Tides, A History of Lives and Dreams Lost and Found (Some Broken)

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This Practice-based research investigates the creative dynamic relations between voice over and experimental film montage, applied through coaching of Emma Taylor, who acted voice over in the film Tides, A History of Lives and Dreams Lost and Found (Some Broken) by Alessandro Negrini 2016, director of Photography OddGeir Saether.

The film, narrated from the point of view of the river Foyle itself, through dreamlike sequences and archive material made by ordinary people in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, invites us to discover the story of Derry in the time of the Northern Irish conflict through the voice of the river: how was this liquid wall seen, heard, and experienced by the lives of those it passed on its long run to the ocean? What could it tell us? What does it know about us? Visually moving between past and present times, the River Foyle invites us to reflect on issues that are going beyond its own borders - what is a border? Are the dreams of those who lived before the conflict different from those dreamed today? And above all, what happened to our dreams?

The voice coaching focussed on answering the essential question: how can we render the voice of a river? In particular, the voice of the river Foyle and all rhythmical, visual, sound and conceptual elements displayed in the film, which itself overall mimics the pace of the river Foyle. In order to answer the principal research question I made use of voice and body techniques for the release of the actor’s creative energies experimented in laboratory theatre environments. The challenge was to apply on film, theatre-based techniques. I used Stanislavskian principles of the work of the actor on the self, to connect Grotowski-Molik-based voice and body work and voice resonators, with analysis and composition based on Eisenstein’s theories of montage. The process went through three phases: textual analysis, training and recording. In short, the textual analysis (of the film images, of the sound – background and music - and of the script – themes and units) identified the relevant sequences in which voice could optimise its function through various operations of montage. The training focussed on enhancing abilities to vary rhythm, pitch and colour, through respiration, body of sound emission, expression, resonators, relation to mental images and different qualities of the opening of the larynx. First of all, the basic pattern that could produce a river-watery effect was established on the basis of different environmental contexts (wind, light and time of the day). Then it was applied to the different situations of the film, according to the montage of specific images, general context of sequences, word meanings and sounds. The result was a binary use of voice, where a basic pattern was interwoven with specific variations of rhythm, pitch and colours. By employing this approach, voice keeps for the whole duration some permanent, stable 'river water-like' qualities (to resemble the Foyle), while creating numerous variations according to the different situations (see examples on the attached chart).
Finally, the recording was based on a frame-by-frame detailed set up of a specific partitura; on the circular process of repetitions-listening-feedback and sequence the small units in dialectical montage. The whole process was contained within a few days in order to keep the organic unity of the voice creation produced through this unique laboratory-based process, apparent in the final production. As a matter of fact, any organic, laboratory-based creative process requires a peculiar duration. The process of producing this particular voice needed about 10 days of intensive work, while the film production took several months (and years, overall). In other words, I didn't use the common cinematic approach of having an actor/speaker hired to read the script in a recording/dubbing room, but a theatrical approach, where the actor was considered an integral part of the process, using the cinematic media as a partner in her organic creation, which required an appropriate time set.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDerry
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Film
  • Voice coaching
  • Voice over

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