StudentFilmmakers Magazine: Tell us about your work and your process creating, shooting, and editing experimental films and videos.
Mark McKeown: Often a project will develop from a single image. This can be from a memory, a dream or listening to music. I will meditate on this image over a period of time, maybe make rough sketches; allow it too develop into some kind of loose narrative.
Characters, situations or if it is a very abstract piece a stream of conciseness flow of images emerges. I storyboard and the dots starts to connect themselves into some kind of a whole.
This continues to grow and transform in the production process.
As much as I believe in the pre-visualisation process, I always get inspired by the locations I shoot in and generate a lot of material that transforms the base idea in unexpected ways. This keeps the process alive in ways that could never have occurred to me just sitting at a desk.
Editing is my favourite part of the process and, again, I am happy to allow the edit to reshape the original idea in unexpected ways. As this is low to no budget filmmaking I have that freedom.
I love all kinds of film but when I was growing up the idea you could make a film was somewhat outlandish. Slowly the tools became available. Beyond limited access to these tools (I started on VHS at a local community centre) my friends and I would have no budgets and this is how, by and large, my approach has developed. It has grown from a punk DIY philosophy of self expression with what you have at hand and as the tools have become more sophisticated so hopefully has the work.
It’s personal filmmaking for better or worse: a process of asking questions of yourself and the material.
StudentFilmmakers Magazine: What cameras and editing tools do you work with and why?
Mark McKeown: I use a weird mixture of cameras. I use a Nikon DSLR if I’m going for quality: especially for background plates in animation.
If I get a spontaneous idea and need to react quickly I use a little Samsung ST77 compact camera. It’s great: fits into the pocket along with a little collapsable tripod and you can get out on the bike and chase the light without much bulk.
Speaking of bikes I have a GoPro 1. I have combined footage from that with animation in my current mixed-media piece, A Maze Of Being.
I also like picking up odd little digital cameras and optical things in thrift stores and playing about with and mixing image quality in a project for effect.
I’m working on a music video and bought a funky old video 8 Sony camcorder a couple of weeks ago. I revideoed some HD footage from a screen with it and captured the resulting footage. Wild distortion that should be effective in moderation come the edit. I’ll be mixing that up with slides among other things.
For 3D modelling and animation I utilise the elegantly designed Mac only app Cheetah 3D. It’s VERY reasonably priced and I find it very intuitive. I use Apple Final Cut, Motion, Compressor and sometimes iMovie for editing. It’s just developed that way and makes sense for my set up.
StudentFilmmakers Magazine: If you could share 3 filmmaking tips, what would they be?
Mark McKeown: (1) Pick a project you passionately believe in: that the pursuit of which you feel will be meaningful to you on a personal level because its going to demand a lot of you if its worth anything. (2) Finish what you start even if the final result isn’t looking exactly like the ideal you had in your head when you started. (3) Stay open to the process: action and reaction. Learn.
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