Meredith, Jenni


Jenni Meredith
UK based video artist

  • artist biography
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    Interview: 10 questions

    1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background

    I left school quite early due to health problems, but after spending some time in hospital I was able to return to education and a place on an Arts Foundation course at Harrow Art College. From there I went on to study on a three year fine arts course at Hammersmith and Chelsea College.

    2. When, how and why started you filming?

    At college I made one short film in a short-lived film club. Someone stole the camera to trade for dope!
    Through The Pane in 1995 was my first video since leaving college and I decided to make it because I wanted a new medium of expression. I took my ideas around to a few organizations I though might help and finally found out about some Arts Council funding for disabled artists working in film and video. So I applied there and got the funding I needed. With plenty of advice from various friends and facilities houses, and a small, but in my eyes, wonderful budget, I set out on an adventure that one adviser told me was like climbing Everest with no shoes!

    This was the end of the 20th century and the money had to cover Beta cameramen, analogue to digital conversions and computers that could cope with all that rendering. I owned (and still do!) a second-hand Apple 1fx, which in its day was cutting edge. It had 20gb RAM and a 500mgb Hard Drive! Wow! I managed to create animated sequences on it. What I found hard to do was to save them! I ended up having to save every frame as a single pict file because there was just not enough RAM to render a Quicktime movie! Then I managed to borrow an exhibition Media 100 suite for a downtime weekend and I thought I had died and gone to computer heaven! Over that weekend I imported all my single frame series into the Media 100 software and rendered out as Quicktime movies. Then I took the actual computer to a facilities house where they hooked it up to their system to print to video for me! I even used an old NUBUS based video card for one section. That would print five frames to video tape, then spin to the end of the tape and print the last five frames, spin back and print the second five, spin again and print the second last five, and so on.

    The idea was that the hard drive would have time to catch up with its processing whilst the tape was spinning back and forth. It guaranteed no dropped frames! Of course it stretched the tapes and wore out the video heads fast. But it was an ingenious work around for the slow hard drives of the day.

    3.What kind of subjects do your films have?

    There are two main strands in my video work; the first, experimental art videos, which are usually based on poetry, (my videos such as ‘Through The Pane’, ‘Shifting Shadows’, ‘When The Tides Cross’ and ‘Data Dance’), and the second, mostly humorous narrative, which sometimes also use poems, such as ‘Popcorn Pete’. These are cartoon animations and are made in collaboration with my husband, Tony Meredith. The animated works are titles like, ‘Taken Out For Lunch’, ‘Trashing Paradise’, ‘Opera Pop’, ‘Opera Honey’ and ‘I Were Torn Between The Parrot And The Armadillo’

    4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?

    No we get the story first or there is a need to express a certain poem in a new way so it comes from that; for example, the ‘Tip Teds’ has characters but we are working on a story for them to tell then they can go. Until then they are stuck with being little scenes on the Hard Drive. But Opera Pop and Opera Honey developed from a small piece I read that became a story and, once worked out that was it.

    Similarly, ‘I Were Torn Between The Parrot And The Armadillo’ was an idea Tony had, but also grew from an article I read that led to discussions on the theme and then a story and dialogue evolved that followed but parodied the article.

    Then the experimental videos usually start with a poem or a group of poems. And Data Dance grew from an idea to Richard Burns’ music and some visual metaphors I animated and videod. Then I edited the visual sequences to Richard’s soundtrack.

    5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.

    I use Apple Mac computers and as I said I started out with a 11fx for our first video. We made subsequent videos on an 8500 Power PC and moved on to a G4. Currently I am using a dual chip G4 and it is very fast. I have a Yamaha Soundcard in the old G4, which I use with Cubase to make the music. And Richard often adds audio processing at his studios in Yorkshire.

    I have been using Premiere to edit, but will switch to Final Cut for our unedited works. And to shoot we have a prosumer Sony 3 chip Mini DV camera that is about six years old and with the next funding input we hope we can replace that and our early Canon Pro 90 still camera. Canon has a much faster, higher res camera out now for less money!

    6. What are the chances of new media for the genre film/video in general?

    The opportunities to use new media in film video seem to be growing all the time as effects are now a part of the narrative and not ‘in your face’. It seems mew media has matured in film and video from early applications where directors seemed to want to show off that they had this or that effect to movies where you might not even notice a digital effect has been used.

