North London Obs January 2014

img_3689.jpgI’ve been to the primary school in north London 3 times now for the after school film making club connected to the Cent Ans de Jeunesse BFI programme. The first time I spent most of the time lurking outside the classroom while the Year 6 children got to the end of Hitchcock’s Rope – couldn’t interrupt the flow – and listened to them whooping and exclaiming at the the idea of having to watch the ending next week. The teacher ‘lost’ the battle. Rope is Hitchcock’s film shot in one take. I enter and they think I’m their teacher’s mum. I introduce myself – always very conscious of them thinking I’m an Inspector. Get that a lot.

The next 2 sessions are out in the locality on Holloway Road, North London, finding their Lumière Minutes. The first task is to film one minute of real events/moments/action/life/sound where they capture a moment. They’d already watched some old Lumière brothers ‘Minutes’ of a baby being fed and the famous train entering the station (L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat) to demonstrate the art of the long take. More explanation about the BFI project and the film language theme here and more examples of long takes from feature films compiled by Alastair Satchel here.

Striking how they’ve taken to this exercise without any kind of complaint – just filming an apparent ‘nothing’, no fiction, no fighting, no acting, no dialogue, no action, no genre-imitating, no plot, no story… except of course we captured most of those things in a filmed slice of real life.  Or is it a ‘slab’ of real life? in the way of Geertz’s ‘thick description’? There was a real feeling of thinking on your feet and scouting for locations, keeping quiet and behind the camera. One time the camera operator couldn’t help commenting on the drama of his Minute: “Perfect!” … as he catches the bus driver not allowing a woman on the bus and her reaction.

We went to these places and asked for permission where necessary: a motor bike repair garage, a pet shop, a bus stop, a nail salon, couple of newsagents, a football pitch, and notably a tattoo parlour. Fascinating locales all, to which the camera allows entry. Most of the time… the take-away food places were generally out of bounds. The camera constrains as much as disinhibits. It’ll be interesting to see how the collective ‘screening’ of their Minutes goes next week.

Sam Lawlor is the film maker helping the children out and Mark Reid (BFI Education) compiled and uploaded the final ‘minutes’ to the BFI project blog:


Kind of my own researcher’s Lumiere minute – except not from a fixed point sadly – waiting outside one of the shops while other filming was going on. This is spur of the moment iphone footage… which just happened to be exactly a minute long. Spontaneous dance routine:

One comment

  1. Pingback: Lumiere Holloway Road | BFI / Cinémathèque blog

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