Thursday, 28 June 2007

WINDY CORNER A POWERFUL EXPLORATION OF MULTICULTUARISM

By Fatmir Terziu
Dr. Charlotte Crofts and Mr. Chris Elliottof Faculty of Art and Human Science at LSBU (London South Bank University) said of the film: “a powerful exploration of multiculturalism through the unifying device of the storm. Impressive storm sequence very well handled with strong use of special effects. The work is interesting in its blend of social commentary about multiculturalism and pshycological fantasy

My inspiration for Windy Corner came from the Great Storm in South East England in October 1987. According to the media, The Great Storm of October 1987 was the worst to affect the south east of England since 1703. After the storm had passed the landscape was changed, some “15 million trees were felled and whole forests decimated. Buildings suffered several damage and ships were driven on to shore. 16 people died as direct result of the storm damage.” (www.stvincent.ac.uk). I wrote the script about a similar storm happening in Windy Corner, a normal terraced street. A little boy, born to a couple after 18 years of marriage, was killed by the storm. My main aim, though, was to highlight the change of this street from the past to the present. The idea developed through a contrast to the film The Perfect Storm (2000) which is mainly about a storm at sea, but Windy Corner is mostly about the changes that came about because of the storm. Windy Corner explores the lives of a few of its inhabitants and what brought them to the street, but also the theme of the storm is always present.
From the beginning I had a clear picture in mind of how I planned to realise this short film. I researched to get a better idea about the theme. By contacting online websites and acting schools and colleges in London I found the actors I needed for this film, but I failed in finding the main actor, who was in the first draft of the script an old man, surviving witness of the storm. I contacted two actors, one of them agreed to be part of the project, but because of health problems he never turned up to shooting, the other asked for payment for the job. So I called a meeting with the crew to inform them and to discuss changes to the script. After the changes were made I found an actress who would now be the main character. There was no real problem with the structure of the script, but we had to change the fact that the main character is no longer a survivor from the time of the storm, but the granddaughter of a woman who was alive at the time. This idea came after we consulted with Dr. Charlotte Crofts.
The next step was to find the possible locations for every sequence in the film. Overall I had an idea about the location of most of the main sequences, but to make the sequences more realistic we realised that some parts of the film needed to be realised in different locations. For example the sequence of the wedding flashback was shot in a Community Centre in Swiss Cottage, while the soldiers’ arrival in the same scene was shot in my garden in Tooting Broadway. The sequence of the storm was shot in the Hand-Washed Cars in Colliers Wood and my garden, while the scene showing the little boy dead as a result of the storm was shot in a house in Tooting Broadway. The combination of these locations helped to create the real sense of the scenes. The film Cape Fear (1991), which has the same theme about a storm, was realised in the same way.
To realise the wedding sequence I had to call more than fifty participants from the Albanian community living in London and twelve traditional Albanian dancers and musicians all dressed in traditional costumes to take part in the filming. I also had to call the actress who would play the bride and six other actors who would play the soldiers who break in and kill everyone. With the help of the Albanian Community it was easy to turn an empty community hall into a traditional Albanian wedding hall. I placed tables with plates and bottles of wine at the side and put up the Albanian flag on the wall, so that it looked just like a real traditional Albanian wedding hall. The live music played by the musicians and the professional performance by the traditional dancers made the sequence seem real when the soldiers dressed in camouflage clothes and armed with guns entered. We used two cameras to film this sequence; one was hand held and the other static. I had planned this for two main reasons. One reason was so that we avoided retakes and so that the sequence was quicker to film. The other reason was because most of the participants were not actual actors; it would have been hard for them to endure the retakes.
Filming the sequence with the little boy killed by the storm was very tricky to do. In the sequence the little boy playing the role had to lie down in the floor pretending to be dead. The little boy was painted with red paint in the face so that it looked like he had blood pouring out, but because he was only painted on one side of his face in many shots it doesn’t look realistic. To solve this problem I decided to re-shoot the whole scene again. Another difficulty was that the little boy had no experience at all with this role and so it took many takes to get what we wanted. As for the mother, an experienced actress, who in the sequence picks up the body of the dead boy, it was very easy, especially the shot which shows her shouting. To get the designed setting of a house having been hit by a storm I had to put broken glass and a spread out pack of cards on the floor around the body of the dead little boy.
Creating the storm was the most challenging of sequences that we had to shoot. Mainly the effect was created by using a pressured hosepipe borrowed from Hand Washed Cars in Colliers Wood. We sprayed the water with pressure on the house and the objects in the garden so that it looked like a storm was hitting them. We also had to create the scene where it is raining inside a collapsed house, so we had to make the garden look like the inside of a house by using old furniture. I had to make a provisional wall in my garden and to fit it with a door were the young Edith comes through into the room. I had to put an old carpet on the garden floor and I put old furniture such as an old settee so that the garden really did look like the inside of a collapsed house. Also someone had to pour water from upstairs into the garden to make it seem like it was raining through a collapsed roof. In the flashback of the scene when Edith tells Mrs Warnick about the storm we used an old window, with someone behind it moving the curtain, and someone else throwing a flowerpot at the glass to break it, to create the effect of the storm. To create a more realistic effect I used a different location, and by using close up and very close up shots there was no real difference. In Colliers Wood I used three pressure hose pipes, which I placed at three different points to create the effect of the powerful storm.
The flashback sequence with Mrs. Livra running into the forest looked easy to shoot at the beginning, but didn’t turn out to be as easy as we had thought. After the group discussions Reza and Jana contradicted my decision and went with the script to shoot the scene at night. After we watched and re-watched the shots they finally agreed that I had been right all along and that the shots were impossible to see if they were shot at night, even by using support light. So then we had to shoot the same scene again but this time during dusk. Before shooting I wrote down and drew all the possible shots we could have in this scene, to make shooting run quicker and smoother and to avoid any problems with the actress. This rushing caused us a problem with the sound. In the shots we filmed Jana, who used the camera on the day, and Reza, who held the boom, didn’t communicate well with each other, and the sound of Jana’s footsteps and breathing, as well as the rustling of the leaves could be heard in these shots when the actress was far away. I sorted out this problem later in editing.
Shooting the final scenes with Edith and the Warnick’s also had a few problems. The day before the shooting, after I contacted the actors and the crew, everything seemed intact. But on the day of the shooting, five minutes before we started filming and just as we had finished the rehearsals, Jana (who was in contact with both actors playing Mr. and Mrs. Warnick) received a phone call from the actor who was going to play Mr. Warnick, saying that he had a hangover from the previous night and was unable to take part in the shooting. So, I quickly made a few changes to the script, so that I could avoid the problem. The shooting started as we had planned. The main actress, Grainnie Gillis, who plays Edith, played the role very professionally and there was no problem with her at all. However, with the actress playing Mrs. Warnick we had a few problems. She wasn’t fluent in English and it took her a long time to learn how to say her lines. To avoid this problem I shoot the boiler clicking and the lights flicking on and off in another location with Mrs. Warnick off camera. Also to avoid the daylight I advised the cameraperson to film the sequence of Edith in front of the door, with the door half closed and most of the shots were taken in rooms with curtains drawn.
From the outset the form and content seemed to be set in parallel tracks to each other. The form of the piece was decided upon at a similar time to the overall content, although the form was less subject to change over the period of pre-production and production. The content of the film was reliant on form to a large extent. The camera is hand held at times which gives the piece a distinct form, but the shots were also affected by shooting restrictions on the days of filming. The space that we had to occupy was sometimes very small, meaning that the camera positions were more restricted than I would have liked resulting in limited shot angles.
My main role in this project was as a producer, but when the director left the University, and after we discussed this with our tutors, I took up the director’s role. However, I also shot most of the scenes, especially the flashback wedding scene, all the storm sequences and the scene with the dead little boy. As well as shooting I edited most of the parts of the film. It was because Jana, as editor, asked for my help and didn’t really know how to use Final Cut Pro. I also contacted the composer, Jason Grant and musician, Mirza Basic, who designed the music for Windy Corner. It was I who also did the sound editing. I didn’t want my idea and the project to fail so I had to do the extra work.
I feel that this film has a strong script, inspired by a real event. It has quality sound and images. The theme is one that has not been too highly popularised in this angle, which makes it interesting to anyone who can relate to the growing problem of Global Warming, which can cause storms such as the one in this film. The other problems linked to the people living in the street are also interesting to a different type of viewer. However if I was to realise this film again I would show flashbacks from more inhabitants in the street, so that the storyline would be more interesting.


