‘Speed’ dir. Jessica Bishopp

Speed looks at what happens when something is removed, how time changes after the incident, how you can see/measure this change.

Director: Jessica Bishopp


C8: The film uses photographs of your family from the 1960s and 70s. Where did the idea for the documentary short come from?

JB: Speed was the starting point, I was looking into the perception of time and how it can change with age and with mental state. ‘Speed’ opens a dialogue, it does not educate or provoke you in similar ways to a traditional documentary; it exposes the everyday and people’s inner thoughts on an intimate subject you might not normally discuss. I like the idea of telling everyday stories but in a way that is not normally seen; giving you another perspective.

I began looking at what happens when something is removed (object or person), how time changes after the incident, how you can see/measure this change. I moved on to look at the speed of recovery after an incident. I conducted interviews/discussions with close family and friends about recovery and its speed; they talk about recovering from severe illness, the death of a loved one and the loss of friendships.

C8: How did you initially feel about putting a personal project out for the world to see?

JB: It was precious and I took feedback personally, but it was also a great feeling to care about a project that deeply. I felt I had to make the film in a particular way and also make it just right in order to make it at all. I did not want to make and share a personal project I was not happy with.  As the film is all about clearing out my Grandad’s house after he died, I think it may have acted like therapy. I got to ask questions and get answers that might have otherwise been left unsaid. The camera also removes you from a situation and allows you to view it with a different perspective.

C8: What has the reaction to the film been like?

JB: As it is such a personal project I was lucky that I received good feedback. People liked the nostalgic images contrasted against the mysterious empty photographs. A lot of feedback surrounded the absence of synced sound with visuals, I’ve made films since where people get angry if they don’t know the person in the interview, but people seemed happy to accept ‘Speed’ with no individual faces. ‘Speed’ is an emotional abstract investigation into the everyday and people enjoyed watching it, it made them think about things they did not normally consider.

C8: ‘Speed’ has an unconventional aesthetic style for a documentary. How did you develop this?

JB: The split screen emphasizes the sense of detachment from time and speed when you are recovering. This is a personal response, the photographs on the left are a collection of slides from the 1960s and 70s (of family and friends) which I found whilst clearing out my Grandad’s house, the photographs on the right are of my Grandad’s house being cleared out.

How to portray the passing of time and what role speed plays in our lives were questions I attempted to answer throughout the filmmaking process. I focused on the missing; people, objects, and the feeling of speed and time being suspended and disjointed, however the physical clues to time moving on are still there e.g. a build up of dust, indents on carpets from heavy furniture. During clearing out my Grandad’s house a year after his death I found a box of old slides, I liked the tactile feel of the slides and the fact that they can be interacted with in different ways; intimate and small, yet when projected their feel and what they inspire changes. Using slide film I photographed the process of clearing out Grandad’s wardrobe. I documented the small things, the details showing time had passed, even though the house appeared exactly as it was after his death; it is the small things that punctuate the days.

C8: Who did you interview and how long did each of the interviews last?

JB: They’re all family members, from my Mum and Dad, to Grandparents and my cousin. They’re all talking about a different subject, a particular incident(s) where they noticed the speed of recovery or lack of speed and change. I talked with them all before the interview and then each interview was roughly 30 minutes to an hour.

C8: What interview tips would you give emerging documentary filmmakers?

JB: The main thing I learnt is not to contrive the questions too much and be flexible, have a casual conversation and respond directly to the person you are speaking to and let your questions reflect their mood and behaviour. Start with your least important questions, and work up to your main questions that you really need answered. It depends a lot on what sort of interview you want to conduct. I like to make my interviewees feel comfortable and relaxed, but some directors put their interviewees deliberately on edge to get a certain response.

C8: What did you learn by shooting ‘Speed’ that you have or hope to implement into your future films?

JB: I learnt a lot in the editing process. I enjoyed learning how to construct a lyrical conversation between multiple interviews. The absence of synced sound with visuals and no talking heads interviews allowed me the freedom to deconstruct and reconstruct the interviews and I enjoyed this process.

C8: What had you done in your career up to this point and what have you done since?

JB: ‘Speed’ is one of my oldest films. I think it might even be the first film that made me realise that I wanted to work more with film. Speed made me realise that film could be more than what I saw in the cinema. There were so many different styles of cinema that I could experiment with. Since ‘Speed’ I have made more short documentaries, however ‘Speed’ still remains one of the more experimental films, perhaps this is because I had no formal film education when I made it; I was a graphic designer experimenting with film.

C8: What is the essence of a good collaboration?

JB: Mutual respect and good communication. It sounds simple, but it is not always so simple in practice.