My creative outputs are a response to a curiosity of a subject and are formed by a need to investigate and communicate the results in a way that both informs and influences thought and action.
Documentary film making was the medium chosen to creatively respond to the research into letterpress printing in Yorkshire.
For the thesis my creative response was the starting point for the whole project. I struggle with blank page explorations of intelligential subjects and prefer the practical approach of problem and solution for more everyday subjects. I place the audience at the centre of my creative process and work towards achieving a goal, picking the most suitable medium and platform for the output.
From previous experience and initial research I felt that letterpress printing could be described as a heritage craft and I was concerned that many of the traditional skills and equipment was being lost to old age and digital progression. On the other hand there seemed to be a resurgence of interest amongst designers and communicators and I was curious how the past and the future of the craft sat together and what would be lost in the transition. My goal for my creative response was therefore to shine a light of the loss of professional trained letterpress operators whilst enthusing a new generation to see value in the equipment, the processes, and the output.
Letterpress is a multi-sensory experience with beauty and interest in both the process and the final print. Short of setting up free public letterpress printing workshop, film seemed to be the best way to capture all elements in a cost effective and wide reaching way. It also informed my approach to filming, with close rich shots of equipment and printers in action.
Logic also played a part in steering me in the direction of documentary film; as a significant research project it made sense to me to document my findings and share them in a way that would reach and inspire as wide an audience as possible.
YouGov research (September 2014) suggests that 73% of British people watched TV programmes online in the last six months, 72% watched short online video clips, and 59% watched films online.
YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2065 adults. The survey was conducted online between 19-21 September 2014. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
This ever increasing number of online viewers confirmed that the internet provided the ideal platform for me to share my work, along with the notion that the online video content is one of the most democratic and accessible mediums, a lovely parallel with the first true democracy that movable type and the letterpress provided.
My first response to the idea of making a letterpress documentary was to lend heavily from Typeface (2009), a sixty-minute documentary charting the work of the Hamilton Woodtype Museum in America, its visitors and associates. I arranged to interview a range of similar experts as featured in the film who would give a Yorkshire perspective on letterpress printing.
Confining the film to Yorkshire not only helped me in terms of transport and time, but I also felt it would be a stronger film if it had a specific geographic context. This border gave a clear reason why some of the more exciting Southern-based letterpress artists and studios were not included. In addition, Yorkshire has had a long and strong relationship with letterpress printing (as explored in Chapter 1) which would provide rich content to the film.
As different areas of interest were explored and triangulated, the film increased in proposed length from ten, to thirty, to possibly sixty minutes. Within the context of this study I became concerned that the length would limit the audience and the quality would decrease given the limited editing time.
Early creative experimentation had led to a short sixty second film and a twelve-minute site-specific documentary. Reflecting on these pieces and the work of other creative practitioners I began to reconsider my original strategy.
Examining the Like Knows Like web-based project which creates short documentaries which present both the personal a professional side of creatives who use digital platforms to share their work, I found that they had twenty-four films around five-minutes each in length and they made good use of their own social media and the featured artists to promote the work.
Likewise Make Works, an independent design company that facilitates, celebrates and debates design, craftsmanship and manufacture, relies heavily on video to “open up access to Scottish suppliers, trades and manufacturing in ways that are useful, informative and inspiring.” http://makeworks.co.uk/about They have recorded eighty-six films, each no longer than 120 seconds in length and featuring a different company or person.
The re-assessed approach was to create much shorter bite-sized films and use a website and social media to pull them together. An additional advantage of this was the increased likelihood of support from those featured through their embedding and sharing of the film on their own digital and social platforms. Shortener the films meant they were more attractive for people to watch, and breaking them down into different areas broaden the audience.
Although this new direction has many benefits, unlike Make Works and Like Knows Like, my films do not offer the consistent formula to presenting information. Given the timescale much of my filming had been undertaken by the change of direction, taking from each person what was needed for a larger story, not necessarily an individual story. Improvisation and innovation was required to pull together the threads as separate entities (NOT DONE YET SO NOTHING FURTHER TO ADD)
Throughout the development I have been very open to change and the development of ideas. I have responded to the primary research collected during the documentary interviews, for example the notion presented by Bradford Industrial Museum that people nowadays can no longer view working machinery and that’s part of the fascination of letterpress printing.
As the project progressed I have been increasingly open to ideas of alternative ways to create documentary film. Taking Typeface as a traditional presentation of the form, films like Blight (2007) created by artist John Smith for BBC2’s Sound on Film series made me question my initial conservative and traditional views on documentary film. Films such as The Original (credit me) presented footage differently and made use of the sound to add depth to the film.