PhotoGiraffe Production are very pleased to announce the forth coming release of our debut short film. Written in poetic verse, ‘What is a Poet?’ has been created to celebrate poetry as an inclusive form of art that is currently thriving with people rich in diversity, dedicated to sharing their experience with anyone human enough to contemplate, the bitter sweet complexities of life.
What is a Poet? – Film poster
‘What is a Poet?’ seeks to highlight how poetry can be found in a variety of people, places, methods and practices; from musicians to painters and supermarkets to mountain tops. This film has been created as a beacon of inspiration to remind all those who appreciate and create poetry, that what they do is a significant and powerful contribution towards the understanding of human nature and thus can affect the evolution of humankind.
Written, produced and directed by Najma Hush as a collaborative performance piece. Starring Femi Abidogun, Glyn Phillips, Kate Walton, Leah Atherton and Marcia Calame, who have all contributed individually to the film by writing their own introduction, representing the large minority of a great number of Spoken Word Artists from the West Midlands, UK and sending out a message of love to all the poets around the world, this film is simply poetry in motion.
Read our questions and answers from Najma Hush about the film and learn more about the exciting news on how you can also contribute towards this on-going project to promote Poets and Poetry.
Behind the Scene: Najma Hush, Byrone Nicholson & Leah Atherton
Q & A with Najma Hush
What was your inspiration for the film?
On National Poetry Day (Nov’2014), I couldn’t see the point of going out to celebrate, because at the time it seemed to me that the only people who went to poetry performance events were poets who wanted to perform their own poems and whom also made up the majority of the audience. In this respect, I felt quite disillusioned by my role in society as a poet and wanted to explore why human beings wrote poetry and its function in arts and humanity. Despite my more sombre mood at the time, the first draft of the poem was far more inspirational than I had anticipated and the idea to use the work as a collaborative piece was born.
How did the film get off the ground? What was the process of getting the film made?
After completing the final version of the poem, the driving force dependent on turning this script into a short film, was gaining the support of other poets whom I was already acquainted with and had either collaborated or worked alongside before, because although the film has been created to promote poets and poetry, effectively the script is a poem which has been written by a poet who is approaching other poets to memorise and recite her words, when they have their own which they would naturally prioritise. Also, the film has been created on shoe string budget and therefore the performers were called to star in the film for the love of poetry alone, with an earnest promise to feast heartily upon my mother’s delicious home cooking whilst on the job.
Behind the Scene: Najma Hush, Byrone Nicholson & Marcia Calame
How long was the shoot and where was it?
I was lucky enough to be affiliated with a young publishing house with their own art studio and art gallery (Mapseeker Publishing Ltd), where I was formally a poet in residence. They kindly allowed me to use their space and I also hired locally upon occasion. As the shooting of the film took 4 days to complete, it was spread out over the course of 4 months. Initially having accumulated the support of 16 poets, near the end this number whittled down to 5 professional actors who were passionate about the cause and dedicated to the same vision despite their own busy schedules and various work commitments.
What have you learnt since completing your first short film and how will it help you to improve and make more?
I learnt a lot about the preparation that goes into pre-production in order to co-ordinate and organise the shooting of a film. And also about how a director must have precise vision for every single scene from start to finish, paying great attention to detail. As well as how a good producer should execute every task in fine detail at the event of each shoot. I am pleased to have learnt how to plan each shot using storyboards, just by making this very simple film. I have also learnt the value of clearly communicating aims, objectives and roles with all parties involved, as well as the great importance of covering all legal issues with well documented agreements.
I loved directing the performances and coming from a background in dance and fashion photography, I found shooting film , very similar to photography only with equal attention to sound and movement, as well as the visuals. I believe that this will help me create more cinematic poetry films which will improve the cinematography of any forthcoming poetography videos. Up-till-date, my work has been more reliant on my photography and videography skills with an emphasis in the quality of the spoken word and therefore may be lacking cinematic attention.
The second biggest challenge and the largest asset I have gained whilst making this film, is sound and visual editing skills, prior to which I had little knowledge and learnt at a reasonable rate through practice, post production. This has given me more confidence to consider making more dynamic and ambitious poetography films in the near future, which I am already passionate about creating.
Behind the Scene – Byrone Nicholson & Najma Hush
Tell us about the soundtrack for this short film and the reasons behind your choice?
As there are two sections to this film, there are only two sound tracks, both of which are licensed under Creative Commons, Attribution (3.0). For the first half, the music is an uplifting, contemporary piece called, SunBirds by CoCrew (http://ccmixter.org/ (2012)). With its relaxing hip-hop beat, Sunbirds gives the introduction a modern, urban feel, separating it from the second half which features Fredrick Chopin’s, Nocturnes no. 1 Op. 9 by Florence Robineau, (https://commons.wikimedia.org/ 2013)), a timeless classic, picked in direct contrast to the introductory piece as I felt that the tone and texture of this composition complimented the emotional dynamics of the poem well.
