Steven Ball
Marie Craven
Solrun Hoaas
Daryl Dellora

Melbourne independent filmmakers

Leo Berkeley
Giorgio Mangiamele
Michael Buckley
Moira Joseph

Michael Buckley


Gesture Projects
2003 - 2020


Michael Buckley 2008

'Gesture rather than image is the cinematic element' Giorgio Agamben

Are gestures are a key to the cultural codes and sensibilities of a community.

What is a gesture? The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines it as "a significant movement of limb and body" or "use of such movements as expression of feeling or rhetorical device".

In 2003 I received a fellowship from the Australia Council to research the use of gesture in different communities. Audio Visual material for this project was initially gathered in India, Ireland and Australia.

I was particularly interested in how gestures are used within different cultural settings, in urban and rural environments across the three countries involved.

In November December, 2004, I exhibited Gesture - Arriving, Engaging, Departing, at the Charles Sturt University Gallery in Wagga Wagga. This was series of short film and interactive works projected on a number of screens in the gallery. These installations used multiple screens that in part echoed and highlighted gestural moments in a new context. I was able in some cases to repeat, loop, amplify and highlight gestural pre movement, movement and post movement. I explored how open - ended narrative readings can be engendered through moments of gestural placement of un-connected individuals in a multi screen environment.

The Kinetic Micro scope - New methods for gathering kinetic media.

Part One - The Kinetic Micro scope - How it Works

1.Black Cloth

Through a simple screen innovation I developed in 2003 using a large black cloth behind a subject I have primarily altered how I work with individuals on film shoots.

From an interview with Sue McCauley 2007

MB It's a whole production process which has developed in the last five years. Before that I was heavily involved in digital media, basically animation and stills and I hadn't done any kind of live action footage for a while. I've got this whole new production process which has evolved out of Screens & Screams and Hairy Tales with a black cloth.

It was developed because schoolrooms are so ugly to have as backdrops, they're cluttered, they're kind of like classic archetypes, which have bad memories for some people. You can just stick up a huge, black cloth in a classroom and it gets rid of the background. You have human beings, bodies in front of the black cloth using gestural mannerisms and then you can key them in with drawn images and it keys out the black cloth. It is an incredibly simply production process which works well.

2. New technologies

The Kinetic Micro scope (The digital video camera)

There has also been a real shift in my production processes and way of making work, through new technologies that have come into play with personal computer. I have used digital video camera's since 1996. However editing of digital video footage was complicated as you had to have access to high end computers with graphics cards to edit full screen video's.

In 2001 Mac computers introduced 'I Movie' into all personal computers, which made the process of full screen digitizing of video footage into home computers possible. The other great technological leap was the introduction of DVD for out putting films from personal computers. No long is it the domain of a skilled few in video production using expensive equipment. Practitioners at home can now make multi layered complex video productions.

Sue McCauley's interview.

MB In the past film productions were involved in making a linear narrative, documentary or drama piece for a target, usually television. Because I've done a lot of interactive work and its a new way of constructing screen-based material which wasn't around 10 years ago. . It changes the whole process of making the stuff. With digital media coming in the mid '90s, more specifically it really came in with video production since about 2001, when Mac's really simplified using I-movie. The process of getting video footage in and out of the computer before, say, 2000 was quite difficult and you had to go to more expensive, computers and labs to do it. You can do it all at home now, and it's opened up new production processes. It's changed the production process and people use a lot more collage, montage, stills, images, animations, and effects in their visual material than they used before 2000.

MB There was some stuff around always before then, but there's a technical thing that's shifted since the new millennium that's made the production process different too. The digital video cameras have been in since '96. I was one of the first people to use digital video cameras in these community situations, in low light situations. You didn't need a big production team. You can get away with murder and still get reasonably good results. Whereas, pre-video, film would cost thousands and there was a whole, huge production process. There was a real need to follow industry processes. This has really shifted because of technical developments, so there's simpler, cheaper ways to make stuff now. It's not aimed at television. There are other ways to now make interesting community-based work or personal works, with kinetic practitioners developing new screening spaces for their work.'

3. Working in a new creative team environment.

There has been a change in my working environment through a new definition of roles that has opened up new ways of developing and making material for media productions I work on. The film production process of the 20th century with a hierarchy of Producer and director etc is no longer that useful or relevant for the way in which I work. I now tend to work as a member of a community team where participants have a hands on involvement and creative input into the work produced.

