It’s three years since Greg visited Marfa, Texas for the Marfa Film Festival. It was an epic journey. He left the sanctuary of Stratford-upon-Avon, England, took the train to London, and flew out on a Dreamliner to Austin, Texas. (He was upgraded on the way out. Result!). But Texas is a big place and Marfa is famous for being near … well near nothing. This journey and the destination is the basis of our new short film. It took us a while to work out exactly how to tell this story. Here’s what happened …
We asked ourselves: should we go for a conventional documentary? What about something punctuated with moments back in our home town of Stratford upon Avon? What kind of style should it be?
Finding the Marfa style
Over the last three years we’ve experimented with a lot of different styles. Thanks to Greg’s ongoing myinkyhead project (check it out on Instagram) we’ve settled on an ink and watercolour style. The style is loose and alive. There is a lot of black and white, but also moments of colour (watercolour and ink).
In terms of the content of the film, that has also evolved. What did this film mean? What was its purpose? What were we trying to say? Why did we even want to make this film? It took us a while to answer these questions. We knew this was a film we wanted to make. That was our instinct talking. Understanding instincts isn’t easy – or always possible! But the answers were there to find.
Part of the problem was there were so many things in play. First up, Greg was there, but I wasn’t (hi, it’s Myles here!) I was about to become a father so had other things on my mind. So it was a big trip abroad but the two bros were not together like we normally were. Second, Greg isn’t usually away from his family for that long. Third he was meeting up with an old pal Alex Hannaford (journalist extraordinaire and now a resident Texan). Alex also had a film in the festival and drove Greg through the desert to get there. Fourth, Greg was representing our film 365. Fifth he bumped into a film star – though he didn’t know it as he hadn’t watched Boyhood yet. Sixth he heard a lot of great music (we’ll do a post about that one of these days. In the meantime here’s Sergio). Seventh he heard a lot of great stories. Eighth … well you get the picture. There were a lot of things in play.
This film has become about the experience of being in a new place. But what is place? A place is the physical place – the buildings. It’s the people who live there now and who put it together. It’s the tiny, crazy moments that you witness (like an old man dodging a train). It’s the stories that people tell you about the town (and wider America). It’s the food you eat. The drink you drink. The heat you feel. The sound the train makes or the cop car makes. This adds up to a character. The place is the character. Marfa has a personality. When we visit a place we interact with that personality just like it was a person. We love it. We hate it. We’re meh about it.
Sign me up
For me (Myles, remember) it was a vicarious encounter. I had Greg’s account of his time there, I had his photos and I was able to read up about it too. What left the biggest impression on me was the audio Greg collected and the photos he took. One of the things that struck me about the photos was the signs. Signage is one of those things that’s so particular to each country. You go to Australia you get doubly excited because (a) the signs are square and on their side and (b) they are yellow and black and most of all (c) they sometimes have a picture of a kangaroo! It was the same with Marfa. There were signs everywhere. Shops. Roads. Eateries. When I listed them on a piece of paper they made a kind of beat poem. That inspired us to create a poem to use in the film as a ‘story spine’.
I want to give you some sense of the visual journey this film has been on. Below is a gallery. It features some of the images created in the development of this film. These images were shared with our Kickstarter supporters as they were produced. We would once again like the thank all of them for making this film possible.
As of today, Greg is most of the way through the film (16th October). He is currently working on a flashback section using bright watercolours. The office is covered in paper, ink and paint – just the way we like it. We’re looking forward to showing the film to you all.
All the best. Myles