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The making of Aishteru

To BIAFF 2010 results | To Full Making Of Index

At BIAFF 2010 Philippa Edwards won  a 3 Star Award with Aishteru.

Through song an unhappy teenage schoolgirl expresses her feelings about the death of her parents in a car crash. Through dance she demonstrates her resilience and determination for the future.

Still from'Aishteru'.

Why "Aishteru" ?

Although I played a role in the composition of the song (backing vocals and some of the piano) I felt that it was important that the lyrics came from the lead singer. Her love for Japanese played a large role when she was writing the lyrics as word 'Aishteru' means 'I love you' in Japanese. This personal level of understanding of the lyrics therefore enabled her to not only know them off by heart due to the repetitive composition process but also ensured that there was meaning behind the words for her, creating another level to the song and hopefully the music video.

Still from 'Aishteru'.The Song

The instrument we composed on was a standard keyboard that we were able to use in the music classroom at school, during break time and lunchtime. We chose this because the lead singer is also a pianist and therefore it was an obvious choice. Also the keyboard had many different 'voices' that you could apply therefore giving us more freedom to make a hopefully more interesting song. Although usually with music videos the song is created first and the video afterwards as I had the luxury of composing the song, I sat down with my friend and singer and actress Tessa Taylor and told her my vision of the music video and asked her if it was possible for her to write a song around that.

Still from 'Aishteru'.The Dance

There were three main reasons why the dancer, Pip Atkins, switched between a classical ballet style of dance and a more fast-paced contemporary style within the music video.

  1. The first is closely linked to our age; contemporary dance is often considered much more exciting and expressive than classical ballet and for both dancer and audience I find it is much more compelling to watch.
  2. The second is because we attend a comprehensive secondary school that specialises in performing arts, so both Pip and I have knowledge of different styles of dance, enabling us to experiment with both styles
  3. The third and probably most influential reason was purely that it 'dove-tailed' with the emotions of the song and the video, aiding the idea that it is not just grief you feel when someone close to you dies.

I hope the change in style of dance also aids the narrative, showing the girl's jump in feelings. From mourning at the beginning of the music video shown by the ballet dancing, and then her move to determination when she decides that she will continue to dance in her mother and father's memory expressed via the energetic contemporary dance.


Still from 'Aishteru'.There were many reasons for my choice of locations. One was purely due to their availability. I had to film this music video around not only my busy schoolwork schedule but also Pip's and Tessa's busy school lives as well. Therefore it became clear that we could not go travel very far as most filming would have to take place after school, in school. This consequently presented us with many issues such as other pupils in school!

However, we did find solutions to these problems. Having filmed in school before and having attended the school for five years I knew areas that not many pupils visit, or the less widely used staircases for example. We also only started filming half an hour after school had ended therefore decreasing the number of other pupils in school providing us with a quieter and emptier environment to film in.

However, the main reasons that I chose the locations I did was because they felt right and they fitted the emotions of the film. I am willing to do most things and go most places to make the end product, my films, how I want them to be. However, with this film is was not necessary as I wanted the primary location to be school thereby emphasising the fact that this horrible ordeal could happen to anyone, in this story it was a schoolgirl.

Still from 'Aishteru'.As I mentioned earlier my school, Hillview School, specialises in performing arts and therefore we are lucky enough to have a well-equipped drama studio at school. In my music video I needed a room to act as an audition room for the dancer, so the drama studio was perfect! The other location I chose was the common and woods near my house. I chose this because we were filming around the time when autumn is just turning to winter. I felt that this would look good on camera due to the vibrant oranges and reds of the leaves but also the encroaching darkness, damp and mud of winter reflecting through nature, the grief of the girl who had lost her parents. I also felt that the woods were in essence so completely different from the school setting that the contrast between the two would add to presentation of isolation felt by the protagonist, as if her grief had taken her to her own world and cut her off from reality.

In all of the locations we filmed in we had the song, 'Aishteru', playing through portable speakers, therefore enabling Tessa to sing along rather than mime to ensure that the footage looked as real and as natural as possible. Then, during post-production I deleted the audio from the film clips and put the pre-recorded copy of the song in its place.


Still from 'Aishteru'.By glancing at most of the films I have made, it could be assumed that I am a morbid individual with my most recent film focussing on mental illness. Aishteru explores the consequences of the death of a girl's parents, and other films are reflecting on cancer, homelessness and domestic violence. However, there are numerous of reasons why I chose and continue to choose to create films on these topics.

I believe that it is extremely important to show other sides to stories and focus on the less widely viewed aspects of a story. For example in Aishteru I did not focus on shooting the death of her parents but the internal turmoil that follows the death of a loved one. I believe that events on their own do not have a massive impact, or create thought provoking films but the emotions felt by those involved in the event is what is truly interesting and therefore to capture that on film can create a truly heartfelt and emotional film that involves the audience.