MB In film production it's basically the director who was the creative person who had the vision and steered the group of people who went out and filmed stuff. I always found it really unsatisfactory when I got Australian Film Commission grants and I was dealing with producers. They seemed to be a role that the funding body had to have, to give over $100,000. They wanted a producer to be the link person that made sure the production was going ahead and the director wasn't going off the rails. I never saw them. As a director, I never felt producers were particularly useful.'

4. Spontaneity, improvisation and intuition

Through working in a new kind of team environment with groups such as stART on collective community based projects, I have been able to for ground my interests in gesture and its importance to screen based work. This new working environment has loosened up approaches to issues of narrative and content collection.

MB It's a spontaneous sort of process that's intuitive. I use that word because I know roughly what we've going to get with the mechanics of videoing because I've done so much of it. We can work on the fly very quickly and adapt to situations. It involves not using lip-sync or as little lip-sync as possible. It's the more playful, gestural mannerisms that are not mimicking, that I go for. Children use their bodies and their faces to develop spontaneous, delightful short video sequences. . I'm interested in the filming process that evolves out of simple narrative constructs, rather than complex ones. It's a deconstruction of narrative, of core elements that you can play with later on. I'm interested to try and be as spontaneous as possible with the talent in front of us, so that material's not overworked. I have to respond in a spontaneous, intuitive way to deal with it. I try to invent an editing construct later on. When I am filming there's constantly a dialogue in my head about, what am I doing with this material, what am I doing with this person in front of me? How can I present them in a positive manner and develop rich material with them. It's not out of them, but with them.

It's a dual thing where they have to feel comfortable with me holding a camera. Usually there's been a warming up process with kids, that gets them enthused, and there's a natural energy and flow. I like to use those terms, energy and flow, because it involves spontaneity and creative sparks that results in really great performances from children. We've been successful with this because it's not belabored and tied into kind of complex narrative, and in pre-production processes that lock you down in stuff and lacks spontaneity.

MB You need to have a an overview of what you want to get in filming situations, but you don't want to totally plan and construct everything beforehand. It's good to have this looseness with dealing in the immediate situation and we can actually pump out lots of material with two or three filming sessions now, with children in the various projects we've done because we have a team process that we have developed. It's partly knowledge from the tasks we know. We know that we potentially can pull it off and make a successful project because of long experience together but there's spontaneity in there.

MB Spontaneity and improvisation are fundamental to my current filmmaking practice. I've made works with adults now, people with intellectual disabilities, where I had no script or content to start with and made this great little film that evolved out of people's experiences of being incarcerated. There's something about being in the space in the present where the filmmaker and the person being filmed has an interaction. I knew these people for a long time, so I was able to get it. It's about trust, first, and there's an empathy between the camera operator and the performer that is fundamental. That's improvisation and spontaneity.

Intuition is seeing the space, the situation, the historical development of why we're all there, what the purpose is, which sits underneath intuition. Actually, what intuition is related to is the historical reading of the situation that you know is going to work but the reason is not really clear. You don't kind of construct it formally. In your mind you don't tick little boxes off to make an intuitive decision but, as a filmmaking practitioner, intuition is an important element in sizing up the moment, and the situation to get material. You constantly use intuition in filmmaking practices because you know before filming, and then editing, that these things will work. It's not a psychic thing, definitely not psychic. Intuition is an unconscious thing that you develop over a long time. It's gone into your unconscious and you just feel this is the right moment.

I love the anarchy of the filming situation that produces surprising results which you couldn't get if you tried to sit kids down carefully and, you know, spend a few weeks massaging something. It's improvisation at its most spectacular. . There's this process going on where I'm filming and analyzing and going, wow, it's astonishing. I'm looking for astonishing moments as the rich material to edit and put into the film. It definitely was an art workshop production. It really opened up my filmmaking eyes to tired old habits and standards of filmmaking I'd developed over 25 or 30 years. It was a refreshing way to be in the continual present, in the filmmaking process rather than pre-planning overtly all the time.

5. Community Art Practitioner

What is the relationship between my personal creative practice as a filmmaker (experimental?) and my community based practice. What are the linkages or leakages between the two, and how dose one influences the other?

