Finishing Smoking Gun left me in a tranquil yet galvanized state – it’s good to finally culminate the project but it excites me to think about my future ventures.
Smoking Gun withstanded many different adjustments. It was mobilized by firstly coming together through the medium of a twenty-paged script written with narrative lenses. In commencement, we wanted to create an overlapping storyline of people in abusive relationships, with all the stories connecting – such as having a story’s end scene as the beginning of another story. However, changes were made after agreeing upon experimenting differently with still films and bringing in the idea of a multi-screen installation. We decided to make one introductory storyline as the only anchoring element for all the stories. The introductory scene is of four friends who meet up to have a drink in a bar and talk about their lives, we can see upon first glance that they all look like the average male in society. Be that as it may, two are actually victims to domestic abuse within their relationship and the other two are perpetrators. Rhett is harassed about his financial status by his girlfriend and Hussein is psychologically controlled by his wife, whilst Raphael is a sexual predator to his wife (and secretary) and Mike is an alcoholic who retorts to beating up his wife once he’s gone dry. Their stories appear in their corresponding screens once their lives are mentioned in the initial bar scene.
Collaborating with Matthew and closely observing a friend who suffered an abusive relationship, allowed me to be able to write the narrative with a closer stance on reality. She was a close friend who was not able to wear what she wanted, do what she wanted or see who she wanted. I noticed that she even had physical scars after she began standing up to him. She’s now in the complicated process of filing a lawsuit. Additional research on domestic abuse motivated me to share with others the deeper side of domestic abuse that truly needs recognition, that I also only just opened my eyes to.
After the script was written, Matthew was given the role to pre-plan the shooting in terms of angles and techniques. In conjunction, I made a poster that was hung around campus – it indicated that we were recruiting actors. The traffic for actors coming in was tedious but fortunately, we received a rush when a group of theatre majors found interest in the project. Then we organised locations and times, with both of us investing in the shoot by bringing our two cameras to film. Having two cameras was hugely satisfying as we were able to get more angles and a faster shooting time. Working with a high number of strangers was a learning affair as we teamed up with different kinds of people who performed differently (both experienced actors and regular people) – some actors were quicker at remembering lines and some actors were having difficulting projecting certain emotions. Our biggest subtraction from the shoots was our slack selves not considering audio more pre-production, as most of the film’s weaknesses was the audio. We considered reshooting Hussein’s scene due to this, however everyone had busy schedules and we felt that it may be possible that they would not necessarily give us better results in terms of performance.
I then set into motion the procedures toward creating the film, by collecting raw footage and engineering a coherent narrative through assembling clips together. This was an onerous adventure so I was very pleased with the satisfactory results. The film was then left for Matthew to fix the audio and time it by using black screens, before I finally added subtitles.
The installation was then placed in a corridor because it was “transitional” and displayed with cardboard boxes to facilitate disorder and turmoil. In complementation to the clutter of screens, I added physical objects deducted from inside the screens for viewers to feel closer related to the storylines. Whilst I am ultimately satisfied with the films as it exceeded initial hopes, I continue to be in a conflicted state about whether or not I take delight in the presentation as I find that unless screens are turned on, the whole installation does tend to look a little bit unorderly and possibly sloppy. I also slightly detest the location of the installation as it subtracted from my antecedent of wanting it in a darker and more isolated space where we could play the sound in full volume without disturbing other artists and passerbys. Considering that the story is about domestic abuse, – where the sound is very aggressive from both the physical hits and the verbal attacks, – we felt like we needed to restrict the projection of sound as the level we wanted meant that the sounds were reaching the other side of the building.