Tag Archives: blue circle of dissent

Behind the Scenes: Filming an Interview with Professor Anna Birch

Having graduated from university in 2018, I thought my research days were behind me. However, an exciting opportunity to dust off my research skills arose when Lil Warren, Heritage Outcomes Manager at Unity Arts, told me of their latest project Blue Circle of Dissent. This National Lottery Funded project focusses on the lives, work, and circles around Mary Wollstonecraft and Blue Stockings Society leader Elizabeth Montagu.

My first independent assignment was to interview Wollstonecraft expert Professor Anna Birch for a short documentary film. Anna is the director of Fragments & Monuments, a company which creates performance and film work about the life and legacy of Wollstonecraft.

As I discovered, most of the work for producing a filmed interview takes place off-camera; this blog is to give you a behind-the-scenes insight into the process.

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
I began by asking myself a question: what did I already know about Mary Wollstonecraft? Answer: that she was Mary Shelley’s mother, and that she wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), marking her as the first British feminist. There was a lot more to discover…
I read about Wollstonecraft and made notes on what I wanted to know more about. I became particularly intrigued by her travels: she went to live in France in 1792 – when the turbulent revolution was well underway – and travelled to Scandinavia in 1795 to recover a stolen ship in an attempt to win back her former lover.

In a series of meetings with Lil and the Digital Outputs Team, we decided that the interview with Anna would focus on Wollstonecraft as the pioneering female travel writer. I had also learnt three tips for filming day: don’t wear stripes, wear make-up, and wear bright colours. My monochromatic wardrobe struggled with this third tip, but as a wise man once said: two out of three ain’t bad.

When turning my research into questions, I wanted to create a narrative structure to help the interview flow. The questions would begin by setting the scene, asking Anna about her work and involvement with Wollstonecraft. Then we would turn to Wollstonecraft’s travels to France and Scandinavia, and finally her personal life and legacy, concluding with my favourite question: ‘what do you think Wollstonecraft would make of society today?’. With the questions finalised on paper, it was now time to bring them to life.

Lights, Camera…
Of course, I wasn’t working on this interview day alone. Lil was directing, Neil Webster from Edwin Louis Fear Films and Christian Smith were filming, and Sarah Warren was Production Assistant. On filming day, we met for a briefing before walking to Anna’s house (where we would have arrived earlier if my walking pace could match a Londoner’s!).

While Neil and Christian set up the filming equipment, Anna took Lil, Sarah and me up to her library for coffee. Although set-up took longer than anticipated (about an hour), it gave Anna and I valuable time to get to know each other off-screen. We had been to the same university, so we talked about its theatre scene and the lack of female writers on the reading lists, before moving on to Anna’s work with Fragments and Monuments. Anna and the company challenge the traditionally held definition of a monument as something static: they create living, dynamic ‘monuments’ to Wollstonecraft, such as walks that enable participants to trace Wollstonecraft’s footsteps in Stoke Newington. It struck me that our short film would also be a moving monument to the writer.

…Action!
With the all-clear from the crew, Anna and I took our seats at her kitchen table, under two fabulous STEWY prints of Wollstonecraft. Neil and Christian had set up two cameras ‘Parky style’: one at the front of the table with both of us in shot, and one behind my left shoulder for close-up shots of Anna – shots that I kept ‘dirtying’ by inadvertently moving into view!
We wanted the conversation to feel natural, so I listened carefully to Anna’s answers and would pick up on something she had said to link to the following question. Our time spent chatting beforehand really helped during the interview as it felt like a continuation of our conversation upstairs. This rapport translated onto the screen: Sarah said that we looked like we had known each other for years!

We filmed the interview in one take, pausing only once for Neil to reset his camera.  After wrapping, we had a post-interview debrief at the Luminary Bakery, and I then walked with Sarah to Newington Green to visit Wollstonecraft’s former stomping ground (and future site of her memorial sculpture).

“That’s a wrap” doesn’t signal the end of working on the film, as the editing process is just beginning.

Taking part in the interview was a wonderful experience that combined independent research with working as part of a team, all to create a work that will be shared with a wider audience. It was inspiring to meet passionate and knowledgeable creatives, and intellectually stimulating to research and discuss such a fascinating female figure.

I’m greatly looking forward to seeing the finished film, and to working with Unity Arts further on Blue Circle Of Dissent.

Ellen Gage

Location Photos by Christian Maier Smith

HERITAGE FILM TRAINING

Unity Arts are creating a series of short documentaries for the National Lottery Funded BLUE CIRCLE OF DISSENT.

