Lambing: This is a film about a traditional Sussex shepherd who we follow from morning to night, through snow and wind, as he works alone with his flock. This was my first proper journey into filmmaking, and my subject was a person I had worked for and admired as a boy. We used an Arriflex camera with fixed lenses and occasionally resorted to a simple wind-up camera. No electricity was used for any lighting and all sound was wild.
The film is constructed from carefully edited moments in the shepherd’s routine work. His passing comments about how to deliver or feed lambs are our only guide. If the film has a climax, it is captured in the struggle of a ewe giving birth to its lamb. The film ends as the evening turns to night and the shepherd returns to his chair by a warm fire: he pulls a blanket over himself and quietly sings himself to sleep.
Big Ware: This is a record of the last pottery in England that made the everyday pots that households and businesses have used for centuries. The potter, Mr. George Curtis, remembers that, in his youth, he helped fill whole railway-goods carriages with earthenware pottery. Even as the film was being made, his orders included huge numbers of nesting bowls, made especially for the racing pigeons kept in lofts by the working people of Northern England.
The last man to be continuing the tradition, Mr. Curtis, digs his own clay, prepares it, throws it, fettles it and fires it in his kiln. His performances at the pottery wheel demonstrate powerful and extraordinary skills; George’s modest claim to fame is his throwing speed, which kept him in work throughout his life. His enthusiasm and knowledge are infectious, while the craft itself is fascinating. The film follows him while he talks us through the various tasks. Towards the end of the film, he taps the fired pots as they come out of the kiln: ‘You can always tell a good pot by the sound of it.’ All that he shows us rings true.
Texts by Philip Trevelyan
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