More than a Film About a Poem

– some thoughts

The form of a poem is its physical structure and shape, its arrangement of sounds and rhythms and the deliberate organisation of these elements whether following specific patterns of simple or complex systems, or not.

As a form, poetry film guides the poet to organise the elements of the poem on the screen visually, spatially and textually, using images and sound to create structure. Frames are used to move the reader’s gaze around the screen and from the previous frame to the next.

The frames and transitions give space for metaphor, pause and enjambment. Images enable the visual possibilities of poetic language. Poetry is about language and so text is either spoken, or on the screen, or both.

Show don’t tell

Don’t tell it all and don’t tell it straight – that’s as important in poetry film as it is in writing poetry.

What you can’t see on the screen is perhaps more important than what you can see. It is crucial that the audience is given room for their imagination.

Beware of redundancies (repeating information or imagery the audience has already seen, knows, or can infer). Consider removing any redundancies, your poetry film is probably better off without them.

Discard footage that is emotionally irrelevant and does little or nothing to move your narrative forward, it’s often not always easy to decide what stays in and what goes.

At all times keep in mind what do you are trying to achieve. Don’t keep something in just because it’s a stunning piece of footage or something very clever – there has to be a reason for it.

Editing

Editing requires trial and error, making continuous pain staking revisions until it all feels just right.

It’s sometimes said that in the poem each word must earn its place, the same goes for film – every shot must earn its place. Editing is a reductive process.

View your film on as big a screen, if you are able to. This will help you see things you haven’t seen before.

Sound

Sound is important, just as important as images, maybe more so. In the same way that you might create a shot list, create a sound list as well.

Think of your soundscape as a landscape. It has layers – immediate, mid-distance, far away – don’t accentuate every sound in the scene, build with layers of sound.

The meter of your sound and images affects the emotional tone of the poetry film. Generally, the shorter the individual shots stay on the screen the more the meter increases, and the emotions of the film increase in their intensity.

Apart from meter, sound can provide information, giving the viewer clues and intensifying the drama. Silence can be powerful.

A sound bridge is a continuous sound to bridge a visual cut. Watch and listen to the following clip that uses a sound bridge between two shots.

Use music not to create emotion but to uphold the emotion that is already there in the poem, or use it to add emotion – but not so much that the whole thing is driven by the music. Music is supplemental and should follow the visuals not the other way around (otherwise you are creating a music video). Adding music too soon to a poetry film can make it seem more complete than it really is.

There are rules, guidelines, and conventions, but creating poetry film is an art form not a science, and as such it should fulfil your vision, not a set of rules. Keep pushing boundaries and conventions in pursuit of poetry film.