 

Following workshops and training in the spring and summer The Digital Outputs team, with professional support and mentoring from Edwin Louis Fear Films and Meddle Films, were part of the crew that produced HACKNEY DISSENT

During the coming months we will be training, writing and shooting more footage for these documentaries including interviewing experts like Professor Anna Birch.

with an eventual project output of an installation film for our exhibition in Hackney in November 2020.

Please contact us via the form below if you would like to learn more about interviewing experts, writing scripts for documentaries, how to choose relevant underscoring, helping the edit when shooting.

There will be opportunities to be part of the crew and gain credits and work for portfolios.

All levels of experience welcome!!!!

 

SPOKEN WORD AT DR JOHNSON’S HOUSE 1ST JUNE!

We are having a week of activities and workshops at Hoxton Hall including workshops led by Joelle Taylor, called HACKNEY DISSENT. The week will produce responses from participants of all ages and backgrounds about the legacy of DISSENT.

One of our outcomes is an evening of SPOKEN WORD!

COME AND JOIN US on 1 JUNE at

Dr Johnson’s House

A charming 300-year-old townhouse, nestled amongst a maze of courts and alleys in the historic City of London. Samuel Johnson, the writer and wit, lived and worked here in the middle of the eighteenth century, compiling his great Dictionary of the English Language in the Garret and a supporter of two of heritage research subjects, Mary Wollstonecraft and Elizabeth Montagu.

Brand new works from those versed in as well as new to Spoken Word as a performance art and a political and debating tool.

Doors will open at 645pm and the Performance will start at 7pm. 

You will get free entry and a free glass of wine and we will also have info about the whole project THE BLUE CIRCLE OF DISSENT.

Register for FREE tickets here

HACKNEY DISSENT at DR JOHNSON’S

A lovely evening made possible by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

 

 

 

NEWINGTON GREEN BIRTHDAY PARTY!

On 27 & 28 April 2019

we celebrated the 260th birthday of

Mary Wollstonecraft

The 27 April saw a small gathering on the site of the proposed Wollstonecraft statue in Newington Green. The weather was awful but we managed to sing Happy Birthday, shoot a short film and begin the work on the STEWY  installation for next year.


Our large outside event on 28 April saw over 130 people gathered in very windy and cold weather to have a birthday picnic on Newington Green with a small installation

A specialist talk from Professor Anna Birch

Singers from St Mary’s Community

Extracts from Wollstonecraft’s short stories for Children by one of the Hackney Pirates Young Writers group

Songs of Rebellion from Young Dissenters Choir

We all lit candles and sang Happy Birthday!

And we ALL ate CAKE!


It nearly rained on us but everyone was very cheerful, the Lizzy’s Café, Newington Green Action Group, Fragments & Monuments and Dr Jenny Littlewood were so supportive and we had a lot of additional sign up for the project .

We hope everyone learnt something about the wonderful woman Mary Wollstonecraft and we look forward to all the research, trips and workshops coming up.

NEXT EVENT –  HALF TERM WORKSHOPS AT HOXTON HALL!

Photos by Sharron Wallace

 

 

 

 

 

JOELLE TAYLOR TO LEAD POETRY WORKSHOPS

Unity Arts  are offering FREE evening workshops (with extra daytime activities an option) for Over 18s  with renowned SLAM POET Joelle Taylor.

These sessions are part of a workshop week HACKNEY DISSENT (which will also run workshops for 7-10s and 11-18s)  at Hoxton Hall and other East London venues.

These various activities will take place in sessions over the week  of 27 May – 1 June  with performances at

Hoxton Hall and Dr Johnson’s House

We have invited Joelle Taylor to lead workshops for Over 18s in order to support creating spoken and written poetry of dissent.

Joelle Taylor is an award-winning poet, playwright, author and editor. She has performed across the UK as well as internationally, both for the British Council (Zimbabwe, Brazil, Botswana, Australia and Singapore) and on solo projects across Europe.

A former UK slam champion, she founded the national youth slam championships SLAMbassadors in 2001 for the Poetry Society and was its Artistic Director and National Coach until 2018.

As an educator she has lead workshops and residencies in schools, prisons, youth centres, refugee groups, and other settings for organisations including the        Poetry Society, the British Council, Arvon Foundation and English PEN.

She featured on TEDx Talks and Outsider Lectures, and was recently awarded a Southbank Centre Change Maker prize, in recognition of her life-changing work on the national youth slams. She has a Fellowship of the Royal Society of the Arts and was longlisted for the 2017 Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship.

This is a wonderful opportunity to learn from a skilled and relevant poet and all work created will also be included in a book and all participants will receive a copy.

PLACES FOR JOELLE TAYLOR WORKSHOPS ARE LIMITED

Please complete the form for more details and an application pack!