Field Trip Approach

How to approach Skye – Against the Monoform

The trip to Skye is intended to produce a joint piece of work around land, people and memory. You will all be gathering sounds and images on this trip and the documentary and experimental pieces that you have already produced on the course so far this year should inform your style and approach to the audio and pictures that you capture.

The end result of this gathering of images and sound could take the form of a joint piece rather than individual work. The format of this piece should not be a monoform narrative. The idea of the Monoform has been explored by the filmmaker and theorist Peter Watkins. In this clip he outlines his concept:

Whilst on Skye we will discuss this approach and examine ways of how the work that is produced there can break away from the restrictions of the monoform. We will discuss issues of anti-narrative, audience control and your positions as media producers. Spend time to really study and understand the position Watkins takes so that we can develop it further on Skye.

Watkins is a very interesting and prolific filmmaker as well a lifelong critic of the mass media system and of mainstream television. His website is here

His approach in much of his work has been called docu-drama but in reality it goes beyond that genre as it actually engages the viewer in the production process. if you look at one of his first films, ‘Culloden’ which happens to deal with Scottish history , you can see how he uses the device of having a modern film crew interviewing the actors on set in the drama to break the dominant narrative.

In the year following ‘Culloden’ Watkins went on to produce a powerful film about nuclear war called ‘The War Game’. It was funded by the BBC and scheduled for transmission on 6 August 1966 (the Hiroshima anniversary) but was not broadcast with the corporation publicly stating that “the effect of the film has been judged by the BBC to be too horrifying for the medium of broadcasting”. It won the Oscar for Best Documentary in 1966 but was not transmitted in the UK until 1985, twenty years after its completion. The film is available here:

Of course our approach in Skye will not be drama based but it may be we decide to record the discussions we have about what it means for a group of outsiders to descend on the island to make a film, or how the roles we adopt as ‘students’ and ‘lecturers’ can be explored and challenged. These discussions could then form part of the work presented on our return.

Experimental Films:

Moods of the Sea 1941

Moods of the Sea (1941) is a non-narrative experimental film by Slavko Vorkapich and John Hoffman, set to the music of Felix Mendelssohn known as the Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave) Overture.
This 10-minute-long film has become well known as an early example of American avant-garde and experimental film.

With Slavko Vorkapich, John Hoffman made two visual tone poems, Moods of the Sea (aka Fingal’s Cave, 1941) and Forest Murmurs (1947). The former film is set to Felix Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture and was restored in 2004 by film preservation expert David Shepard.

Forest Murmurs 1947


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