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Two inches to the Right

My collaboration with Matt Frodsham began when he sent me a message through a poetry forum back in late 2008, I didn’t actually pick it up and reply until about three months later!  He’d seen my other poetry films and videos collaborations with my friend Marc Webb. In 2007 Marc and I had filmed a mock suicide video of me angrily spitting my poem Suicide Note; Bank Manager Lament’ into the camera with a noose round my neck.  I just wanted to get my poetry to a wider audience, that and freak out up my bank manager who would later receive a DVD in a brown Jiffy bag with the words ‘Play Me’ scrawled on it. The video went down well with what I would call a mainly ‘none’ poetry audience, and has since been adopted by the CONSUMER Action Group in the UK (it’s still on the front of their site).

Matt Frodsham was a second year Graphic Design student at Salford University when he first contacted me, and wanted to do something different for part of his course work.  He wanted to create an animated video for one of my poems and we chatted about ideas.  I’d written a piece called ‘Blokes’ that I read for the first time as part of Scroobius Pips poetry tent at Camp Bestival.  It’s about the suicide of a close friend of mine and draws the listener in with macho bravado and then flips the pace on them in the final verse.  A number of people over the weekend approached me after my set, mainly because of that poem, and many could relate. I recorded the poem, saved it as an MP3 and emailed it to Matt. We chatted a number of times over the next few months, he sent me the odd screen shot and a few months later it was finished.  When I first saw the video I was blown away!  In May my first official collection ‘Demo Tape’ was released and ‘Blokes’ was premiered at the launch – the crowd reaction was immense.  In the months following ‘Blokes’ was adopted by the charity C.A.L.M, the Campaign Against Living Miserably that raises awareness of depression amongst young men across the UK.  ‘Blokes’ was also entered into ShortCuts – a short film festival – and picked up the festivals ‘Best Film’ award.  I can’t tell you how it felt to accept the award and the excitement of winning with what was essentially a poetry video… a POEM!

When Matt approached me again about working together earlier this year I jumped at the chance.  We finally met for the first time in the flesh at the Camden Eye in London, and agreed upon the poem Two inches to the Right’.  Like ‘Blokes’ it is a strong piece that many people have expressed their ability to relate to. I had planned to film a live-action short for the piece so had the video storyboarded in my head already. Over a beer or two I talked him through my original idea and he talked me through his.  In our previous collaboration Matt had drawn images from photographs or free hand, and this time he chose to use an animation style called ‘Rotoscoping’.  Rotoscoping is an animation technique in which animators trace over live-action film movement, frame by frame. You need a lot of skill and a lot of patience; luckily Matt has both of them in abundance. The first step was to film me reading the poem from several different angles – close up, far away, walking in the park, sitting down – then we filmed the attack, the judge and anything else that would appear in the video.  Any extras needed I filmed with whoever I could get my hands on and sent them to Matt using internet file sharing sites.  Over the next three months we talked daily over email and twitter, but once the storyboards were finalised it was really down to Matt’s skill with a Graphics Tablet and a pen (see Rotoscope Video).  When Matt sent me the final video I was blown away by his work but felt the audio quality let the video down.  Luckily within 24 hours I was in a studio re-recording the track and then Matt was able to quickly re-sync it.

It premiered as part of ‘Enter 3D’ at FACT in Liverpool and we put it online shortly after. The video picked up over 20,000 hits on Vimeo alone in its first two weeks.  It was crazy how many people were tweeting and blogging about the video.  It garnered a lot of acclaim from the Motion Graphics community but also many other very different quarters, including extreme sports websites, clothing companies, schools, Universities and blogs from around the world.  As it reached 40,000 hits in its fourth week, not bad for a poetry video!

In June we were asked to be part of ‘The Streaming Festival’, an art event for independent artists exhibiting unconventional audiovisual art from all over the world.

The event takes place once a year at The Hague.  The video has also been shown at the Hungry Pigeon Festival in Manchester, Lazy Gramophone events and a number of international festivals.  It’s always an honor to be included.

Since I first decided to read my poetry aloud in 2004 (well the bottle of Johnny Walker helped), and my unashamed reincarnation as a ‘Performance Poet’, I’ve always found non poetry gigs much more enjoyable as a performer. Don’t misunderstand me, I enjoy performing – wherever, whenever – but I’ve always thought performing in front of a poetry audience isn’t helping move the craft forward.

An overwhelming majority of people still think poetry is old fashioned, a bit fuddy-duddy and irrelevant in 2010.  Performing in front of a crowd who think along those lines, gasp at the introduction of a poet on the stage, a pack of sweaty teenagers at a ‘Hardcore’ night or 200 skateboard kids, is much more enjoyable than a room full of people who appreciate poetry!  The ‘unconverted’ audiences do a lot more to push poetry forward, than poetry aficionados.  I’m sure many fans of artists such as Saul Williams, Sage Francis and Scroobius Pip, have been turned on to poetry through their music.  It’s a medium that helps move poetry forward.

I’d like to believe my videos; ‘Bank Manager Lament’, ‘This Town’, ‘Two Inches’, ‘Blokes’, etc. are presented in a manner to first get someone interested enough to click and watch, hopefully make them think, and then hopefully turn them on to poetry.

It’s 2010… the world is moving forward and so is poetry!  All hail ‘YouTube’, all hail ‘Vimeo’, all hail the internet!

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