On this page, you will read about the process of the research project TOUCH. The reflection is written as a dialogue with myself. The right column represents the thinker; it's about the question of what he wants to achieve. The left side represents the one who takes action; the working methods he uses to get to his goal. In the middle, you will see the results that come out of this dialogue. As within the Jazz music, translating a concept or score into practice, means you go with the flow.
For this frame, it means that the distinctions between the right and left character are not always completely strict.
This document started with a series of diary entries I wrote from the beginning of September 2018 until the start of transforming those pieces into the form it is now. This frame of having a dialogue helped me to write more fluidly about the process.
The start of an archive
Where to begin, is always the question. I have thoughts, ideas, concepts but what is the next step? How to make it physical while still keeping it open for all the inspiration that might come.
I'm wandering around the internet. Collecting all kind of images that interests my eye, without judging.
The images will get the function of an archive to return to if I'm lost. If I have to return to my first inspirations.
PREVIZ as a white piece of paper
I'm trying to come up with other possibilities to let my imagination speak.
I begin to use pre-visualisation software tools as a framework to improvise.
Imagination through pre-visualisation?
Exactly. It’s fun to see the software as a blank piece of paper. To not overthink but just produce.
It might look like a contradiction? To improvise in a hyper controlled environment?
But it helps me to open my mind. The pre-visualisation as a playground.
Moodboards to build the world
Contours of the music
It’s the first time I work with music that will be composed for the image. I feel how this asks for a different working method.
Together with composer Henry Vega, I come up with key-words and a small structure of lines based on a heart-beating. We collect sound elements which help us to envision the sound world: cello, breath, counter-tenor, synthesizers.
Drawing the imagination
I'm trying to think of different methods to get away from my mind. Creating circumstances for the intuition and performative researching.
I'm making small drawings of images we come up with.
The drawings are terrible but at least they are a start for new inspiration.
I consider using some of the images in the film.
The diary toward my character
I'm wondering how to come closer to my characters. Just writing a biography feels artificial. Then you can come up with anything.
I begin writing diary pieces. For each scene, I write a diary.
First, I write text in Dutch and then I translate it into English.
I get to know my character through his own voice. It's a playful way to learn more about the inner thoughts of the character without feeling distanced from it.
You feel how there has been a process of reframing or repositioning when I translate it to English. The text in Dutch feels as if I’m directing to much the mind of the audience. The English text becomes more poetic.
An alternative way to script
I'm searching for ways to implement my thoughts on improvisation to the script and to not get stuck in the classical way of thinking.
I've been creating a map. A circle where I can combine all the different elements?
It might help me to structure and not get framed in the classical narrative form of a script.
But the numbers don’t help. Following this circle, I see a perfect Aristotle drama. I even wrote the purpose of each scene next to it.
I try to experience it more as a loop, a nightmare. We could jump from one scene to the other.
The crowdfunding as rehearsal
For a crowdfunding campaign, it's always good that the people see the creator(s).
As a performer in front of the camera, I try to find some qualities of movements which I think are representing the film we're going to make.
Seeing the images back I think the way I move in front of the camera feels too sweet. It looks to soft, too arty.
I try a voice-over under the image in the hope it works as a counterpoint.
It does help. Through filming and editing this crowdfunding campaign, I might have found the entree to the aesthetics of the story.
I think by feeling the movements it helps me also to talk with more ease to the actors about it.
Although, it should not mean that I have to experience everything myself before I explain it to an actor
It might help to feel the position of a character or the quality of the movements. In my vision of directing the acting stands for action. An actor acts, makes a movement. I mean, the actor doesn’t have to die, when his character dies. The intention of the action represents dying or is a framework for the imagination around the subject of dying.
The map as a notebook
Each scene now contains a situation, research, and possible improvisations to achieve this research. It stays difficult to define what the constants and variables are for all the departments in these set-ups.
This map becomes my notebook. I just follow my intuition and write what comes up my mind.
A summary of the rules I made for myself on the right side of the map might be the most interesting.
Film the scenes in one shot, the film is built around the form and variations of a circle, always film before and after the scenes, etc.
Moodboards to specify
I want to go deeper into the subject of where does my skin end and your skin starts.
I'm having a meeting with Erik Vermeulen who is specialist in haptonomy.
We talk about the concept, the story and how it relates to concepts of psychology.
We go through all the scenes and do some exercises to embody more the ideas and directions I have.
We question the different qualities of touch. How does it, for example, feel to touch someone with the eyes?
One exercise is practically a scene in our film. Person A walks to B and B says stop when A comes to close.
It feels like an important extra layer of the research. It gets more concrete and less conceptual. The concept becomes intangible.
