Creative thinking... With Jermaine Edwards

Whatever you create, how do you create it?

For the line of my work - cinematography - it starts as you get the script.  You read it and then you get ideas as you’re reading it. I would read it a few more times until I have all these ideas going around in my head. Then, I usually write them down and make notes on the actual script, I’d then discuss with the director, offer up my ideas and hopefully they’re good enough or in the same ballpark of what the director was thinking. If not, then you discuss it. It’s a whole collaborative thing where you have an idea and if it's right for the film you go with it. Even if it’s not you still discuss it with the other party and discuss why this particular idea isn’t 100% right for this project. It’s a lot of back and forth. I like to put together a little booklet or a document or folder of images that speak to me visually. 

Sometimes I’ll be reading something and I’ll have a clear view of how I would do it, but again that might be the wrong way. Other times I don't have any clue about how to see it and that’s interesting as well because you can sit with the director and ask them questions. Sometimes when you ask questions people get very defensive about answering them, and I’m not being facetious or combative when asking, it’s just because the ideas are in your head and I have to get into your head to understand what I need to do for the project. 


How do you develop those ideas? 

Let’s say I get a script about a coffee shop and the script is going into detail about how someone's making a cup of coffee, which to me is mundane but in the same breath this could be arty, right? When I see people making a cup of coffee in a film, I find that boring, but you can do other things, you don't have to focus on the actual cup or the actual coffee being made. You can make the steam coming off and the stuff happening in the background interesting. If I go down my cinematographer route on how to shoot it then I’m shooting myself in the foot because that might not be how the director wants it. If we don’t agree then we’ll debate it, and if you have a good director they will listen. However, you get some that don’t care. The same could be said for cinematography. I’ve struggled in the past especially at the National Film and Television School. That was one of the hardest projects for me because the director didn’t want to work with me and I didn’t want to work with him either. I had a lot of issues with the shoot and that’s not how I intend a shoot to be.


So, you mention going for a walk with your camera, would you do that between reads of scripts, almost as a cleanser?

No, because me going out with my camera is just a personal thing. It keeps my mind active and I have full control over it. In filmmaking, I don’t, because I’m not the director. Even the director doesn’t have full control. Going out and taking pictures and having the complete opposite of that is something just to keep me sane and help me figure things out and train my eye. It’s something I can escape to and it's mine. 


You mentioned that stuff jumps out at you, how does that manifest?

I have an Olympus Half Frame 10 which is a camera from the 1960s/70s and it gives me 72 pitches on the 36 X version roll of film, so I get double the amount. I'm always scanning and looking for something that interests me. I guess I have an affinity to visualise, and that's what it's all about. For example, looking at something and thinking oh that looks nice or no that doesn’t look nice. I have my camera, I see something ahead of me or behind me and I wait and take the picture or I make the picture and then I’m like that’s the one. I don’t know how or why I take pictures. It's just a feeling that something interesting is happening or going to happen.


I always find myself walking in a circle counterclockwise. What patterns of behaviour do you do around creative thinking?

For me it’s more trial and error. You might be coming up with it from scratch whereas I at least have to have a starting block, and even if it changes I'm not then just trying to pull it straight out of thin air. I have a starting point and I mould that into something. It can start with a rectangle and then develop into an octagon. 


On film sets there’s a lot of thinking on your feet. Do you approach it as an art or a science? 

This is interesting because I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Filmmaking is an art and it is a science because you have all this alchemy of turning electrons and photons into an image that you can ingest critically right? The way I design a light affects how you receive it as art or as an emotional problem. It’s similar to how if you drop a pebble into a body of water, you get concentric circles that overlap and interfere with each other. It’s the same with filmmaking. You have to understand the science behind it to a certain degree. I started as a fine artist and I love science, but it’s not for me. For me, it’s all about emotion, about being vulnerable when you're telling a story, and you don’t get that from science. Science is cold hard facts and art is asking a question. They both have similarities because science can tell you the answer to the questions that you don't expect and art can do the same thing. They’re the same and they’re different.


With the six hats generation technique, you have your science hat and then you put your artist hat on and you start looking at the emotions and the mood and tone. Do you notice that kind of demarcation happening?

No, I’m one person, and in my perspective I can’t separate my consciousness as what I do is focus on one problem at a time. I figure out one problem and then see what that affects, so if I tilt a light down or left or right or bring it up or down in elevation and it shows something I’m not happy with, I’ll go back to that start point and maybe change the blocking. If that doesn’t work I’ll discuss it with the director and suggest trying different angles, but you have to have figured that out before you go to the director. 

For me, I’ll try to fix one problem to the best of my ability and then there'll be another thing I can try to fix within the allocated time that I have. I might see something and then the third day, I would have changed and then that would have brought up something else that I don’t like or didn’t realise. We do the same thing, but from my perspective it’s the way that we go about it that’s more definitive.


Cheers Jermaine! Check out his website over here https://www.jermainedwards.com/

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