Sunday, June 10, 2012

Reading Canada Backwards

Now On YouTube

Reading Canada Backwards   ----------Technique: pixilation/ stop motion, shot:1995, Super-8 (black and white Tri-X)
The important thing about this film is that it is proportional to the landscape from Vancouver to Halifax, Canada. It's shot at a rate of 3 frames per mile and so one can compare the geography of the county.... the film as a map. The film is 12000 frames of film long. I shot 90 single frames of film, at 30mile intervals, for the length of the country (4000 miles, 6000kms) using the spacing of telephone poles to keep the film moving at a constant rate.

At the time Reading Canada Backwards was made, I had much experience riding freight trains, having crossed Canada many times, I started the trip with idea to see all the landscape of Canada during the day; the camera was only there to document. I thought it would be a challenge but never did I think it would prove nearly impossible. I had to catch a new train every morning, illegally in full daylight and get off before nightfall.

While shooting this super-8 film I carefully held the camera parallel with the train and level with the horizon with the help of a speed level strapped the the camera. I never looked through the viewer of the camera during shooting as I saw film making as a perversion of the real, in the moment experience of holding down a freight. Just to say that the film had life of it's own during this epic voyage across the country. There is no editing in this film.... all the frames are present.... only spliced together from 5 rolls. My idealism failed during the making of this and I was quickly drawn in by the project of completing the film and not by the project of witnessing the entire country. It took one month of shooting to complete. I was asked to leave railway property but was never arrested (on that trip.) I rode every summer for eleven years from 1990 to 2001 and have travelled more than 50,000 miles by freight train.

Sound: The original sound was blues guitar over looped rail road sound samples and was intended to calm the viewer while watching the hyper-kinetic and super-boring images, however, I think silence works better.

There were very important contributors to this project beyond who is mentioned in the film titles. I would like to thank:

Joelle Hann
Liaison of Independent Film Toronto (L.I.F.T.)
Deluxe Film Lab
The Ontario Arts Council
Greg Woodbury
Jet Fuel Coffee Shop
Jaxon McDade
The Edison Electric, Vancouver (Alex Mackenzie)
Vancouver International Film Festival (John Dippong)
Quartier Ephemere and (now) Fonderie Darling, Montreal
Festival du Nouveau Cinema, Montreal
The Kyber Art Centre, Halifax
   and the kind and generous Helen Hill, may she rest in peace.

I hope you enjoy the film on YouTube,

Steve Topping,
    .....on the 17th anniversary of beginning this film.