Digital Video Masterclass - II
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The practitioner as composer and instrumentalist of all of its aspects—shooting, recording and editing. - Kabir Mohanty
What is the workshop?
Some years ago at the insistence of a dhrupad musician I began to teach video one on one. This was not how I had learnt filmmaking. In film school(I studied at the University of Iowa for 3 1/2 years between 1983 and 1986), an assumption was made that craft needed to be learnt and everything would come along. Iowa was by no means a polytechnic. However, it shied away from a pedagogical attitude. Over these few years I have begun to feel that making something your own is easier when you go slowly, step by step. Means kept simple helps. The technology can overwhelm you and there is no reason for that to happen. Much like Hindustani music, I now feel, your voice is a latent entity and its cultivation and nourishment needs to be an engagement where you are not chasing the means. That is once you feel the necessity of what you are doing, even for a fleeting moment, the other aspects of the medium will come. So if you do begin to feel the need to pan or tilt you will slowly also feel tracks or hand-held movements. These movements are connected to one’s inner content, and rhythms are everything. Without fragmenting or breaking down and thinking and doing in parts filmmaking is one general mush or reduced to verbal contents. The great work with the moving image, film or video, resists, fervently its narrowing, it is fundamentally not illustrative. This workshop will treat each individual as far as possible within the realm of a one on one engagement. The adapting of this to a group assumes that we all learn from each other even if we are doing different things and even if we are more or less experienced. David Horsborough demonstrated that admirably in the village school in Tamil Nadu which had KG to High School in one classroom.
We shall try in this workshop to bring together a collection of individuals who are not only interested in video within their own practice but also are keen on the assimilation of its history and its conjunction with other artistic and philosophical practices. Over the history of cinema some of its great thinkers have been philosophers, Andre Bazin and more recently Gilles Deleuze. Figure-ground relationship is both practice and philosophy, just depending on when you ask the question. The error lies in the timing of the question or in illustration.
The need that is making the craft your own will necessarily be a time-bound, hands-on engagement. A taste of it early on helps along the way. Video is similar to Hindustani music. One can make the means very strict and simple and say now try and speak. I have seen very strong results from that approach. For example, camera on a tripod with pan and tilt locked and having to shoot like that for a long time. This collapses the distinction between advanced practitioner and beginner and the sense organs and mind come into sharp focus and become the guiding principles.
Video resembles a pencil. Can one draw and write and straddle both those realms of perception?
I have tried over these years to find ways of creating a palette of certain keys to shooting video. It seems two stages of working with the moving image are important. The first is everything that leads up to the shoot and including the act of shooting. The second is post-shooting. The first workshop I held at Sarai in 2005 dealt with the first stage. This one deals primarily though not exclusively with the second stage. However, this separation of stages is within one person. That is, it is one person’s work. It also means we could go from edited material to how one is shooting. The workshop does not create the context of professional editors or sound designers that work on others’ material, yet attempts to imbibe that rigour, because one has also lived those vocations. We shall look at edited material closely, and treat sound recording in its fundamentals. I imagine acoustics being brought in simply and we shall use Robert Bresson’s “Notes on the cinematographer” and Michel Chion’s “Audio Vision” as keys to thinking about sound.
You can expect to spend 4 hours in workshop four times a week. I see each workshop divided into two parts:
1. Participants showing work in the first 3 hours.
2. In the last hour of the session we will look at video’s history from a practitioner’s point of view or a rasika’s point of view. This could be done through a combination of readings, viewings and presentations by the rasikas. I shall use material from both film and video sources and a few come to mind, namely, Bill Viola’s, “Reasons for knocking at an empty house” and some of Gary Hill’s writings and interviews.
Screenings of work will be intensive rather than extensive and you will be asked to study a work closely of your choice.
You can also expect to spend at least three 6-hour stints editing or recording sound per week. Technical assistance for video editing will be provided in the beginning. It is going to be very time-intensive and you could be working nights at the editing studio. It could be a different bio-rhythm and a spare mattress will be provided and provisions for coffee and tea.
Four weeks, July 2-28, 2007. Final screening July 29th, Sunday.
Workshop meetings on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.
All meetings 4-8 pm unless otherwise noted.
9 participants in all
7 devoted to the practice with some prior knowledge of the moving image. These 7 will complete at least one short video during the workshop.
2 places reserved for people who reflect on the practice of the moving image and can help us think. A musician and rasika relationship is what I was thinking. In our tradition the rasika saw from a privileged point of view the inception of things, the nascent form forming. These 2 people could be from any discipline with the rider that they immerse themselves in the tradition of thinking about the moving image. Needless to say not only will their practice be different(they are welcome to participate in shoots and edits though) but also their presentations(oral and written), within the context of the workshop.
For the 7 practitioners—30 minutes of solidly shot un-edited video material.
Solidly isn’t as subjective as one may think. Often it is just the quantity of labour put in. If someone does not have material ready to edit then I may consider submission of rushes from previously shot material that you may want to re-edit/re-visit.
For the 2 rasikas—a long written piece that demonstrates interest in thinking about the moving image. A curriculum vitae.
All applicants should submit a page on their involvement with the moving image, their backgrounds. Very often this helps in a one-on-one engagement within a small group.
Deadline for submission
Video material on dvd and written material printed out, in Sarai by May 7th.
Participants will be notified by May 15th.
Workshop fees should be paid to Sarai, 100 % in advance by June 1st.
Equipment reserved for the workshop
One computer with editing software for image and sound.
A camera with a microphone.
For a period a DAT recorder with a professional microphone.
Rs.7,500 per person for the 7 places. The 2 rasikas fee is Rs.2,500.
About Kabir Mohanty
(from the catalogue for “Song for an ancient land”, Solo Show, GallerySKE, Bangalore, October 29-Dec 2, 2006.)
I have been working in both film and video for some time now and have made about ten films and videos. Most of my work has been shown in film and video festivals in India and abroad including Oberhausen, Rotterdam, Torino, Hawaii, World Wide Video Festival Amsterdam and Bombay.
Sometimes I have been part of art shows like Sidewinder, which was a residency cum exhibition, hosted by CIMA in 2001-02 where I showed a short fiction film, “and now i feel i don’t know anything”.
Currently at the Tate Modern is a show on the tradition of experimentation in Indian film and video starting with Dadasaheb Phalke, titled Cinema of Prayoga, which I am a part of.
My training was at the University of Iowa where I obtained a masters in filmmaking in 1986. My teachers included the great filmmaker Leighton Pierce and film theorist Dudley Andrew, author of Major Film Theories, both full-time faculty at Iowa.
Over the years I have received international grants and production awards in the form of the Hubert Bals Fund, Rotterdam Film Festival, the Fond Sud Award from the Ministry of External Affairs, France, an individual artist grant from the Prince Claus Fund, Netherlands and a collaboration grant with sound designer, Vikram Joglekar from the India Foundation for the Arts, Bangalore. These have enabled more than what got produced as individual projects.
From September 2002 till June 2004, I was a Visiting Artist in the Department of Art, UCLA, and in residence for half that period.