The Sensation Of Losing My Words

by stephenpalmersf

I’ve now done a couple of filming sessions for Condition: Human and the experience has been… interesting! Yesterday I spent an afternoon with my partner Nicky (director and camcorder operator) at a dell just outside Betws y Coed, and the first problem we encountered was the noise. The river was in full flow – tons of water coming off those Welsh mountains – and its roaring deafened us close-up. However, by filming a little away from the river and using the directional microphone we were able to get an acceptable balance between the background roar and my voice.

But the main problem (which I encountered when making my first recordings in Mortimer Forest) was the script. I’d written full scripts for the six short films earlier in the year, thinking that was the best option, but actually I’m not the sort of speaker who can remember his lines then deliver them. As I discovered when I did my presentation on consciousness at the day job last year, my natural mode is having a basic outline of the topics then speaking in extemporised fashion. Yesterday, as we nervously eyed the sky for rainclouds, I found myself often unable to remember even a few sentences. It’s a very strange sensation, going mind-blank. Even simple sentences were tricky! In some circumstances, after a few takes, I couldn’t deliver them at all.

So my plan is to amend the scripts so I have basic ideas – words, phrases – around which I’ll improvise. The other option I have is more voice-overs. Recently I analysed a documentary by Alastair Sooke (a presenter Nicky and I both like) to find that the ratio of to-camera delivery to voice-overs is about 55/45. My scripts were written thinking the proportion of to-camera work should be much higher.

Still, we had fun yesterday: enormous fun! This is a work I now know I can do, although whether I’m any good is another question entirely.

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