Expert technical demonstrators from across Plymouth University of the Arts have come together outside of teaching time to create “Solitude and Collaboration: The Artist’s Dichotomy”, a short film set in a craft caravan from the 1960s. 1970 and an accompanying documentary, to showcase some of the breadth and depth of technical skills, expertise, equipment and resources on offer at the brand new UK University of the Arts to students and the city of Plymouth.
“Solitude and Collaboration” was created by technical demonstrators and workshop coordinators from various arts college specialties including Harrison Newman, Kathryn Hays, Matt Holmes, Aaron Prout, Pip Murphy, Kerry Brosnan, Sophie Minshall, Fiona Lloyd, Beth De Tisi, Lisa Roberts, Neil Jones, Russell Cleave, Amber Thorpe, Sarah Court, May Watts, Tracey Ormston, India Ritchie, Ben Mundy, Norman Buchan and Oliver Curtis. Most academics and technical support staff at Plymouth University of the Arts are practicing artists in their own right and live in and around the town. The film was also created with the help of a wide range of other university teaching and support staff.
The short, which is inspired by the works of Wes Anderson and 1970s nostalgia, is set in a caravan on Plymouth Hoe which was built from scratch in the 3D Wood and Plastics workshop and filmed at the studios photography and media from the university. Almost everything seen on camera in the film was designed, built, created and produced using the skills of the technical teams at Plymouth University of the Arts, showcasing some of the breadth of their knowledge and acting as a calling card for the unique spirit of collaboration and the diverse range of technical expertise and cutting-edge resources available to students to learn within the brand new UK University of the Arts.
Russell Cleave, a tech demonstrator at Plymouth University of the Arts Media Lab, worked as the director of photography on the short and was instrumental in bringing together members of Plymouth University of the Arts who don’t often find opportunities to work closely together. Russell is an award-winning light and sound practitioner and filmmaker who has directed numerous music videos premiered in mainstream and independent music publications, including Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, The Independent, The Guardian and Vevo. He is also an Arts University Plymouth BA (Hons) film alumnus.
Russell said: “Making ‘Solitude and Collaboration’ was an experience that embodies the ethos of cross-collaboration that makes working together on the main city center campus of Plymouth University of the Arts so dynamic and inspiring. At the end of 2021, I started talking to colleagues about the idea of finding a project that would bring together all the technicians from all over the university and make the most of the wide range of skills that we regularly share with students. Due to teaching schedules, we do not regularly have the opportunity for staff members to work collaboratively across our various disciplines. Creating this film was a real opportunity for us to get to know each other better.
From the largest structure featured in the film, the trailer shell which was handcrafted by wood and plastics workshop coordinator Harrison Newman, to the smallest structure, the model airplane built by the male actor who was made using the laser cutter in Fab Lab Plymouth by tech demonstrator Matt Holmes almost everything that appears on screen was made using the equipment and resources from Plymouth University of the Arts.
Large format photographs of Plymouth and the iconic Hoe taken by technical demonstrator Pip Murphy can be seen through the windows of the trailer created for the film.
Pip said: “As soon as the idea of creating a 1970s caravan came up, everyone was really enthusiastic. It’s fun, with a very distinct style. I did my research and took a day to find places around Plymouth that would work.
Discussing the background photos and how they were lit for the film, Russell Cleave said: “The direction of light in Pip’s photos had to be replicated in the direction of the lighting coming from the lights in the studio. We want students at Plymouth University of the Arts to be able to learn from the work we put into making the film, so it was important to plan and carry out the project in the same way we would if it were was a professional production.
The vinyl walls and ceilings, linoleum flooring, food packaging and photographic backdrops for the film were all designed and printed by tech demonstrator Kerry Brosnan, whose experience working at the digital printing office of the university and previously at the equipment resource center made her indispensable to the project. .
Kerry said: “Based on what I had learned from previous film projects, I made the decision to print the sets onto hardware, which means they can be reused by students for different purposes. future projects. Everything went so well. As soon as all the lights came on, it was exactly as we had imagined.
Some of the most recognizable aspects that give the caravan its signature 1970s look come from the Sew Lab and textile studios at Plymouth University of the Arts, where the hand-knitted socks, the ruched kaftan worn by the actors, the cushion covers and the screen printing on the patterned fabric used to make the curtains were created.
Sophie Minshall, Technical Demonstrator at Fabric Lab, said:
“The film gave us the opportunity to present a variety of techniques. We sat down with the BA (Hons) Costume Production technical team to research which technical processes would be most appropriate for each of the textiles. They have an incredible wealth of knowledge when it comes to the styles that became fashionable at the time.
In the trailer, a television plays original stop-motion animation of Smeaton’s Tower in Plymouth being attacked by plasticine sea creatures. The animation was inspired by classic British children’s television such as Morph, the character who first appeared in the late 1970s on programs with presenter Tony Hart. Everything shown on the TV screen was made at Plymouth University of the Arts by animation tech demonstrator Aaron Prout.
Media Lab technical demonstrator Neil Jones created the graphic design, logos and brand identities featured in the film, which were also used in the credits that end what was filmed.
Neil said: “We made the little TV in the caravan ourselves because we couldn’t get one from the right era. We even gave it an Arts University Plymouth brand identity based on the BBC logo at the time.
Staff from Plymouth University of the Arts departments also contributed a behind-the-scenes featurette about the production process, shot and edited by tech demonstrator Oliver Curtis and Russell Cleave.
Costumes, props and a range of other work created for the film were displayed at Plymouth University of the Arts to inspire students to think about what might be possible in their own work by collaborating outside their fields usual. The project reflects the unique curriculum of Plymouth University of the Arts, where students engage in interdisciplinary practice independently as well as in core interdisciplinary units, and acts as an example for students of the importance of collaboration in the creative process.
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