John Smith. The Girl Chewing Gum.

by florence cheval

John Smith, The Girl Chewing Gum, 1976

(…) I thought, “Okay, I’m going to film on a streetcorner, and I’ll use a 400 foot roll of film, and I’ll film what happens on the street, and then I’ll direct it later.” So that was the plan. I went and set up the camera, and there were a couple of things that were planned, like I deliberately set up in a place with a clock because I wanted to direct the hands of the clock. Also, it was great to film by a cinema, because the cinema appearing in the shot becomes a reference to this imaginary space that the audience are occupying. Just by coincidence – it doesn’t really figure in the film as you can’t see it clearly – the film that’s showing in the cinema is The Land that Time Forgot, which is great, really fortuitous. So anyway, I just filmed what was happening, and kind of improvised the camera movement, followed people sometimes, and directed things later. I filmed in a quite obstructive place in the street, and I was hoping that the police would come and stop me filming, so I could direct that, and that would be the end of the film, but of course they didn’t. Afterwards, I sat down with the film and worked out the instructions that I was going to give, and with a stopwatch worked out what I could fit in. I did go off to a field in the middle of nowhere, and shouted into a microphone a script I had written directing all those things, then came back, cut it on separate magnetic stock and fitted it in. The street sound that you hear is the sync sound of the street. There’s an alarm bell ringing throughout the film, which I found very annoying at the time, but I just had to shoot it then. I was doing the camera, and I had a friend who’d come with me to do the sound recording, and I thought “I’ve got to do it now.” So I had to make it a burglary, with a boy robbing the post office. So I fit all of those accidental things into the scenario, because I’m fascinated by accidents.
Excerpt from an interview with John Smith by Brian Frye, Millennium Film Journal No. 39/40 (Winter 2003).

This short film is currently on view at Le Bal, Paris.