“Inside Life: Philadelphia”
Their way of being the people of your film is by being themselves, by remaining what they are. Even in contradiction with what you had imagined…choose [them] well, so that they
lead you where you want to go.
Images and sound must sustain one another, from far and from near. No independent images or sounds.
Be as ignorant of what you are going to catch as a fisherman of what is at the end of his fishing rod (the fish that irises from no-where).
– Robert Bresson; Notes on Cinematograph
I search for the essence of that inner spirit….all the time. There is a moment when I’m working or not working; I’m looking for it, you see, because it’s there. That will be my eternal search.
– Louise Clement-Hoff; artist, teacher
We seek to capture what is happening “inside,” recognizing the physical demarcations — walls, barriers, locked gates and doors – define a new experience of contemporary reality. The effect of enclosure can be to draw one’s attention closer in, transforming what had been proximate and mundane into something curious, beautiful and, perhaps, unnecessary. Constraint broadens the inner landscape, and be a trial endure –- unsettling or even terrifying. This new landscape is also rich, with new forms taking shape. Moving through uncharted territory, especially at a slower, meandering pace, can be fertile, provoking dreams and vision in wonder of what might lie ahead and, in this way, transcend time and space. Inside Life: Philadelphia is a story made of stories captured – in moving image and sound — by a group of Philadelphians recording their own, first person, “inside” lives now, through, and into what comes after.
Sue Schardt: director, writer, cinematography
Aidan Un: editor, photographer
Josh Banville: consulting editor
Phoebe Murer: recordist, documentarian
David Acosta: recordist, documentarian
Catzie Villayphonh: recordist, documentarian
Shannon Maldonado: recordist, documentarian
Juan Giarrizzo: recordist, documentarian
Chelsey Dalsey: recordist, documentarian
Tina LeCoff: recordist, documentarian
Screen is dark. Words of title card, Inside Life, appear and hold, with sounds fading up underneath; cutlery and plates being moved around. Cut to kitchen, a plate on a tray on a counter. Half a sandwich, white bread, and a cup of black tea in a cup and saucer. Movement is in two hands, placing a napkin, a couple of sugar wafers. These are the hands of an elderly woman… skin wizened, fingers bent with age, but capable….sure and strong. We hear the sounds of her activity, shuffling back and forth to gather… she places a small jar with cream, a napkin, then picks up the tray, and we pan back from her as she turns and moves toward the door, following as she turns right.
She is small, ancient. Tentatively, she begins to climb the staircase. She holds the tray in both hands. Each step is careful, deliberate. As she climbs, we stay at a distance, 6 or 7 steps behind and below her, rising with her, slowly, soundless, but for the distant ticking of a pendulum on a clock from another room in the house. There is a shushing sound of each foot that lifts, and then lands upon each carpeted tread. Light streams through the large round window above the landing; transforming her into a shadow-form as she approaches the top step. She falters, pauses to steady herself, her right hand releasing the tray and her arm, in a slowed motion, raises above her head as she falls backward. The camera, still pointing upward and, with her falling out of the frame, brings us slowly now toward, then fully in-to, the brilliant, consuming light. It slowly dissolves, with the sound of the clock now echoing, into black.
We hear, in the dark, only the birds, emerging slowly from this dream on the stairs, and then the sound of footsteps. They move as they did on the staircase, moments before, and then slightly faster to a walking pace. The next shot — we are moving up Catharine Street, passing DaVinci on our left, then Fleisher on our right…. Palumbo Park. Our “eyes” (the camera) keeps a steady gaze straight ahead. We are alone. No one else on the street, no cars pass by. Cross over 8th street and continue up Catharine. We stop in front of a three story brick building and turn, pausing for 3 second steady shot of the door. We will go inside.
Inside Life: Philadelphia is a short documentary set in the timeliness of enclosure, and made timeless by continuing accounts of a group of Philadelphians recording their lives and inner reflections. As they develop ease and fluency, they will bring us deeper into their inside lives. The intent is not to convey optimism or pessimism. It will not be a recounting of historical events, or even specific to Philadelphia itself. This work will, with careful direction, bring the documentarians into a deeper relation with themselves; closer to the voice that speaks to them from within, and to allow each of them to be led – to lead the direction of the piece – to discover something of the human experience that is true and unwavering, transcending time and space.