Words to communicate
For the set design, I want to create an abstract space which symbolizes the mindset of the main character. I think it would be nice to make some naked pictures of dancers. We will print these pictures on big plastic sheets of 2 by 1,5 meter and let them form the walls of the set.
It's funny to notice that we and our DOP are actually in the same situation as our main character. Asking people to take off their clothes and making close pictures of their skin.
I'm hesitating in how I should guide the dancers. I wanted to give them something: how they should look, how to think, how to move. At the same time, I wanted them just to be themselves. Movements and postures easily become too big.
I begin to explain more clearly what we're looking for.
I want the camera to record the movements and the audience to fill in the meaning of the images. The movements have to speak for themselves. It should not refer too much towards a language of dance. I prefer rather the forms to be more abstract.
The more concrete I ask for these forms, the better it works. Being really clear or concrete doesn’t mean there is no space for dialogue and searching together for the vision we have.
Embody my characters
I want to make a closer connection with our characters. What do they experience and therefore, how do they move? I thought it would be good to experience my own exercises guided by a choreographer.
I asked to collaborate with choreographer Marjolein Vogels and dancer Dereck Cayla on my research and go step by step through the chapters of the script.
It's funny to experience. The feeling of control and at the same time having no control. Let myself be guided by my own exercises.
The most important thing I noticed is that the movements has to have a certain truthfulness. The movements should be concrete, sharing the information, even if the movements are really abstract. There is a danger that it all becomes to artificial, over-emotional.
The breakdown as a guidline
I'm searching for a way how to plan all the different exercises without getting stuck in overplanning.
I begin to make a breakdown together with Eyal Sivan. First, we divide the scenes into the different sets and light settings. After that, I will sum up the most complex and special shots so we can begin to make realistic planning.
The breakdown feels like a new script. A new frame to work from. I see for example that the bedroom location is been used a lot. I can now decide to change scenes into other locations.
Setting up the rules
I have a rehearsal with the dancers to decide on the framework we will improvise on during the shooting days.
Together with choreographer Alessio Reedijk, we come up with a basic set of rules about the relationship between space, gaze, groups or solo dancing. We combine it with the qualities of animal movements in the range from 1 to 5.
1,5 hour later our main character Maarten enters the rehearsal space. It’s interesting to think about what you say to a performer but also what not to say.
We gave the dancers the mission to slowly merge with Maarten although we decide not to say anything to Maarten about this direction. I ask him to react intuitively on the exercise. The dancers first begin to move for themselves but then slowly begin to focus more and more on Maarten until they completely take him over.
The reactions of Maarten to the unknown were honest and interesting to capture. If directing is about guiding partly your performers into a mindset or movement quality, then it’s the question of how to get them there. Saying too much, going to fast or saying wrong directions might block the mind. At the same time, I think we want to stay honest as a director and don’t manipulate the person. The safe environment is important. We don’t want to traumatize performers to get to a certain performance. I believe you can reach the same quality in other ways.
Perspectives on time
We are one day before the recordings. Today I read a book about time. The economic time and duration of time, which are different. This aspect of time is actually a big part of our research. We are in search of the duration of time and what this exactly means. How to create space for time, to not just follow the scripted time, but trying to be in the moment, which is unreachable. A film set which becomes a rehearsal space. The try to create these circumstances also for the actors. To create a space, a hypnotic state of being. This means, sometimes time feels slower or faster. Perhaps being touched goes to fast for our main character, he doesn’t have the time anymore under control.
The jump into the unknown
It takes much more time to build the set than expected and we take more for the camera set-up than I thought. How much time is there left for the experiment? At the same moment, I'm trying to hold a complete overview of the day.
I try to set time boundaries to structure. What exactly happens in those time schedules is free but having a slot for a certain scene, not shot, helps to really clarify the situation. Within this time we can make the decision to work on technique or not.
It’s quite exciting for everyone to film. We might also have to talk and share more about what the exact parameters are for each scene. What is the scene about and what is the improvisation aspect
We begin to film the club scene but it seems as if too many elements are being improvised. The movements of the dancers, actors, camera, even the light in this scene is not constant. I have the feeling that I don’t know anymore where to focus on.
I have the feeling I'm just doing something for the sake of it. It goes to fast.
I have to stay calm and rethink the situation, finding new structures in the material.
We begin to work with fixed formations with the dancers, so the camera is able to improvise more around them. We stay longer with the frame on certain situations.
Therefore the camera has to be also part of the rehearsals, or it needs to be a fixed route for the camera so it's not complete chaos.
It gives more stability. Next time I should be even more aware of the constants and variables of the scene. Everyone has to know this very well.
