aesthetic. Do you know about wabi-sabi? That explains a lot! I quote Leonard Koren “Wabi-sabi is the quintessential Japanese aesthetic. It is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional … It is also two separate words, with related but different meanings. “WABI“ is the kind of perfect beauty that is seemingly-paradoxically caused by just the right kind of imperfection, such as an asymmetry in a ceramic bowl which
reflects the handmade craftsmanship, as opposed to another bowl which is perfect, but soul-less and machine-made.  “SABI“ is the kind of beauty that can come only with age, such as the patina on a very old bronze statue.” [Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers, by Leonard Koren]
… and then I quote myself: “You extend your antennas and begin to notice the subtle beauty that exists in so many banal, imperfect, impermanent and incomplete things and existences. You fill your camera with a super 8 cassette, hide behind the lens, play spy, step on your right track and find it.
Super 8 has the capability of teasing out and capturing the wabi-sabish soul of things and occurences. More than just displaying, picturing one-to-one-wise – it soaks up beauty molecules, cells, souls and spits out beauty grains – simply because Super 8 is magic.”

AK: What kind of future do you see for analogue creativity in a digital world? We can see analogue-digital hybrid art becoming an interesting new form that filmmakers and artists can experiment with. Is this something you would like to experiment with at some point in the future?

DB: Take the best from two worlds! Mix! Play! Invent! Why should there be a limit?

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions, Dagie. :-) x