‘Apricity’: A creative response to insomnia.
The making of a short film in a lockdown, collaboration and un-learning the desire for results before process....
'Apricity' is an old English word describing the warmth of the sun in winter, and, an upcoming stop-motion short film about a female artist with insomnia, stuck in a creative stasis. As the winter sun shines down on her, she finds relief in her imagination whilst sat by her window.
The story evolved from the creative paralysis that can often be a result of weeks of no sleep. Those ideas that arise when you’re looking out of the window at 3am, imagining half of the world asleep, and the other half “doing” their lives. It’s a dark and fertile space, the threshold of sleeping and being awake…As a writer who suffers with insomnia, the fear associated with insomnia is not for my health, but the fear of creative paralysis and the inability to manifest ideas into a concrete thing-in-the-world. I wanted to make a fun, creative expression of what happens when the effects of insomnia interfere with the will to create and the artist’s mind and their sense of self. I wanted to create an expression of insomnia on screen that didn’t involve the usual extreme scenarios involving murder or becoming a dangerously skinny Christian Bale with psychosis, but instead, exploring an alternative, less severe, perspective – through the lens of the creator themselves and what happens within your mind when battling with the deliriums of insomnia. In your home. Your room. Looking out of the window and imagining something other than your current experience. A day dream. An idea. Nostalgia for a memory that never existed. Or perhaps, a blank canvas and the possibilities of what might fill it, or what might not fill the blank space…
It must be short and expressive. Colourful. Weird. Experimental. Minimal. "Free." And, importantly, shot on analogue because I know nothing about the process and want to learn and explore and film can capture that dreamlike, ethereal quality of the imagination. Plus, it’s almost entirely about the process – you’re forced to really think about the shots and accept that you won’t know how successfully you’ve captured them for a very long time. Likewise, you may get something very different to what you planned which could be equally as magical in its own way. I was excited (and scared) by the creativity that might occur when you only have one shot, as opposed to the bottomless freedom of digital. Analogue is absolutely out of my comfort zone.
Luckily for me, multi-talented artist Katie Lou McCabe wanted to collaborate with me on it and share her own creativity. She would shoot it on her camera and then develop the shots herself in her dark room using a variety of experimental and innovative methods for processing such as souping film, and light leaks. Katie also creates very unique and mesmerising organic visual effects for film, often using ink and colour tanks, light and projection which seemed perfect for expressing the character’s imagined creations...the fuzziness, the colour and inimitability of her mind.
But what exactly would we project the colours onto? I have this terrifyingly HUGE canvas in my studio that’s been waiting to be painted for so long, and I knew it was meant for this project (not because I was too afraid to paint the beast…). The film would be a blend of organic visual effects and play with analogue techniques in ways neither of us have done before. We would revel in the unknown.
Lastly, the film needed to be “covid regulation friendly”, so keeping production to just us two was crucial. So, I would be in front of the camera and put my ability to be still to the test (it’s a stop-motion film you see…)After several creative walks, discussing themes and ideas, Katie and I came up with a schedule and plan for shooting. We just needed some seriously sunny days (which are a rare gift in the midst of an English winter) and some negative covid tests.
We got lucky. The shoot came around and Apricity* was in full swing, as the sun beamed it’s rays inside the window and cast shadows on the walls. The exhilaration of MAKING something together, after a year of covid-prescribed isolation and writing in solitude, was ridiculously fun. We both felt giddy at the nature of it all – the unpredictability of shooting and processing in analogue; the making of a stop-motion film using a living person as the subject, as opposed to models; and the variability of each shot. It was all magically exciting. And, it's the beginning of a new creative collaboration with Katie. Everything ran smoothly, despite the fact that we were both running on little sleep (what a coincidence) we got all the shots. Or at least…we hope so. Now, it’s down to Katie to hand develop and edit each photo using analogue techniques (like souping) in her dark room, before bringing them into the edit suite. So…we wait and enjoy the slow process.
Making ‘Apricity’, so far, has been a practise of unlearning the desire for immediate results and to take time in enjoying the process and practising patience. It is in itself, a “fuck you” to the fear of insomnia. The making it is a protest against creative stasis. Regardless of the finished product, the co-creation of this film is already a success.
Making, and doing, wins over the not doing.
Stay tuned for the final film next year.