An imagined history of here

SPRING/SUMMER 2023 ︎︎︎ An imagined history of here

Make Believe: an imagined history of here was a film screened as part of the Celebration Day at Modern Painters, New Decorators on 1 July 2023. The film was inspired by a series of family workshops hosted during June half term, where children were invited to imagine they were journalists working for a make-believe newspaper. Transcribed below is a conversation between Josie and Joshua about the project.

Josie: Make Believe is a project we’ve been working on for the last month, though the idea for it came way back in January, originally titled ‘Nostalgia in Technicolour’. The idea was to make a film about Loughborough and about the history of Loughborough, using how we see the past to imagine the future. After having all these conversations with the MPND team about hope, and imagining the future, and the concept of the ‘second naivety’, being less precious about what we make and trying to be more playful in what we do, we thought the idea of children taking a lead with making this film would be very interesting.

Joshua: Yeah, so we were looking at Loughborough's history as told by children. That was kind of the idea behind it, wasn't it?

Josie: Yeah, and asking children to think about where we live without prescribing the answers, which I guess is how we've been making at MPND this year so far; not thinking about outcomes or answers, which is quite hard to do as an adult - letting kids lead us, to show us how to imagine better.

Joshua: We were talking about time and experiences changing how you see things. Feeling as though you’ve, like, seen behind the curtain and missing a time when things seemed a bit more simple or easier to engage with. But you can't go back, and when you can't cross back into how you felt in the past or when things have lost their meaning, is there a way for them to become meaningful again?

Josie: Or can it lead you to, not innocence, but, like, another level of lightheartedness or hope or playfulness?

Joshua: We knew we wanted children's storytelling to be at the forefront of how we made this documentary. So we knew we had to gather some families together to do some storytelling. So we worked with Ursula to put on a couple of workshops in half term.

Josie: Workshops that weren’t about an outcome, but about an expression of, you know, the children being able to unlock their imaginations and share it with us. We took quite a while to decide how to run it and we settled on something quite simple, a little bit inspired, I guess, by The French Dispatch – getting the kids to design their own newspapers, to basically come up with a story and then design it just using other newspapers, to collage them and draw. We just had some questions that we asked them and it was quite interesting tearing apart the real newspapers, which themselves were very uninteresting and quite depressing to read, to make new headlines, and then to ask the kids about what stories they were writing.
Joshua: We didn't really know how we were going to turn the newspapers into a film until it came to the time of making it. And we didn't have time to think things through too much. We just had to kind of find some costumes and start acting them out.

Josie: Not having many hours to spend working on it and it being about where we lived, I think you were very keen to just get out and start filming stuff, like public theatre, rather than being overly ambitious or being a perfectionist about it and waiting for the budget or the perfect way to film something. And I think that's kind of what this culminated in, like lots of different kinds of weird, playful techniques that we've not tried before, which wouldn't have come from perfectionism.

Joshua: Some of the films we were watching around the time from the French New Wave resonated with us and we thought it might affect our processes when making.

Josie: It wasn't until about two weeks before the screening that we actually sat down and tried to storyboard what the film could be and we just ordered a bear costume off of Vinted and wrote a screenplay. We’d given the kids tickets at the workshop. Already set a time and place that the film would be screened.

Joshua: We've screened films before, but not really in a way where you get to actually sit with the audience and watch it together. We were keen for Make Believe to be almost like a cinema film. So we bought a big bag of popcorn and gave that out and some of the children bought their tickets with them to the screening.

Josie: I think a lot of the kids found it quite silly. They were giggling. A girl who'd been at the workshop with her dad, she looked so excited and she said, “I loved that”. She said she wanted to come back. It felt very nice and a nice atmosphere to have everyone clap and then carry on talking to each other and have like a gallery full of almost 50 people, who were a whole mix of ages, from toddlers up to elderly people. It was uplifting.

Joshua: Yeah, it was a good way of making something together and making something collaboratively, which is what we've been trying to do more of at the moment. We hope you enjoy watching it.

Words by Joshua Jones + Josie Jones

Words by Josie Jones