The Weight of Our Travels came to be after a period of reflection in late 2015. The years I’d lived through and the memories I had attained had built up a metaphorical weight in my mind. I was beginning to process events that had taken place during this time, deep love and loss as people passed through my life.
My thoughts turned to my grandmother and her many experiences, which led me to think
– if I felt a weight after 28 years, how must she feel after 75?
This brought to life an image of a character carrying a large sack of possessions through a barren landscape, struggling with the burden of their past- the character of Athena. At this time I immediately began to take this character to develop the narrative themes of what would become The Weight of Our Travels.
The story would focus on the internal conflict of Athena, questioning why the need to hold on so tight to her collection of memories when they will only dissapear at the end of her journey. A chance encounter with a stranger begins to shift her perception and as the story unfolds, Athena gains clarity into the importance of her struggle. At this stage I felt the treatment, though progressing, lacked urgency.
Having spent many years working as a care assistant to people suffering dementia, I questioned what becomes of us when we lose those experiences that defined us. This led to the creation of the antagonists ‘the forgotten’. People who no longer have possesions and hunt those who still have. They hunt Athena throughout the film, wanting to take apart her carrier (her memories) as she seeks to pass them on before it’s too late.
Throughout 2016 I worked on expanding the screenplay as I saved towards the budget for the film. Characters were introduced and many ideas added, though ultimately, I chose to focus on one core theme throughout this film. In January 2017, a final draft was concluded focusing entirely on Athena, her memories, the forgotten and the stranger she meets.
After a period of months I had developed a treatment that would outline the first draft of the story. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s ‘The Little Prince’ was highly influencial in shaping the film. I aimed to capture the essence of a children’s story, with a simple core theme exploring memory and loss.
I chose to shoot the film on the fells not far from where I was raised. The ruggedness of the landscape felt allegorical to the character of Athena; an individual the end of her life, worn both physically and mentally by time. Athena’s carrier, a visual representation of her collection of memories, was imagined as a large hessian sack that brought back memories of farm life as a child. Artist Tan Napat Kositipat had worked on the first set of illustrations for the film to use to pitch the idea effectively to interested parties.
Not long after we began advertising the roles, we discovered performance artist Mandy Roberts and reached out to her. Mandy came from a contemporary arts background and immediately connected with the character Athena. I believed the physicality she put into her work would lend itself well to what was required for the role. We met to speak about the project soon after, discussing the mind of Athena and personal accounts we could both find relatable to her psyche. The next day Mandy was cast.
Production began for five days starting on the 16th October. As with many short films there were complications, especially shooting in such remote locations with limited time. Even with a comprehensive shot list, we still wouldn’t be able to make the full picture. The decision was made to sacrifice the stranger’s subplot and instead bring Athena further into the forefront for the short adaptation. Having such a wonderful cast and crew enabled us to persevere and complete the film within budget.
The initial edit began not long after production had concluded. James and myself trawled through all the footage available and began to play with the footage. Initially we weren’t looking to piece together narrative structure, but instead find moving images that would emotionally heighten the story for when the first rough cut began.
As the cut began to progress so the story evolved. It was decided that there was potential to explore Athena’s younger life a little further and In January of 2018 James, Alan and myself filmed pickups to complete the visual information needed to lock the cut.
In March James and myself spent three days recording sound that would become essential to the film. We experimented a lot in order to find certain sounds we needed. One example being slowly tapping my cars roof in order to capture the footsteps before the forgotten approach.
Musician Stephen James Buckley was brought on to score the picture. Having worked on Home Video (2017) together, I was extremely confident we would be able to create a score both emotional yet filled with dread and isolation. I first began by working with viola player Jessica Baldwin to adapt the melodies I’d written for the film. Recording took place over a day, then the recordings were immediately sent to Stephen to work on. Over the next two months ideas were sent back and forth as we would develop the soundtrack. Stephen brought many fantastic tracks to the film in this period, slicing and rearranging the original recordings. The final score was delivered as the visual edit came to an end.
The final cut was locked in July 2018. The footage was sent over to Mark Stokes (The Bearded Editor) to be graded, then onto Rob Foster for a final sound mix. Over the next few months I would be able to work with both when possible in order to get the film looking and sounding as good as possible. Finally in January 2019 the picture was locked and ready for the festival circuit.