When I first heard about Dismaland my ears lit-up. The place looked set to be an amazing playground for moving image expression, I immediately wanted to film it.
With a strong history of banging the refresh button, I managed to score some initial evening tickets for me and some friends. In typical fashion, it absolutely pissed it down. That’s fine, I thought, cosy late summer nights is not what this is about.
Water and cameras however are not a match made in heaven, but a seasoned outdoor filmmaker makes do with what he can and I got a couple of shots in the can, with my tripod I might add. More importantly, this opening season trip also gave me an opportunity to revel in the spectacular art on show, and reccy the site.
Surprisingly the next week I scored two more tickets for solo missions to lay down some solid foundations for the film. On an overcast (dismal – perfect) Wednesday afternoon, after a prolonged queue to get it, my poor tripod was refused entry, so I left it with the security guards and pushed on.
On entry to the now familiar bemusement park, I was somewhat deflated as I’d planned some cool experimental motion controlled shots, which are just impossible without a tripod. However I dug deep into my aged sack of initiative and managed to bag some freestyle shots. The following week I scored yet two more tickets, my luck was in and my refresh button skills validated – for a third time.
As with all of Banksy’s past events, the overall tone of the Dismaland experience is frankly hilarious, you can’t help but laugh and smile at the absurdity of where you find yourself. It was captivating, absorbing, and fun.
However it’s easy to get caught up in this and forget about the underlying messages being presented, some were obvious (like the ones pictured), some more latent, and some purely audience participatory. I wanted to draw attention to these in part, whilst also capturing the ephemeral event in a cinematic way for posterity.
Creating an aesthetic
I aimed to create an aesthetic which married creative visuals and sound, which would translate the essence of Dismaland, so those who didn’t get to go –could get a flavour– and those who did could warm their memories.
In this age of content overload, I’m constantly trying to differentiate myself in the projects I undertake. The night before my first solo trip to Dismaland, I had a late night flurry of exciting ideas…
The ‘Dismalscope’ concept is inspired by past creative cinema and uses some little tricks here-and-there to pop elements out of the frame, giving a new spin on the faux 3D effect. Look out for things like the overspilling clouds and tracked motion on elements hanging out of / into the frame.
Sound was an critical element in conveying the essence of the experience, so I mixed samples, sound effects, and recordings captured on location to compliment the visuals and their undertones. Hopefully I achieved a subtle subconscious flow as you travel around the various art pieces and attractions.
Wrapping things up
Overall the project was tricky and took commitment. From; challenging filming conditions and lengthy post production, to a hugely involved sound design phase.
Naturally, as with any editing process, many changes were made and I was tweaking and polishing for days to get the final look just right. It was important to grade the film cinematically even down to adding film grain, using RAW video helped immensely with this endeavour allowing me to build more detailed custom LUTs that do the piece justice.
I absolutely loved working on this, personal projects with no constraints are highly enjoyable and challenging yourself is always worthwhile to further develop skills.
Hats-off to everyone who made the whole Dismal experience happen, it was truly great.
Click the image below to watch the film, please share and enjoy!
Nb. The linked image above takes you to a page I built with a distraction free black background. If you prefer, here are direct links to the film, watch in full screen if possible!