The London Symphony Journals. #4.

Last year I wrote of Alex Barrett’s crowd funding campaign in aid of his new film, the silent celebration of the city, London Symphony. I’ve invited Alex to use Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second as a platform to broadcast his thoughts as the project moves along. Herein lies his latest diary entry, as well as an extensive gallery of new images from the film.

How quickly time travels when you’re making a film. We’re now ten months into production on London Symphony, and it’s been five months since my last entry into what was supposed to be an irregular, rather than occasional, journal. Still, I hope we can all agree that when a filmmaker makes a film, the film itself should come first — and pieces like this should fit around the filmmaking, rather than the other way round…

So, what have my team and I been up to over the last five months?

Well, we’ve done a lot more filming. So much, in fact, that we’re currently taking time out from shooting so that I can go through all the footage in depth. I’ve now completed the logging process that I discussed in my last post, and I’ve decided that I’d like to complete a rough cut of the whole film before we do any more filming — that way we can be really focused in what we shoot. This places us in a slightly strange position, in that we’ve moved into full time postproduction before we’ve officially finished the shoot. But that’s okay, it’s that kind of project. I’ve now edited around 22 minutes of the rough cut, which means I’m about a third of the way through (the film will be exactly 70 minutes, plus credits). I’m certainly putting the ‘rough’ into ‘rough cut’ with what I’m doing at the moment, but I think it’s coming together really well.

One of the things that’s been interesting to see, both while shooting and while editing, is the way that the film has shifted away from the shadow of the silent city symphony filmmakers. Don’t get me wrong — the film definitely still owes its entire being to their legacy — but it does feel like my team and I have allowed our own personalities to filter through to the material and, by default, this means that we’ve moved a little away from our references. In some ways, the film has become more personal than I had expected — I guess you could say that, even though we’re trying to show as many different sides of London as we can, the film has become infused with my personal preoccupations and filmed in locations which mean something to me personally (such as the street on which my grandparents used to live). Similarly, I’m approaching the edit more intuitively than I had planned. For instance, Eisenstein’s five types of montage may never be far from my mind, but I’m also not following them in the way that I once thought perhaps I might. My plan to watch nothing but Soviet silents during the editing phase has also been massively derailed by the BFI’s De Sica season (and, next month, their Hou season will be preoccupying what little down-time I’m taking).

In all, though, I think this shift away from our initial references will be for the benefit of the project: our influences will still be easily discernible from the final project, but by moving further towards our own ideas, we’re also (hopefully) moving away from whatever final vestiges of pastiche remained in our original intentions.

My plans over the next month and a half is to continue the edit at a pace of one minute a day, thereby completing the rough cut by the middle of October. What happens from there will depend on how much additional shooting we need to do.

With any luck, I’ll find time to update this Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second journal around that time, but for more regular updates you can still join the official London Symphony community here:

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