Ever since I began to appreciate Chopin’s music I noted the varying intonations in his compositions imitating the phonetic aspects of human speech and after further research I was delighted to learn that Chopin was in fact, a sound poet who magnificently composed ‘verse without words’ in his arrangements. Thereafter, my mind had been made up to use his work alone and set myself the challenge of listening to various playbacks of the film’s audio accompanied by his symphonies; in terms of its mood, I felt that Nocturnes no. 1 Op. 9 matched the verbal intonation of the poem best. With its focus upon sound as much as visuals, simplicity has been the main prerogative of this film to draw emphasis on the richness of its discourse.
Where should we expect to see your short film?
‘ What is a Poet?’ will be screened at Literature and Poetry festivals all over the UK and similar festivals abroad with release dates to be announced soon. I have also created an online #WhatisaPoet? campaign, inviting poets from all around the world to contribute globally towards this film by submitting their own black and white short film a #14SecondPoem in response to the question ‘What is a Poet?’ This will expand the spirit of the whole project by giving poets a chance to think and respond to this question, opening up a global debate to provide a wider community of artists to get seen and heard. In this way I anticipate the project will expand and the film will also progress as the best 21 clips from the campaign will be compiled to make an extra 5min feature to be screened as part of the short film (#WhatisaPoet? #14secondpoem @Twitter, Instagram).
#WhatisaPoet? #14Second Poem
As you may have already noted, this is a very interdependent project, with a communal objective, which has been and still is dependant upon other Poets taking part and would not have been possible without the people who have contributed towards the making of this film. Here’s a bit more about the incredible Spoken Word Artists as well as members of the crew, who have already dedicated their time and effort – all for the love of Poetry with the same view to promote the Poet’s job as an important role within our society.
About the Cast
Femi Abidogun (Poet, Performer): A West Midlands-based poet and writer, who has two published collections of poetry –That Long Walk (2015) and Blonde Grass (2012) both originally published by Thynks Publications Ltd, Nottingham. His writings have also been showcased in a number of anthologies and publications.
He has performed to a variety of audiences including literary events and festivals, as well as on radio. He is a member of literary groups such as Writers Without Borders and The Poetry Society.
Apart from writing, he enjoys reading, travelling, music and sports. Femi believes poetry is all about expression and as such, the opportunity presented by the production of “What is A Poet” was just one further great way to do just that. He says he thoroughly enjoyed every minute of its filming which he describes as a “unique experience worthy of being proud of”.
Glyn Phillips (Poet, Performer): A Poet / Musician / Radio Presenter / DJ. Surprisingly, Glyn Phillips only came out of his literary shell about two years ago after decades as a percussionist and DJ – and latterly a world music radio presenter. Tired of being ‘in the dark at the back of the band’, Glyn decided to finally get centre stage with his own joyful yet anarchic wordplay and exuberant yet meticulous wordsmithery. Glyn’s theatrical delivery and desire to engage an audience means that each performance is just that: a true performance!
Glyn works in a bewildering array of subjects and styles from heart-rending social observations and political rants to comic vignettes and whimsical tales. An acute social conscience, a love of words, an ear for sounds and an eye for the ridiculous has led him to produce poetry, songs and spoken word pieces that have taken audiences on a journey from emotionally painful recognition to raucous laughter in just one session.
Whatever you do, watch out for his ‘chap-hopping’ alter ego, Mr Armitage Spode, who is likely to jump up (at entirely inappropriate moments) and indulge himself in more ribald innuendo than you could squeeze into a burlesque dancer’s corset…
Glyn has written a 190 page book of poems, Still Life (2015), and a short story, The Tale of the Magic Soup Stone (2015), published by Food for Thought (2016).
Kate Walton (Poet, Performer): Performance poet, lyrical true life storyteller, workshop facilitator and StoryTramp, ‘One woman’s poetical mission’ to unravel the mysteries and create legends through the art of sharing stories and reconnecting with the people and poetics of life.
Slam winning poet and shortlisted by BASE as Outstanding Newcomer to Storytelling in 2013, Kate has enjoyed success with ‘I Am Blackbird’, her transformational one woman show and is currently working on her second solo show ready for 2017.
Taking inspiration from her own adventures and the people she meets along the way, Kate mixes light with shade to combine her well-crafted lines and natural performance style to engage with audiences and offer a gentle reflection through her journey of life.
Kate is currently involved in a number of projects throughout the UK, from performing with the itinerant troupe, Flashlight True-life Storytellers in Birmingham, a regular teller at Natural Born Storytellers in London, one of many Tribal Voices that keep the green field festival fires burning brightly and Co-founder and host of Wild Words and Wisdom, an intimate evening of poetry, story and song for women in Hertfordshire.