What if the material ends up like complete chaos and it's nothing of what I wanted to tell?
Then I have to reposition myself.
I have to concentrate. See it as a performance.
I do an exercise with the complete group to get into the right mind-set.
It brings good energy on the set. I should do this every day as a starting point.
I decide to have a general meeting with the core departments before each scene begins, so we know what is going to happen. We talk more about what kind of chapters come and if anyone has extra ideas with them. I also decide to watch more the playback to see how everything looks and make decisions from there.
It goes much better. I have more of an overview, more trust in the situation and myself. I can improvise better because I understand the framework better.
From today on we'll work with a portable screen so I can walk and direct the performers.
This is really the bridge between my body, the camera and the body of the performers! In this way I can stay with my actors, giving directions while also seeing the screen. It becomes almost performative.
We also set-up some technical shots for the next day so we have more time to experiment within the give rig of the camera.
Technique vs. play
There are moments where the shots are becoming too technical.
I try to bring them back to the core, to split the scene up into multiple shots instead of one long take.
Since we have no studio-floor manager we decide clearly who will keep track of the time; we or our DOP Joris Bulstra.
We are constantly searching for the balance between time for improvisation and technical set-up.
I sometimes feel we have made it too difficult for ourselves. If we want to improvise, we have to keep it a bit easier technically, otherwise, it takes to much energy for the complete cast and crew.
These time limits work much better. We begin to know the film by filming it. What are the transitions, what are the intentions, what do we still miss
Intention and emotions
I'm searching for the words to translate my vision to the actors. I'm constantly balancing between the intention of movements and psychological character descriptions.
I begin to make my own dance moves while directing. It helps us to physically feel the characters and translate the intentions into words towards the actors.
It helps in directing this intense last dance of character B and also for the DOP.
We now get to a real performative part of the shootings.
We have no idea how the special effects will work, for both the belly shot and the cans of liquid Rolf te Booij made. I hope the tension of one chance and the unknown helps us to get some authentic reactions of the performers and camera.
Both effects don’t really work at first. We just miss the right angle of the action or reaction but because we keep on filming and don't give up, we end up with some really interesting footage.
I think I can be really proud of the cast and crew. All these professional people working on big shoots work for five days, each day 10 hours long, for free. It’s amazing how everyone gave so much energy towards the project. They all really enjoyed the process and the shots that we’ve been making.
When, what and how
It's just a few days after the recording process. I show some rough material to the group. I don't know how to react to their comments.
Yes, I get insecure towards my own material, process, and method. When the material is still too abstract, and if I cannot frame it properly yet, I cannot suspect that an outsider can make a connection with it.
I should ask myself when, what and how? If I show the material too fast while not having the time to look for it myself, I can get reactions which can get us off-guard, something which is maybe not necessary yet.
The group did help us realising that the clean material carries a certain DNA. The question now is what we want to do with that.
The frame of using effects
I have the feeling I go too far. I overuse effects because I cannot find the tone I'm looking for.
Having no limits at this moment does help me to find what the boundaries are.
I now have to delete the effects and go back to the core.
The more constraints one imposes the more one frees one’s self of the chains that shackle the spirit (Stravinsky).
Version after version
I lose myself in making edits in the middle of the night. I almost get sick because I cannot find the answer on how the edit this material.
The editing is part of the repositioning ourselves from the thoughts we had. I try to see everything again as material and begin to edit images on contrast, colors but also with different software programs even VJ programs like Resolume. I’m trying to see if the form can bring me again to a new dramaturgy instead of following only the story. I also try the opposite and take the scene chapters of our script circle which I construct as titles in the film. It gets less one big trip but more an essayistic film.
The methods are interesting but some feel more like an excuse to find a way how to communicate the material. But what does the material really say to us? It's also a big question on how to work on the edit and view it to an audience when you have no dialogue or music while making a piece where the music is so important.
I have to find the musicality within the image. I think it's also good that we make a tighter schedule for ourselves when we work and when we stop working, to take distance from the material. Using time sloth apps can help us to be more sufficient and therefore creative.
In dialogue with myself
How to reflect on this process? How to sum-up and communicate this complete journey we're having without ending up writing a borning reflection which we get trapped in ourselves while writing?
I thought I should make a book to go into dialogue with myself? Based on our diary pieces and pictures, you/me/we wrote, we'll track down our own decisions and question, how the process went and where we are now. Perhaps even a dialogue with our past self.
A dialogue with the past self sounds interesting but reading it is quite complicated.
A website might work better. Perhaps a dialogue between my personality that thinks more and our side that takes things more into action?