Grain, Seeds

35mm, 2013, 5 minutes

Thrusting your hand into a bin of grain is a unique and sublime experience. Freshly harvested, each seed pulsates with heat. Seemingly unremarkable, as they roll off your fingers their endless diversity becomes unmistakable. They are both product and nature, inert yet radiating with the potential for new life.

This film was made without a camera so that I could work hands on with wheat kernels, capturing the shadows of the grain directly onto the film grain. I created this over a series of years, exposing 8 feet of film at a time within a completely dark room. Sprinkling hard spring wheat onto the film and exposing it using either a flashlight or a photo flash was one primary strategy. I would also lay previously developed pieces of "grain" film atop raw film and expose it - the older film acting as a stencil onto the newer one. Repeating patterns of this nature, especially when altering the colours of light, gave some satisfying results. Each piece of 35mm film, some black and white and many on colour reversal stock, was hand processed in buckets in the darkroom at the University of Regina. Assistants who helped me on this project were Eric Hill and Erik Sirke.

Lacking any editing equipment except a 35mm splicer, I cut and then A/B rolled the project with a ruler. The soundtrack, meant to evoke a melancholy nostalgia for times when film and grain were king, was composed and performed by Erik Sirke.

This is my first 35mm film to go to a complete answer print stage with optical soundtrack. My timing could not have been worse. I managed to watch it once in Regina on film at the RPL film theatre in with a handful of friends and colleagues before that the projector was replaced by a digital version. A 2K transfer was made by Technicolor in Toronto.

It's creation is part of my ongoing exploration of the importance of living on the prairies. This "Grain" series of films is funded by the Canada Council.