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Fun with Foley

Live soundtrack event showcases Strickland’s one-minute 2005 original short Berberian Sound Studio [pictured].

This weekend the London Short Film Festival included an interactive and informative live music event called Making Tracks. The brainchild of short film champion Katie Steed (Whirlygig Cinema) and The Cabinet of Living Cinema (TCOLC), Making Tracks have been combining short films with soundtracks performed live since December 2010.

This particular Making Tracks was billed a Foley special. TCOLC’s Kieron Macguire (guitar and viola) explained that as recent as the 1960s the equipment used to shoot films was so noisy that the most you hope to record was the dialogue. Sound effects such as footsteps on crunching gravel or swords clanging, had to be recorded after the shoot. Jack Foley is credited as the inventor of this technique - hence the name given to the art form.

TCOLC’s main Foley protagonist is Rob Parkinson. Crouched on the floor, seemingly surrounded by old junk and litter, he wowed everyone with a quick demonstration that transformed a scrunched up Tesco’s carrier bag into the sound of the sea lapping against the shore. The sellout Rich Mix Cinema crowd was hooked.

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To set the scene for the Foley programme we were treated to Peter Strickland’s 2005 short film Berberian Sound Studio [above]. Just one minute long it celebrates with a smile the frenetic, relentless nature of watching a moving image and providing sounds for it. Last years’ award winning feature it inspired may be a world away in terms of tone, but chopping a cabbage in half remains the go to sound for a decapitation.

Ten films were given the live Foley treatment by TCOLC - each score very different from the next. For example, Home by Adam DJ Laity opens in a cave in Dorset that Parkinson and Macguire know well. So when the protagonist on screen was hammering away on the stone face, percussionist Joe Perry was whacking an actual rock salvaged from there.

It’s an amazing distraction to have four live performers providing the sound and music to a film. You are focused on the moving image, but every now and then there’s no harm in glancing over at TCOLC to see Parkinson winding an old sewing machine handle for cogs and wheels turning on screen or catch Perry wring out some bubble wrap as a fire crackles and pops. It is no less magical to know what is making the noise.

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The brief Q&A that followed included first reactions from some of the filmmakers to hearing TCOLC’s scores. A very excited Andrei Sopon, whose animated short, Becoming, had premiered tonight, exclaimed: “I frickin loved it.” Adding: “I would love to work with people who can get the sounds out of my head.”

A special addition to the normal Making Tracks format was the young (13-19) graduates of the east London arts initiative CM Music Space Academy. They had taken part in film scoring workshops run by Whirlygig and TCOLC and these inspiring teenagers delighted with their live debut performance.

In an age where you can go online and view as many short films as you like, Making Tracks is a refreshing take on the shared experience of cinema.

The next Making Tracks will take place on April 12 at Rich Mix Cinema.

Full details at http://whirlygigcinema.com/

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