Strings - award winning short film by Guy Chapman

Man Running

Strings - short film directed by Guy Chapman. Animation Cell - after Muybridge


Cast in order of appearance:

Mother - Claerwen Little
Father - Douglass Kean
Child - Jasmine Kean
Man At Dinner Table - Scott Rankin
Woman Entering House - Gwen Steele
Helmsman - Alwyn Rankin
Deck Hand - Gwen Steele
First Maori Voice - William Peri-Chapman
Second Maori Voice - Monty Te Moni


Camera - Tony Bunion, Michel Coleman, Guy Chapman
Sound Recordists - Bronwyn Fox, David McMillan, Stacy Geogilas, Guy Chapman
Clapper - Susan Sartori
Boom - Susan Sartori, Joanne Delzoppo
Original Music Score - Stephen Hunt
Musicians - Stephen Hunt, David Armitage, Guy Chapman
Score Sound Recordist - David Armitage
Maori Translation - William Peri-Chapman, V. Claire Chapman
Animation - Guy Chapman
Titles Rostrum Work - Graham Sharpe

Post Production - Audio Trackdown
Engineer - Simon Leadley
Assistant - James Chanel

Laboratory - Atlab
Negative Cutting - Karen Psaltis
Opticals - Roger Cowland
Grading - Wayne Hopkinson
Liaison - Jan Thornton

Animation images scanned from
Eadweard Muybridge's
'Complete Human And Animal Locomotion'
Dover Publications N.Y. 1979

Photograph of Maori face by O. Petersen
from Gordon McLauchlan's
'The Farming of New Zealand'
ANZ Book Co 1981

Radio Lakeland, Taupo, New Zealand
David Bolliger
Cafe Aorangi

Produced with the assistance of the
Australian Film Commission
and the
New South Wales Film and Television Office

Written and Directed by
Guy Chapman


I used to stand outside half the night, looking into their house.

I used to stand outside half the night looking into their house…

…secretly hoping they would discover me out there in the dark.

They never did, and looking back, I don't really remember why I wanted to live with them.

It's not as if there was anything wrong with my family that made me want to get away from them…

…but I often used to sneak out across the back paddocks…

…and climb down the hill to where their house was.

I would just stand there and watch them moving about inside.

It seems silly looking back at it now, because they were no different to my family.

They did the same things, ate the same things, and probably said the same things too.

My grandmother brought me up.

It was by her I think, that the feeling of subordination to the Pakeha was instilled into my thinking.

Of course she never said that we were anything less than them…

…but her pride conveyed the difference she felt between Maori and Pakeha.

Of course I know better now, but back then, the desire to be part of their world held me captive.

Maybe I was just a young voyeur, but I do remember a feeling of being the outsider, wanting to be noticed.

Like the people watching this film who don't speak my language.

Do they feel alienated because they don't understand…

…and are they angry at being positioned in this way…

…or is there pleasure in it for them?

Strings is a short film by Guy Chapman that won the graduating students award for Best Film at City Art Institute in 1991.

The work-print was screened at the graduating exhibition and after graduating received a grant from the Australian Film Commission and the New South Wales Film and Television Office to complete the work. This allowed an original music score to be written and recorded, re-work of some inter-titles and to have Atlab produce a print for screening at various festivals.

Strings was screened at several film festivals including:

  • Wellington - The 22nd Wellington Film Festival
  • Auckland - Auckland Film Festival
  • Sydney - Alchemy
  • Adelaide - Frames

The Adelaide Frames Festival of Film and Video said of the film...

Strings is an experimental film from the outside looking in. It speaks of the experience of being marginalised, but not in any conventional way. Instead it places the spectator in much the same position as the subject of the film. It is at once curious and hypnotising, and very lyrical.

The original neg and print are in the Australian National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) (formerly known as Screensound). Their summary of the work is...

A film concerned with the cultural displacement of Maoris and anglo-celtic New Zealanders. The structure of this work is based on a triptych, dealing with the linguistic divisions between the English language and traditional Maori, the social division between the two cultures and in the final part makes an attempt to draw the two together in a single image of loss and self reflection. The film is constructed from sequences of live action as well as cell and computer animation.

The entire film can be viewed on this page but if you want the best quality you can rent a 16mm print from the archive.

The film was shot in Balmain and Berowra Waters around Sydney Australia and some parts of the film are animated. The animation cells were produced from Eadweard Muybridge photographs that were manipulated using some early Macintosh equipment.

The film has numerous intertitles used as a punctuation device and to double up the Maori narration and english subtitles. They are intended as the thoughts of the Maori character.

Technically there were some challenges getting the film made. Not the least was the old and failing equipment at City Art Institute but other things happened too like grounding the boat on a sand bar for an afternoon.

A really early version of ProTools was used in the track laying of the audio at Trackdown studios - it was fantastic even then but had some bugs that caused a late night of rework. To record the original music an A-DAT was used - that was revolutionary back then too.

Other audio was foolishly recorded on second-hand reel-to-reel audio tape with the Nagra. The tape surface started to come off on the heads and the only way it was recovered for transfers was to microwave it for a few seconds. How times have changed.

My thanks to all the good people who worked on the film.


Production Location: City Art Institute, Paddington, Sydney, Australia

Production Date: 1992

Title: Strings

Medium: 16mm Colour Motion Picture Film

Film Festivals
frames film festival

frames festival of film and video - Adelaide

wellington 22nd film festival

wellington 22nd film festival

alchemy film festival

alchemy film festival - Paddington

Related Works
Luther - oil painting

Luther - Oil painting.
This is the same room used for the dinner scene in the film. The lamp and table are the same.

sowers - oil painting

Sowers - Oil Painting.
The painting can be seen on the wall in the film.