    Back to the Future is a good example of special effects being an essential part of the narrative. And although you know the flying skateboard is an effect, you accept it as a futuristic gadget so you are thinking about how life will be in the future and not ‘How did the FX guys do that scene?’

    But new media is used in advertising so much now that it’s in the commercial breaks you have to look for a preview of the latest filters and 3D effects. And new media makes video accessible to us all. With desktop editing and a plethora of effects, wipes, filters and transitions available to anyone with a half decent computer, ideas can generate faster


    And what are the chances to you Personally?

    For me digital media advances have opened huge possibilities for self-expression. And for sharing works too with websites such as MySpace and You tube.

    Now specs are higher and prices lower some really powerful kit is within reach for most people.

    7. How do you finance your films?

    We mostly self-fund our films but have had Arts Council funding on a couple of occasions, and a few small cheques from TV.

    8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team?

    I usually work as part of a team with Tony, my husband, and often Richard Burns. Then if we need to and can afford it we buy in certain facilities such as duping and so on. Sometimes I will need to buy in technical help too such as for DVD mastering, which is something I can do here in-house, but have not got to grips with properly yet. Tony and I usually work out the storyline together and he storyboards and animates. Then I edit and add sound and music and Richard comes in to help with the audio processing and mixing.

    With Data Dance, though I had the idea and developed it in discussion with Richard who then created the music. Then I animated and edited to the soundtrack.

    If you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?

    I like to work on my own when creating poetry videos, but teamwork is good for developing ideas and it sharpens the critical too. I often find that working in a team is more relaxing because in your own you can sometimes inadvertently open the floodgates to doubt and angst. And there is nobody there to help close them again. When you’re in a team that can’t happen as you all have your bit to do and you each depend on the others. When it’s the right team ideas flow faster and he end result is usually better because you all criticise carefully and honestly as you work.

    9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?

    I suppose the poets that influence my writing must have an effect indirectly on the videos that come out of my poems. And certainly reading has its influence on storytelling as well as non-narrative content. But visually I think I am influenced by diverse sources such as Yellow Submarine, advertising art, Sixities Psychadelia, album cover art, children’s book illustrators such as Arthur Rackham, Charles Robinson, the fluid Art Nouveau crafts artists, Dali, Picasso, Munch and frequent trips to the Tate as a teenager.

    10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?

    For the future I just want to make more short videos. I don’t have any ambition to make a feature length movie because I don’t think I will have time in his life to fully explore the possibilities of storytelling in a couple of minutes. In a way this compression or distilling of ideas is very much akin to poetry. And it is where I feel happiest, though I do sometimes watch large budget feature films and envy the ability those Directors have to pull all that together.

    Maybe, I dream of making a short that is breathtakingly beautiful.
    I do have ambitions too for us to create a cartoon or series with characters that become cult. It would be cool to have your characters’ catch phrases quoted by kids in bus queues, or their philosophies cited by barristers or politicians…

  • Can works of yours viewed online besides on VideoChannel?
  • There are a few places online that I have work. These include my website at:
    http://www.wordsart.co.uk, which is a virtual gallery for some of my digital art including Flash animated poems as well as videos and sound poems in .mov and MP3 format. These can be downloaded at the site. Also at http://www.myspace.com/wordsart you can hear four of my sound poems as streaming MP3 files. They are downloadable too, but I can’t make the download button work there!!
    And at http://www.myspace.com/jennimeredith I have uploaded some videos. They stream at Myspace, which is faster than the download files at wordsart.co.uk.

    Then at http://www.myspace.com/snowtrax I have a couple more videos uploaded that can be viewed more easily than on my site as they stream.

    And at http://www.great-escapes.com/wordsart/transmutations
    You can find Transmutations, an interactive web art piece. This is also at

    http://www.ndaf.org/transmutations

    At http://showcase.commedia.org.uk/article/search/

    Type in Meredith and you will find three of my videos on a streaming server; Through The Pane, Shifting Shadows and The Chapeau Roan plus a link to Transmutations.

    http://showcase.commedia.org.uk/article/articleview/290/1/11/
    is the direct url for Through the Pane

    http://showcase.commedia.org.uk/article/articleview/312/1/1/
    is the direct url for The Chapeau Roan

    http://showcase.commedia.org.uk/article/articleview/403/1/1/
    is the direct url for Shifting Shadows