The purpose of creating these short videos of Mark (as he's known to his friends) performing his poetry to camera was twofold. The first was we knew his book was going to be launched this year and we thought it would be fun to do something that both celebrated and promoted it, and the second was it would be an excuse for me to develop my filming and editing skills.
Shooting in a moving car was tricky for a couple of reasons. It's pretty difficult to keep the camera steady when the seat you're sitting on is accelerating, decelerating, and going round corners, although full thanks go to Mark's wife, Val, for volunteering to be our driver and being as smooth and steady as it's possible to be driving through and around Castle Douglas. But the unexpected problem was after a few takes I found myself getting car sick.
It's one of those embarrassing afflictions that's affected me since childhood. I'm fine if I'm driving, or sitting in the front passenger seat looking forward, but if I'm in the back of the car I have about 20 minutes before I start feeling ill.
As a kid, my brother and sister thought I was just using it as an excuse to sit in the front of the car and would moan and complain relentlessly that it wasn't fair. Unfortunately I still carry the fear that people think I make it up. If a group of us are going somewhere, and there's talk of car sharing, then often I will insist on taking my car so the issue isn't raised. But sometimes it makes more sense to go in someone else's car and I end up having to apologetically confess. Usually everyone is fine about it, but I still carry a suspicion that those who have never suffered from being car sick think it's just a ruse.
We did several takes from different angles so I would have options to chose from when editing later. I might have done a few more to be sure, but after 8 takes in total I'd reached my limit and it would have been the height of impoliteness to throw up in Mark and Val's car.
Here, then, is the final cut of "I Don’t Know the Address" and below the video, as in previous posts, you will find Mark's take on the whole experience.
Shooting "I Don’t Know the Address"
Kim and I are agreed about this film on two counts: it was the most difficult and draining to shoot and it’s also our firm favourite of the series so far.
For this one, we pushed ourselves even further when we decided that to capture the mood of the poem we needed to film in a moving car. For this we needed a driver. Val Williams, who is intimately connected to me, offered to do the driving. This was a good choice as we didn’t need a fast or flamboyant driver but someone who would drive smoothly and carefully. Val was asked to keep driving us around the town where we live, Castle Douglas. I sat in the back of the car while Kim filmed from the side mainly but also tried out some shots from the front passenger seat.
It was quite a tense shoot compounded by it being a hot day by South West of Scotland standards. By the end of the shoot we were just about melting. At first too it didn’t look as if we would get one complete take as I kept fluffing my lines. This surprised me because it’s a poem that has a lot of repetition, employs rhyme and is more like a song and I fondly imagined I would have no problems reciting it. Perhaps the difficulty was that Address doesn’t have a clear narrative arc but circles around its story, the protagonist trapped in a sort of limbo. It didn’t help that I was getting in a nervous state, aware that I didn’t want to waste time (and petrol!) unnecessarily. The clock was ticking. How many times would Val have to drive us around the town?
In the effort to remember my lines, it became apparent I wasn’t concentrating enough on my delivery so Kim had to step in as director and get me to interpret the poem more rather than simply chant it.
Then a final problem emerged. After completing around the tenth circuit of the town, Kim, who doesn’t usually opt to sit in the back seats of cars, began to feel car sick. Val pulled over and Kim took a few minutes to compose himself. Then we cracked on, mindful now that at any moment Kim might become too unwell to continue filming.
Thankfully it didn’t take much longer after that before we got a take we were happy with and this was an enormous relief all round. Sometimes it’s truly the case that one has to suffer for one’s art.
David Mark Williams
It's been a lot of fun creating these short videos with Mark, so there's a good chance we'll do more. But in the meantime tomorrow, Saturday 21st November, Mark's book launch finally takes place at the Gordon Memorial Hall in Castle Douglas. Do come along if you can.