MB:I get real sparks of inspirational things and my media skills get enhanced continually by working in a community, collaborative environment. And I feel I participate and I get a lot of satisfaction out of it. I actually think it's really hard to be a practicing artist, the older you get. You've got to have a lot of faith in yourself, which I haven't got. But I have it in a community artist sense. You know, if I want to call myself a community artist, I definitely work really well in that environment.

Community art influences my own practice. My practice has kind of devolved a bit over the last seven years, since the new millennium. Maybe it needs to be reignited. I still learn new skills. I learnt heaps of stuff from my community art practice over the last few years. It's also because of the new technology changes, how you make and construct things and the speed of things. For instance, I've left interactive media, I've moved back into linear, time-based media, rather than interactive media. It constantly evolves and changes.

Part Two - Attempting to define Gesture?

'Untitled' 2min 2004

Conscious and unconscious gestures are the main focus of this short seminal work and how they can be read by a viewer. As individuals have been filmed out of context to each other, a connecting factor is the choreographic selection process I employ to link this work together. Strange 'narrative interpretations' develop for some patient viewers in watching this work.

Sue McCauley's interview.

I really like looking for gestural moments, what's unique coming out of this human being that's not wooden and stilted, that's alive. There's kind of animation of spirit. I use these terms in a child or an adult that gives it realness, the authenticity of the moment. So, there's this process going on where I'm filming and analyzing and going, wow, it's astonishing. I'm looking for astonishing moments as the rich material to edit and put into the film.

I've done lots of editing I know what's happening in front of the camera, whether it's going to work or not and I have these boundaries now, where I try to do as little lip-sync work as possible. Sync sound is a death knell of a lot of filmmaking practice for me, because it becomes wooden. Kids have television that they refer to mentally in performative aspects, and with speech and that destroys the spirit, or the sense of who they are as a person. So, I tend to use as little sync sound as possible when working on children's projects.

I'm continuing to analyze this space, of what erupts from a human being in terms of gestural moments, it's not premeditated. There's something that comes out of humans that is really interesting to watch visually in a square box of a screen that's good to try and capture.


Screen-based community media productions have traditionally relied upon storytelling and linear narrative structures to present an argument or to inform viewers about an issue through the documentary media form. However, new multi media practices can offer alternative structures and conceptual frameworks for richer information and knowledge transfer.

The modern video/movie camera is a kind of kinetic microscope that highlights conscious and unconscious gestures in human beings in a unique way. However when tied to narrative conventions gesture seems to be sublimated into a screen narrative. Gesture is often an unrecognised part of screen communication, the underside of the relationship, 'the poor cousin' whose presence is 'felt' but not recognized. Why is this?

Has our interest in human gestural screen images through both television and cinema, influenced how we react to situations with our own body language? How much is gesture 'taught' and how much is gesture 'innate'?

My kinetic visual work try's to highlight the vitality of gesture, which adds identity and idiosyncratic expressions of the 'moment' to an individual's screen presence. It has a major role to play in my screen communication. I try too investigate the relationship between gestural mannerisms/ movements and emotional states in a screen environment.

In screen-based works gesture is often the 'glue' or the 'cement' that defines the state of communication between subject and viewer. Since 2003 my 'kinetic essays' look at how gestures are revealed both consciously and unconsciously by an individual in a screen environment. I constantly battle with this key idea in my work : How does gesture mediate communication between the perceived and the perceiver?

Media Manipulator

Now in 2008 I try to no longer use the 20th century term, 'Filmmaker' but instead lean towards the term 'Media Manipulator' to define my work. The sinister undertone of 'manipulator' highlights the varied problems inherent in filmmaking for me. I think I no longer make films, I think I make visual essays (a middle aged man re-birthing, he he!).

I have been published in three issues of 'The Falling Upart Journal' (available upon request)

Issue 3, 'What I Ate' 2000. Book and CD Rom 'The Good Cook', is a record of all the food I ate on a trip to the Consciousness Reframed Conference in Wale's in 1998.

Issue 4, 'Feeble Fables and Fairy Tales' 2006. Book and DVD (Read this extract) is a collection of films an fairy tales from various trips overseas.

Issue5, 'Owl' 2007. Book and DVD. A record of a trip to India in 2006/7 (with my son), in a hunt for elusive owls.

Check out for information about current books I have published with stART. stART is an independent organisation for artists and artsworkers committed to promoting and supporting the development of both participatory community arts and community development projects.

































































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Melbourne independent filmmakers is compiled by Bill Mousoulis