ON WALKING AND DRIFTWOOD

The sun is rising. I can’t see it yet, but a glow is fading in over the horizon. I know it’s coming. Through the dim days and cold nights of winter I have edited, doubted, struggled, ruminated, created, believed. I have walked long walks under dark skies.

Walks that have often followed the same path which I took out of the village way back in June 2011 when my big journey began. My feet falling on the ghosts of past footsteps. My mind wandering personal landscapes of memory and time.

Path from village

These walks allow me to make sense of the footage I captured and to forge new connections and ideas. They are an essential component of how I shape the film. My walks take me along the shoreline where driftwood collects on the rocks. Each piece on its own unique journey, untraceable and random. Propelled by the constant ebb and flow of the tides. Making landfall wherever and whenever the waves happen to lose their grip. Stationary but only until the next high tide sucks them away to somewhere new.

Capturing footage for Beyond the Mountains was to collect driftwood. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking for or what I would find. So I collected whatever caught my attention. What all this stuff would allow me to make remained uncertain. But as the journey progressed I developed an eye for things that might come in useful. By the end of it I had this huge pile of driftwood. And somewhere in the pile were the pieces to make a film.

Driftwood

The creative process for making sense of this pile – full of conversations, landscapes, experiences, and nature – has required more thinking than I’ve ever had to do for a single project. And for me, such thinking takes time and long walks. In today’s world where everything seems to be rushed and deadline orientated, I could have easily gone down the route of enforcing a deadline for myself. But one thing I learned on my journey is that rushing isn’t always a good thing, or even necessary. And to rush the film would not be in the spirit of my journey.

So slow and steady has been my approach – walking and thinking. Sometimes physical labour has helped too. Indeed, while making this film I have collected actual driftwood and made a table. It so happened that the tide conveniently left four fence posts and a bunch of wooden planks scattered along the shore – a coincidence perhaps, or, as a couple of friends suspect, a flat-pack table which parted company with a container ship.

After several trips, I had carried all the pieces home and then I turned them into a table. It was really satisfying and the process of doing it helped ideas for the film to flow – ideas which would never have occurred had I just been staring at footage on a computer screen under the pressure of a deadline.

Driftwood table

By March last year a first and very rickety assembly of the film had emerged. Far from complete and unsure of itself. But it was a basic structure. Something which I could build and develop on. Since then I’ve reworked sections, added new ones and removed others. I’ve experimented with ideas and gently shaped it towards something that one day I can stand back from and admire, like the table. Something that I can ultimately share with others – with you.

So after much walking and thinking and doing other things like making a driftwood table, the film is now looking far more solid and edging ever closer to what I want it to be. The big task now is to cut it down to size – it currently sits at around the 3 hour mark. So I’m continuing to shape and mould it. Refining and stripping back the layers to reach the core, but still open to new ideas and changes.

This idea of refining came up in a recent conversation with a friend who is an independent musician. We shared experiences of our creative processes and agreed that there comes a time when the thing that has been created develops a life of its own – and it becomes harder and harder to retrace the steps and thought processes which formed it in the first place.

It now seems the film has reached this point. It has developed its own identity. So I let it evolve. I let it lead me to wherever it wants to go. Whether it takes me through a fog of new ideas or forces me to retrace my steps along familiar pathways. It does not matter. I know I will get there. The sun is rising.

Sunrise inversion, Knoydart

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