I do not know if this has been achieved in Aishteru but I hope that it and my other films have gone some way to discuss topics often avoided or not truly understood or purely make people think about topics that could be considered taboo topics (such as mental illness). However, I believe that when discussing such delicate subjects, filmmakers have a responsibility. It is important that these topics are not presented simply, but rather as a multi-faceted topic with many different interpretations and that films made about these raise awareness. Therefore in some of my films, for example Always which focuses on cancer, I have included a title at the end saying that cancer can affect anyone urging people to please help charities battling cancer.

Lighting & Editing

Still from 'Aishteru'.As director, camera operator and editor of this music video, I dealt with nearly all of the behind-camera work. Before I began shooting the film I planned the lighting as I felt it was a very important aspect to conveying the mood of the narrative. In all but one scene, the audition scene, I was in charge of lighting. During the audition scene, which was shot in the drama studio, I enlisted the help of a friend to work the lights (as I did not have the necessary knowledge of working the lighting desk at the time) while I gave direction on the type of colours and intensity I felt would match the mood of the scene. The colourful tints during the last moments of the audition scene, which may appear to be the product of lighting, were actually created during post-production.

As anyone that has created a film will know the editing process takes a very long time. For this film I spent somewhere around 20 hours editing as I wanted to get it just right. I edited this film on 'Final Cut Pro', which is advanced editing software that I had not used before. Therefore at the same time as editing the film I was also learning how to use the software.

At the same time as studying for my GCSEs (O Levels) ...

Still from 'Aishteru'.I created this film as part of an 'Extended Project' a course I decided to take at the same time as studying for my GCSEs (O Levels).

An Extended Project can be on anything the candidate would like to study. They have to choose a title for their project in the form of a question, create the project and present their work at the end. For my Extended Project I chose the title 'How does Anthony Mandler* use lighting, cinematography and editing to create a music video based around a gothic fictional narrative?' I had to research this topic and his work in detail, watching and analysing many of the music videos he had directed. I then recorded the song with Tessa and then I planned my music video by creating storyboards, shooting scripts, production schedules, costume and prop lists and then I filmed and edited the piece.

My music video and folder is now being used as an exemplar piece by the exam board.

During the process of completing this project a teacher at my school, Miss Lawton Smith, acted as a mentor to guide me, checking I was completing the work in the way the exam board needed. Due to her knowledge of film she introduced me to pre-production processes such as the creation of production schedules and shooting scripts.

It was an odd yet brilliant feeling being in the audience when my work was being shown. I felt pride that it was my work being shown and that I had completed it. I also felt quite nervous as I had spent so long creating the film I was worried how it would be received by the audience, but mainly I felt excited to see how the audience would react to it!

I do all of this because I love it!

Still from 'Aishteru'.Still from 'Aishteru'.It is very clear in my mind that to be involved in the film and television industry is what I would like to do with my life.

To be able to do a hobby that I adore, as a career, sounds amazing and is where I strive to be. I am extremely aware that the film and television industry is very competitive and therefore do not take this career choice lightly. I involve myself in every related opportunity I can find, from learning about and then operating the lighting for this year's school production The Sound of Music, to attending a weekend master class on photography to broaden my knowledge of capturing aesthetically pleasing shots, entering competitions such as the BIAFF and the Kent Film Festival, completing relevant work experience (unpaid), but most of all continuing to make films. I do all of this because I love it!

In the next few months or so I will be applying to university, as in September I will start upper sixth. I hope to study film and/or television production at university and hope that a degree will broaden my knowledge and skills and increase my chances of becoming what I want to be. Ultimately I would like to be a director of photography so I can choose the shots to convey the images and the feelings I want, or to become an editor to get the building blocks of the film, of its story and arrange them in such a way to create an absorbing and compelling narrative. I am also driven to learn more about film and television, how to create it, how to improve, about the thoughts and ideas behind it, about how to tell stories through film, so to go to university to learn everyday about my passion seems too good to be true!

- Philippa Edwards

The Credits

Still from 'Aishteru'. Vocals - Tessa Taylor
Drums - Tina Hopkins
Piano - Tessa Taylor
Backing vocals - Philippa Edwards
Song composed by Tessa Taylor & Philippa Edwards
Dancer - Pip Atkins
Parents - Mr. & Mrs. Pledge
Young Tessa - Dorothy Hepburne Scott
Lighting support - Tina Hopkins
Recording support - Sophie Thompson
Direction/Camera/Edit - Philippa Edwards
Thanks to Miss Hepburne Scott, Miss Lawton Smith and all who helped.

* Anthony Mandler is one of the top commercial and music video directors working today. In commercials, he has worked with international clients such as Motorola, Samsung, Nike and Ciroc. His most notable and frequent collaborator is Rihanna. The two have worked on more than a dozen videos together throughout her career, starting with "Unfaithful" in 2006 and most recently "Te Amo". (Wikipedia)

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Page updated on 01 October 2011
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