Strings – Short Film

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 on 16mm film 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.

Strings film score sheet music by Stephen Hunt
Strings film score sheet music by Stephen Hunt
Strings film score sheet music by Stephen Hunt
Strings film score sheet music by Stephen Hunt

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

Film Festivals

Related Works

This is the same room used for the dinner scene in the film. The lamp and table are the same.
Oil painting titled Luther In My Lounge Room with figure standing n doorway and another seated at a table
Luther In My Lounge Room
And this painting can be seen on the wall in the film.
Oil painting titled The Sowers shows Regan, Gaddafi and The Good Samaritain

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