Letter from the Seattle International Film Festival

By John Bradburn

kyle-john-bradburn-1.jpgKyle, John Bradburn, 2007

Thoughts from a participant

Hello all,

My film screened last night. The audience was very receptive and I had a great Q&A afterwards. We discussed aesthetics in relation to the characterisation, the nature of sound design, and how I managed to make my feature for £2000. Kyle deals with revenge and remorse over two interconnected storylines. The audience asked how we went about the casting process for the film, and I explained how the cast just fell in to place. Most of the players were non-actors, interested in being in a film for a short period of time. Aaron, the lead, was on a summer break from his teacher training, and has no ambitions to be an actor. I find this much better in a performer, as they are not second judging their ‘performance’. Performance is an alienating word that seems to exist outside of the reality of the character. Actors seem to become obsessed with being observed acting and how well they can act, rather than just be.

The audience assumed that this would prove a difficult task, to get performances from them, but in reality it was simple. The non-actor has no preconceptions of acting or performance and is just in front of the camera – a beautiful and brilliant thing. When coupled with improvisation the non-actor will always come first from a place of reality and not performance. My film exists mostly in close up. I want to capture the emotion, the landscape of the face in relation to the emotion. Improvisation helps with this, as what you record is a mental/emotional process flickering across the face rather than a memory process. The reactions will always be real rather than performed. I wanted to create a film where the characters were trapped. I did not want the audience to understand any of the geography of the spaces involved and therefore not be able to know how a character could escape. This makes the audience more tense - captured like the characters.

kyle-john-bradburn-2.jpgKyle, John Bradburn, 2007

The second screening's Q&A was more tense. There were walkouts halfway through. My film is very minimal and raw, or at least that was my attempt. I did not want the audience to be swayed by music (there is no score) or conventional filmic beauty. I find that whenever films are described as poetic or lyrical this simply means filming at sunset with an emotive score. This strikes me as a cheap illusion. It is undoubtedly effective, but to what level, and I fear it may just be an instantaneous arousal rather than a deeper connection. I wanted the audience to be placed as an observer, to look at the images and connect with the humanity on display.

kyle-john-bradburn-3.jpgKyle, John Bradburn, 2007

We consider that film making in its most profitable, and 'professional', form as an invisible art we get sucked into. Yet it seems to be not invisible but highly present and more like some sort of comfort blanket for an experience. I have no expositional dialogue in the film. This renders scenes even more observational – moments where an open narrative can be derived. One older gentleman reacted very negatively to this suggestion and told me I should re-think my whole style of filmmaking. Another question about the lack of establishing shots concluded with “do you get many negative reactions?” – a statement which made me think about how audiences hold dear the arbitrary nature of film language and react violently when it is disrupted or challenged in any way. For an invisible art form the audience seem highly volatile when some of it is lacking.

Really, really wish you were all here.

John B

The Seattle International Film Festival recently hosted the premiere screening of John Bradburn’s new British independent feature Kyle, which he wrote and directed. He is also a lecturer and writer.

For more information on the Seattle International go to the SIFF website.