Reference:
The Great Storm in South East England – October 1987 (2006) available online at www.stvincent.ac.uk/Resources/Weather/sever/oct87.html (accessed 21st March 2006).


Bibliography:
Fielding, Raymond (1967) A Technological History of Motion Pictures and Television London, Los Angeles, and Berkeley: University of California Press.
Hollyn, Norman (1984) The Film Editing Room Handbook New York: Arco Publishing.
Kerner, Marvin (1989) The Art of the Sound Effects Editor London: Focal Press.
Neale, Steave (1985) Cinema and Technology: Image Sound, Colour Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Rabiger, Michael (1989) Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics London: Focal Press.

Filmography:
The Perfect Storm (Wolfgang Petersen, USA & Germany, 2000)
Cape Fear (Martin Scorsese, USA, 1991)
MEMORIES OF THE BIG STORM – OCTOBER 1987*

On 27 September 1987 we took our daughter from London to Brighton to start her first year at Brighton University. She had a place at the Halls of residence and it was the first time she was going to live away from home on her own for any length of time.
Three weeks later on Saturday, 17 October, there were rumours from Holland that a storm was brewing across the channel. These rumours were totally denied by the Meteorological Office in London, and famously Michael Fish appeared on television to tell everybody that no storm was predicted.
During that night the most horrendous storm did happen and we stayed up all night thinking that our house is going to collapse, and worrying about what is happening to our daughter in Brighton. First thing in the morning, we looked out of the window saw that most of the trees around us had collapsed.
We started to drive to Brighton early in the morning and as we advanced south the damage became more and more apparent with roofs blown over and trees across streets and even main roads. It took us five and half hours to get to the south coast, a journey that normally should take just over an hour. The scene around Brighton was of total devastation and looked similar to what can be seen in newsreels after air crashes.
The Brighton University Halls of Residence are on a high hill and when we got there every tree around the buildings had come down, crashing part of the roofs and most of the cars in the car park. Our daughter was in quite a bad state, and she had two friends from London who pleaded with us to take them back to London with us as their families could not get to Brighton.
Our trip back us even longer, as by that time many people were out trying to get to different places. It has now been almost 19 years since storm and the memories are still as vivid as they were then. I have recently seen Michael Fish being interviewed on television, and he still cannot live down his famous words that no storm is expected. Unfortunately for him, the video clip still exists and is played quite frequently in different programmes!


*This is an unpublished memory, given to the Crew of the short film Windy Corner, by Dan Melitz. Windy Corner was directed, produced and edited by Fatmir Terziu


Dan Melitz
London
6 May 2006


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