This film came about through my regular stylist David Hawkins. He had done some beautiful photographic projects with the English National Ballet and choreographer George Williamson. Through this connection, George had seen my previous film for Twenty6 Magazine ‘G(O)OD+(D)EVIL’, and asked if myself and David would like to collaborate on something with the ENB, once again for publication in Twenty6. Of course I jumped at the chance to work with them. HALLOWED is the end result.
The brief was simply to ‘make something beautiful’. Wonderfully liberating. George was totally open to ideas and, after a couple of short meetings, we’d decided on nine simple scenes – each a kind of living, breathing editorial spread – based on the nine circles of hell from Dante’s Inferno.
As the project grew some regular collaborators came on board, as well as a few new ones. Jason Berman captured the whole thing using Phantom cameras again. Mark Whelan at The Quarry cut the film. A notable new edition came in the form of music by Plaid, courtesy of Warp Records. During the shoot, we’d used various music for the dancers to react to, and it seemed that darker electronic material seemed to match the action best when watching playback. So we had a meeting with Plaid and Theo from Warp, showed them the rushes and asked nicely if they’d consider us using some of their music for the film. Plaid went one better, and remixed our chosen track (‘Eye Robot’) especially for the film, working to our edit.
The main challenge was shooting the whole film in a single day, working with a small budget. There was a lot to do (and of course the idea wouldn’t have worked at all, had we not got something for each of the nine ‘circles’), time was pressured and conditions were difficult. It was very cold (we shot in early Feb in a very draughty old chapel) and the dancers really felt it, but once they started to see the results in 1000 fps playback spirits were lifted, they worked hard and it was amazing to watch them do what they do.
The aim was to make a fashion film – not a traditional ballet film – but still have visible links to the stage and the theatrical. I hope we’ve gone some way to achieving this goal, despite the myriad challenges that come with making films for love, not money. It was certainly a great experience for me, and I’d love to work with the ENB again soon.