T H E  E D G E  O F  D R E A M I N G

Amy Hardie, Director

This film began nine years ago. Like many of my generation, I had never sat at a deathbed. Then my mother dies unexpectedly, of myleodyspasia. It seemed a huge bodily and a mental process.

I knew I needed to learn about death. As a documentary film-maker specialising in science docs, I began investigating death. I needed time to take on such a huge topic, at once personal and of course, universal. Edinburgh College of Art gave me a studentship for its first PhD by practice in film and I immersed myself into the history, biology and social mores of death.

I committed myself to filming every aspect of my investigation. I began to work in a hospice, and joined trainings about death and dying aimed at nurses and counsellors. Death seemed to come very close: the father of oldest child died. Later, I had a dream that my horse was dying, and woke to find him dead. Fortunately I was not superstitious. Then I had a second dream, a warning that I was going to die myself that year. I was shaken. I thought I had been spending too much time thinking about death, and that it had taken an unhealthy hold of my imagination. It also presented itself as a good set up to test a hypothesis: either there were spirits, and I would be dead within a year, or there were not, and I would be fine.

The year rocked my scientific reductionism, and expanded my sense of what science really is. I filmed almost everything that happened to me.

Because of the three dreams , the material offered itself as a gripping narrative. To confound this tendency, I began by making a silent 30 minutes movie.This encouraged a purely visual exploration, which helped to create the meditative film space needed to recreate emotional states and insights from research.

I was always filming, so Ian Dodds, a long time collaborator with a great eye on camera came in and filmed a day in the life, and some wonderful footage of the horse. To go inside the dreams, I worked with Cameron Duguid, whose animations had illuminated previous science films. We printed out frames from the home movies and he painted and inked them, refilming to allow images to recreate my interior worlds.

My family are the stars in this film, and were also key to helping develop it. Peter Kravitz, my husband, has a vast knowledge of Jung, as well as a sophisticated theoretical framework to understand and to unpick the relationship between dreams and reality. I relied on his discursive wisdom to get me through the year. Our children, Lotte, Eli and Nell were my sternest critics, outraged by any attempt to recreate or as they saw it, over-dramatise what was happening. Their eagle-eyed approval, and their incredible cakes, ensured the film remained down to earth and accurate.

I knew choice of editor was crucial, especially in such a personal story, and with a main character as reluctant as myself. I met Ling Lee, a student at the College of Art, who helped me transfer some footage., As she watched the short sequences I had put together of my family, she said " It is as though you are already dead." I found this funny, and compelling, and told her the whole story. We began working together, managing to keep going when she got a place at the National Film School. Two other editors became available when Ling was making her own film - the feature editor Colin Monie who brought out the poetry in the images. A final two weeks was spent with US editor Mike Culyba who intensified the emotional story.

By this time I had three enormously experienced producers, George Chignell, Doug Block and Lori Cheatle, who patiently watched cut after cut as I gave myself the liberty to explore exactly what the content of this film would be. Funders came on board, Doris Hepp from ZDF/Arte, Tabitha Jackson from True Stories, More 4, Barbara Truyen from VPRO and Robbie Allen from Scottish Screen. Being based in the Scottish Documentary Institute allowed me constant access to perceptive and educated responses to the various cuts. The notes from these people who love documentaries, and are staggeringly knowledgable, and the feedback sessions we held in the FilmGuild cinema in Edinburgh, and in my living room at home, made a huge difference to the film. This testing and retesting of my intentions and ideas against audience feedback was crucial. Over time, I whittled down what could be expressed (versus what I wanted to express) to its most intense and concentrated form.