Kate is passionate about the sharing of wisdom and as such her ongoing project StoryTramp often takes her out on the road in search of stories, people and the ultimate of human experience.
Leah Atherton (Poet, Performer): A linguist, poet and spoken word artist, hailing from the windswept Devon coast, Leah blew ashore in red brick country in 2006 and has been actively involved with the local spoken word circuit for the last 2 years.
Having spent her formative years scribbling stories and poems in the back of school exercise books and old envelopes, Leah’s love of poetry caught up to her as a postgraduate student at Oxford, where she began honing her craft in earnest.
She has since headlined at poetry and music nights including Sunplugged, Howl and Stirchley Speaks. A vocal advocate on social justice issues, her work has been featured at a number of events combining art and activism, including the Amo: LoveISexhibition at Birmingham Art Gallery; Amnesty International’s satellite event 16 Days of Activism: Women Unplugged; and the Critical Conditions: Calais photo exhibition launch at Impact Hub Birmingham.
Bringing her unique brand of quiet observation and raw honesty to her poetry, she weaves together the wildness of the landscapes she calls home with the joy and heartache of the everyday. She is a firm believer that magic is never lost, only forgotten.
Marcia Calame (Poet, Performer): Poet and Spoken Word Artist who has performed in places such as: Glastonbury Poetry and Words, International Women’s Day, Black History Month, Youth Theatre and Education and is also a mentor for aspiring youths.
Marcia is a diverse and dynamic Poet, both on stage and on page, for all ages; with poems included in many anthologies. Such poems like, ‘A sense of touch’ representing the Midlands-Poetry for the people by the people; and ‘Rippled Splendour,’ which received the Editors choice Award. Marcia is part of the ten writers collaboration of the Midlands, which is included in the Anthology, Celebrate Wha (Smokestack 2011), where you will find her poems such like: Speak English and Going Dutch. Living in Birmingham, UK, Marcia is currently working on the completion of her new book.
Najma Hush (Writer, Director, Producer): Master of Media and Creative Arts; a published poet and photographer who also combines the two mediums to create an emerging genre of art, which she terms ‘Poetography’, a concept which she has developed over the course of time since 2013. With her first exhibition as a Poetographer at Walsall Arts Festival (Dec, 2014), Hush has considerably evolved her practice from creating silent photographic animations in combination with poetic texts to short poetic films, heavily featuring performing artists using videographic images, alongside spoken word all synchronised harmoniously to music.
Former Artist in residence at Arts4ArtSake (Custard Factory, 2013) and former Poet in Residence at Mapseeker Publishing Studio & Art Gallery (Aldridge, 2014), she has had her fine Art Photographic works exhibiting in various locations around the West Midlands, whilst also organising her own monthly Exhibition for Exhibitionists events (2013/2014) providing a platform for other Poets and Musicians to perform at the opening for her art exhibitions. Presently whilst expanding upon her Poetography experiments to contribute to an emerging genre of moving digital literature, (watch Youtube @ Najma Hush) she is working on her debut Poetography book as well the release of her first short film ‘What is a Poet’ starring five other Spoken Word Artists.
About the Crew
Byrone Nicholson (Lighting, Sound and Camera Operator): Video editor and camera operator with a BA Honours in Media Productions, his background stems from creating films within the format of documentary and the making of music videos. Producer of his own film, ‘Born to Fish’ (released, 2014), a short documentary summarizing how one man’s passion for a sport can influence, not only his own life, but the lives of those whom he teaches.
Previously the official camera and sound operator for Walsall Arts Festival (2014) Nicholson’s already enjoys the diversity in art and has worked with many live spoken word and street artists. The, ‘What is a Poet’ project further enhanced his opportunity to apply the skills he’s learnt, but also show his greater fondness of poetry.
Nicholson is currently working with the Sikh channel and wishes to continue learning and working with diverse cultures, whilst also creating or collaborating on unique projects that bring forth positivity and knowledge.
Studio Management Team
Soombul Rafique (Floor Manager): Usually an executive legal clerk by day, Soombul worked as a volunteer on set responsible for passing on cues to the director communicating with all cast and crew to ensure timings were met and filming went smoothly so that shooting went according to the set plan
Rhi Rhi Khanum (Sound Supervisor): Usually working behind the camera as a model on several projects with photographers, stylists and makeup artist, Rhi Rhi worked for the first time on a film set as a volunteer to provide assistance, working closely alongside Nicholson and following his instructions regarding sound.
Reshma Khunum (Script Supervisor): An undergraduate student of Media, Reshma worked on set as a volunteer Script Supervisor making sure that all lines were covered during the filming process.
So there you have it, we will be posting more information regarding this continuing project and the exact details about how you can take part and contribute with your 14 second poem as well as news and more information about where the film will be released and exhibited, so follow this blog to stay tuned, share this article and check out the hashtags online.
Hashtags: #WhatisaPoet? #14SecondPoem