We recognize the physical demarcations — walls, barriers, locked gates and doors – define a unique and temporal experience of reality. The effect of enclosure can be to draw one’s attention closer in, transforming what had been proximate and mundane into something curious, beautiful and, perhaps, unnecessary. Constraint broadens the inner landscape, and be a trial endure –- unsettling or even terrifying. This new landscape is also rich, with new forms taking shape. Moving through uncharted territory, especially at a slower, meandering pace, can be fertile, provoking dreams and vision in wonder of what might lie ahead and, in this way, transcend time and space.
In addition to the images and sounds from the documentarians, we will gather additional footage from the neighborhood that enhances the vérité style of the work. Audio plays equally in capturing and communicating the story, with restraint used in finding a balance between images and sounds.
The direction will focus the attention of the documentarians on inner dialogues, and helping us to see the world through their eyes. Less show and tell or performance, and more demonstration of actual being or living.
We will, over time, discern – with the documentarians – what rises in the sharing of experience. The story, or stories, that emerge, will determine a unifying narrative. The director may, for example, focus on associations that form between documentarians, or perhaps a compelling narrative arc will take shape in the life of one individual.
The initial media gathered by the documentarians will provide insight in the relative strengths of each, will surface what is most compelling in terms of a story, and will set a course the director will then sharpen, and follow.
INSIDE LIFE: PHILADELPHIA NOTES FOR REMOTE DIRECTION
Techniques/instruction for gathering:
- Get comfortable recording with your cell phone camera or Voice Memo application. Make some recordings, play back, experiment until you feel satisfied with the quality.
- Always clean the lens on your phone before shooting. Soft cloth may be enough, or a small amount of alcohol based lens cleaner or vinegar & water. Do not use Windex or household glass cleaner.
- Always turn phone to landscape – sideways – when shooting.
- Keep shot as steady as you can.
- The quality & direction of light – natural or artificial – is an important factor when deciding where/what time to shoot.
- When making an audio recording of your voice, its best to use the mic on your earbuds to minimize ambient noise.You’ll likely try several shots, and should decide which is best. If you can’t choose, it’s ok to send all of them along.
Capture assignment A:
1) Front door shot. [~10 sec steady video] taken from the street facing your building, or you could stand in hall looking at your apartment door. What time of day is light is best for your shot? No panning or zooming in or out. Just hold steady.
2) A self-portrait [~10 secs video] Give me your face, close-up, filling the frame. It can be a selfie, or have someone else shoot you. Take it straight on, not from below or above. Make sure your eyes are looking at the camera lens (not at screen). You can move your eyes abit, but always bring your gaze back to the lens. Hold a steady, neutral expression — not severe and not sad, and not ironic or joyful. You may know the Beatles line that goes: “We all live on a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine.” Silently, in your mind — not moving your mouth — sing or speak the lines 2 or 3 times through while taking the shot.
3) Window shot [~20 sec video]. What is the view you like best from inside your home…that best captures the experience of you looking out from inside? Do you have a favorite time of day for looking out that window? No window frame, but capture for me a shot that best shows me what you experience when you’re looking. Is it the sky you see first thing, lying in your bed waking up? The brick building across the street @ magic hour as you sit at your desk? If you can, open the window & lift the screen when taking the shot. 1 is could, but you can send up to 3 of these shots.
4) (example of individual assignment given to Phoebe) In the middle of the night with Winter & Hope [up to 5:00] Use your iPhone to bring us into the loving world you share with your rats. Zoom in on details inside their cage – show us their “toys” or wheels, water station, let us see them play, or eat food inside cage or out. Do you put fingers/hand into their cage, or take one of them out to hold? While shooting, record you’re saying to them and your inner dialogue, as well. Talk at the volume you’d speak in the quiet of the night.. Do not speak to me, forget anyone is listening, but speak only as you do alone w/them. It make take time to find this voice and use it with your phone camera rolling. Record when room is quiet. Shut windows, no street noises.
5) Record ambience [~2:00 audio/Voice Memo] of sound of the room/space alone, after you’ve shot the above. No talking, just hit record button, hold phone above your head, capture sound of the space.
6) (opt) Past life shots from your image collection…share a favorite situation that would be “inappropriate” in pandemic… at a crowded table with elders, blowing out candles; drinking wine at a bar with your best friend.