• Josh Leach

Memory Diving Films: Where did the idea come from?

Updated: Aug 29, 2019

In my 3rd year of University, we were given a brief to make a film based on a memory.

So I let my mind wander back, to before I was 5.

A memory from a nursery. Simple.

That night, I decided to test some animation techniques I had developed from Birmingham's 'Sellotape Cinema'. With using printer-scanner to print frames, scan and loop them.

I was listening to a 'What once was' by indie-pop-duo Her's (who have since tragically perished). Writing and scanning the 'script' as I went, the song influenced the rhyming.

While looking for techiniques to make the song distort, I found an effect called 'tone'. It replaced the soundtrack with 3 chilling frequencies. The film took on a sinister, serious feel. And a life of its own. (Lightning struck my laptop. "It's alive!" I screamed.)

The film was well-received by my tutors.

Retelling memories it seemed, has great storytelling potential. The music had given the story a new life, and different intonation. The real memory felt mundane to me. But the delivery of information was what made it dark and interesting.

A couple of weeks later I was lying down on a sofa, bothered by recurring memories of an Ex. In a sleepy haze, I breathed and remembered something else. I decided I would synchronise my breathing with the act of remembering: one breath per memory.

At first, I was just on a loop of those same memories.

But then I started remembering... new things. Things I'd forgotten I remembered, situations, people and images from wildly different ages and obscure points across my life.

What am I doing? I thought. I took another breath and closed my eyes. I was 'jumping' into the 'void' and resurfacing into the present moment. I later named it memory-diving.

As each memory came and went I began to feel much better. I believe this is because it made remembering into a mindful practice: conscious, deliberate and with curiosity.

You start to experience the physical-emotional sensation of remembering, without getting caught up in the subject matter.

I realised despite all these memories, in my daily life I was reliving some particular memories over and over again. And using that to create a story of 'who I am '. Being confronted with memories that didn't fit my 'life-narrative' was both perplexing and a relief.

It became part of my practice to go memory diving, write down whatever came up until I had a list. I would then choose which memories would become films.

I was particularly fascinated with how the 'musical language' was able to create new meaning from the subject matter tied down to words.

As someone who often feels conversationally awkward, it was liberating to play around with storytelling in this way. Without the constraint of my body language and voice.

I experimented with stitching unrelated memories together. Other people's memories or adding fictional elements to the story.

Although, I believe Memory Diving has other implications than being used to generate story or films. Theoretically, if you could choose which memories to focus on you could rewrite your story of self and change your behaviours and life trajectory, in a 'fake it till you make it' way. Much like acting.

Learn how to memory-dive.

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