FILM – Straw in the Wind by James Callow

Straw in the Wind was produced as part of the UK Film Council’s “Digital Shorts” production scheme.



Producers: UK Film Council / South West Screen

Writer & Director: James Callow

Man harassed by Chair: David Hargreaves

Cinematography: Terry Flaxton

Sound: Paul Baker

Editor: Luke Wiles

Producer Mark Parry

Executive Producers Caroline Cooper Charles, Sarah Jane Meredith

Funded by UK Film Council, South West Screen


Director’s Statement:


My interest in photography drew me to film, but to a film driven primarily by painting, (rather than narrative). I would like to make films that capture the quality of time and place the way the painter Turner did. For me, time, place and landscape are strong characters that should not be left voiceless.

At the time this film was made, I applied the notion of painting to the image, both in front of the camera (smearing the lens and such like) and in color grading. Curiously, now that film images are ostensibly heavily color-manipulated in post production, I am increasingly thrilled by those moments when the specific light of real time and place invade the image rather than those that are heavily doctored to conform to the representational codes of genre. In my current academic research I account for, measure, and articulate the moments of the “local,” the way the light falls on the world at a certain time and place, amid the “global,” a kind of hegemony of light and shadow.


James Callow

Tamkang University, Taiwan



Cinematographer’s Statement:

James and I began making films together when James arrived on my doorstep asking if we might create the kind of image that Christoph Kieslowski created in his work with cinematographer Sławomir Idziak. Initially we worked on Super 16mm, where the effects were easier to achieve than in video – we were successful with films such as “Cooking Pigeons,” a highly atmospheric, 30-minute film. We took risks such as using yellow light for the light of the moon as opposed to blue, and steeped the characters in an atmosphere reminiscent of Vittorio Storaro’s. Lighting begins in the hearts of director and cinematographer both, neither being separate when it comes to making the images.

I’d grown used to James saying “Look: a dirty window let’s use that.” Knowing we couldn’t achieve that look with filters, we found things to throw into the matte box and that could change the colour matrix of the camera. What you see in this film is James’ and my accompanying aesthetic playing with the beginnings of data manipulation, graduated ND’s to break up the clarity of the image and also ventures in post-production grading to distress the analogue-to-digital image.


Terry Flaxton

University of the West of England

James Callow was born in 1969 in the rural West of England. He graduated with a degree in Fine Art and Film from the University of Kent in 1990, and followed that with an MA in Electronic Imaging. After early forays into video art, he worked for several years in the multimedia, TV and film industries in the UK, variously as a researcher, writer, director and producer, ranging from a project with the 90s pop ‘sensation’ the Spice Girls, to documentary and short films. In 2010, he returned to academia, completing a doctorate in film at the University of Bath.

Featured image by Erika Luckert.

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