The Hip Hop performance section was shot very late. The spoken word even later. Immediately after the dance shoot, Kay’s life took a dramatic turn for the worse. Although I am not at liberty to discuss in detail, in short, relations with his family and the majorette organisation had reached boiling point. Kay found himself staying with friends and no longer part of the organisation. Despite this Kay was still very enthusiastic about the project and followed through on his commitment to come and record and film the Hip Hop and spoken word segments.
It was early April when I brought Kay back with me after a short trip to Devon. His spirits were low and he was far from his usual self. Kay had started writing the hip hop lyrics with me on his last visit and we intended to finalise during this one. Understandably, he hadn’t been able to find the time or emotional energy to do so to date. As Kay was without a home in Devon, I offered him the spare room at my house beyond the period he was due to stay for. Having his own space and being left to his own devices is something Kay seems to require.
I had written a narration ‘script’ which was an edited version of the interview transcript. I went over the transcript and highlighted anything that was of specific relevance to our story and approach or that could reference the images we had captured (Swing, Roundabout, Eye etc). From this split them into the relevant sections of the film by numbering them 1, 2 or 3. With this I rewrote a script for Kay to narrate in the recording studio. 90% of it were his own words, the rest paraphrasing. Kay’s demeanour was pretty downbeat at the time of recording and, strangely, this helped the final product. Now, for the edit, we had the same words delivered in two different tones/styles – allowing us wriggle room.
That evening we had to finalise the hip hop lyrics. I had already started long before in preparation and showed some examples to Kay but he was struggling to get motivated. His creative juices weren’t particularly flowing and it got pretty desperate. By 10:30pm , I contacted Emily and said that we’ d have to cancel. There was no way that Kay could write anything now or perform it well enough tomorrow. Just as we were about to give up, we had a brain wave and some lyrics came out that seemed perfect. Kay was uplifted at the progress and said that he wanted to give them a crack tomorrow.
We recorded Kay’s performance in Pete’s studio. We definitely felt that as it was acting as a form of narration, that the audience should remain the camera and there should be a personal element to the performance – as is the case with the empty arena for the dance sequence. We chose tight frames and quick cuts to keep visual interest but without the flamboyance to detract from the lyrics. Kay found it hard initially to grasp the flow of the lyrics but eventually found a groove. Somehow, we had snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat. Only hours earlier we considered canceling the shoot and, perhaps, the segment also. As it turns out, the segment is one of the strongest of the film. The lyrics are easily identifiable as amateur – as is the deliverance – but this was intended.
At the rough cut screening we didn’t actually have in place the spoken word performance. Although we had gotten positive feedback for the film in its current state, we were wary of being complacent and that an inferior first segment could affect the film. We were unsure of how to film the performance and were deliberating over either having Kay actually perform to an audience at an open mic night or, recreate a club type setting using an empty bar or the facilities at uni. In the end, we decided to keep it in line with the rest of the film and have no audience but the viewer. Using G231, we hired a set of DEDO lights and a camera set up and, similar to the projector shot, had Kay enter the light off camera and record his silhouette on the white backdrop. This would appear in the film before the projector shot at the end of the first segment so would set up a nice theme and style that would be returned to later. Further to this, it is the first time in the film that the audience gets any visual clue of how Kay currently looks without a full reveal.
In terms of content, it was thematically awkward to have Kay perform this segment AS the person he was at the point in question -as is the case with the Hip -Hop and dance. No 5 year old can write spoken word poetry and for him to write in the midst of a 5 year old would be incredibly strange. Another option would have been for him to read A diary that he might have kept at that time but this was also unrealistic, not to mention the fact that we didn’t have it. Kay mentions regularly his identification with the Jungle Book so I started to research the copyright laws. As it turns out, the original version by Rudyard Kipling in in the public domain and fee to be used. Even better, preceding each chapter was a short poem. I ran this past James and he was enthusiastic about the idea. It all felt perfectly rounded by this point. Not only did it take away the pressure we’d had with the Hip Hop segment, it was also personal to Kay, widely recognised, professional, free and most importantly, stylistically and thematically relevant.
Kay departed in better spirits and Emily and I had officially finished shooting. The film was done!