Film Poem – Research

For this brief we have to create a film to fit a poem of our choice. As well as the video, we must also find a single instrument to accompany it. The challenge in this brief is capturing high-quality sound, because up until this point we have been relying on the inbuilt microphones or sound effects found on the internet for our videos. For this one, we will be using a more sophisticated set up to record audio separately, using shotgun mics, XLR cables, recording devices etc. and this will allow us to practice sinking audio to video.

The interesting thing about film poetry is that it’s a fairly new concept yet already there are so many different ways to do it. The range of style is huge; some show the poet speaking, some overlay the poet’s voice with video clips, photographs, animation etc, and some show the words along with the speaking. Sometimes they are very simple, one shot, one take, while others can be very complex. The most important part and entire point of adding film to poetry is to enhance the words to give them a new life and greater meaning. Some videos do this better than others.

Kate Tempest is a talented spoken word artist and poet, and this is a video created for one of her pieces called Give. In my opinion, this video is not the best. Every bit of a video should have a positive effect on the words being spoken and elevate them up to new levels, because they are the main focus. The video should in no way detract from the poem and I feel like this one does, because the words flash by so quickly and in such a disorientating manner that not only do you not have enough time to read them, but you put so much effort into trying to keep up with the writing that you forget to listen to what she is actually saying. You can still get a sense of the passion in the speaking, but without the words, this emotion doesn’t mean anything. It would actually have been more effective if the words were up on the screen for longer and didn’t have any of the fancy transitions, because that way, the viewer would have time to read and absorb them without any distractions, and this would have allowed them to appreciate them more.

This film poem for Who He Is by Jon Jorgenson does have the complicated transitions similar to Give, but it has been done more carefully. Not every single word from the poem is present in the video, instead the important words have been picked out. Words like “peace”, “glory”, and “love” appear on their own and with their own relevant animation. This has a far greater impact, because the main aim of the poet was to explain to people the characteristics of God, so by only showing the most important words it has drawn all attention to them and it makes the message very clear. The words get more screen time so you are actually able to read them and making each word look unique causes them to stick in your mind. If you’re going to be doing a word video, this is a better way of doing it.

Another way people do film poems is to add video clips to the words, sometimes showing the speaker’s face and other times not. In this video for a spoken word called True Love, it’s clear they spent a lot of time editing this together. Unfortunately, i’m not sure if it payed off. The introduction to it is so long that the first time I watched this, I didn’t even make it to the poem, I moved on to another video while I was still in the opening sequence. As I’ve said before, the poetry is the most important part, and you’re allowed to be as creative as you want with the video, as long as it doesn’t overshadow the words. In this case, the extended intro and excessive cutting between cameras during the speaking acts as a major distraction, so the main message they were trying to get across is lost, which is a shame because the words themselves are well written. But all the unnecessary cuts and shots, mixed with the too-loud music, makes it difficult to sit through. They would have been better starting straight away from the speech, where he’s standing on the stage. This would have immediately put him in the spotlight and caused you to focus more on what he’s saying. Also, I think his words would have been more potent if there was only one camera and he was staring down the lens the whole time he was talking. By making this ‘eye contact’ between himself and the viewer, he would have created a much more intimate atmosphere, which would have caused people to listen more intently because they felt like the words were specifically targeted towards them.

A better example is this film poem for All the way by Charles Bukowski. Immediately, the speaker’s presence is made clear. His voice is deep and strong compared with the background music and so stands out. The imagery used fits well with the video, and gives a visual representation for the feeling of the poem.


The entire video has a filter on it to darken it, and the effect reminds me of what the world looks like early in the morning when the sun has just started to rise. It’s suggesting the day has only just begun and there’s still a lot of time left, much like how the poem is saying that we need to go all the way and right now is the beginning of that, our time has just begun. The images also manage to create a sense of isolation and suspense, focusing mostly on still open landscapes with little movement in them, as if the world is pausing, holding it’s breath and waiting for someone to get up and go all the way like the poem says to.

One final video I want to mention is this one called Embarrassed by Hollie McNish. It is probably not considered a film poem, because there is really no thought that has gone into the actual film, she is relying on her words and passion to get the message across. Nonetheless I think it highlights an important point about film poems. This spoken word deals with a very real and current issue that every mother breastfeeding her child can relate to, but this video isn’t targeted at the mothers, it’s meant for everyone else. It’s meant to bring to light that this is an actual issue that needs to be dealt with and shouldn’t stay hushed in society. She needs everyone to understand so she needs to get everyone to listen to her, and this video makes sure all the focus is directly on her.

embarrassed prt scrn

The background is black while she is illuminated by a bright light so as soon as you start watching you are forced to look at her, forced to watch her talk. The intent stare she holds with the camera makes it feel like she is talking directly to you and no one else, so you listen more carefully, because you feel victimised, like all her passion and anger is directed straight at you. Her voice is strong and sure, which makes the words feel like they deserve attention and make it easy to listen to. Like a Women by Annabelle Fern has the same style, but unfortunately the message isn’t as strong, because the actual speaker’s voice lacks rhythm and depth. The video by Hollie McNish shows that in terms of making the  poem/spoken word/rap as effective and impactful as possible, less is usually more. The less there is to distract you, the more you listen.

From my research, I have learned that if you use less complicated shots you are more likely to get people to listen to the words being spoken, both music and imagery should be subtle to highlight the poem rather than drown it out, and  don’t go so crazy with the editing that it’s impossible to watch, let the poem do most of the work.



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One Response to Film Poem – Research

  1. kendalcollegefilm says:

    This is brilliant, Kitty—very well done. You have explored filmpoems in breadth and depth, identifying the key techniques and styles. I’m extremely pleased that you’ve brought in a range of poems outside the set viewing, and that your analysis is becoming increasingly personal. This is the right combination of detached, rational analysis and individual, aesthetic evaluation, demonstrated with a good choice of clips and screenshots. Excellent work.


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