Brown, Christopher (2018) Coccolith. [Video]

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'Coccolith' (17 mins, directed and produced by Christopher Brown) is a short fiction film shot in the subterranean world of the Ramsgate Tunnels in Kent. Departing from typical storytelling conventions, the film depicts an imaginary realm in which devised performances evoke the unique histories and feel of this eerie environment, seeking to challenge simplistic associations of the tunnels with wartime nostalgia and mythology.

'Coccolith' is a work of practice-as-research. It takes its name from the microscopic calcite shells shed by ocean algae, which accumulate on the sea bed over millions of years, forming chalk. In their very composition, the tunnels at Ramsgate evidence both layers of geological history, and the past existence of living things. The film captures the material result of this primordial geological process – the chalk environment itself – whilst dramatizing notions of historical accumulation figuratively. Multiple histories inscribed in the same place co-exist in the film frame, with characters from different points in time inhabiting the same tunnel environment.

The project sought to reflect the fragmented nature of knowledge afforded by the tunnels in their dilapidated state, whilst at the level of process, to develop strategies for facilitating a creative response to the apparently intractable tunnel environment. The project departed from typical film industry production practices in various ways: there was no script; the performances were collaboratively devised; the production was structured around a concept outline; the conception of the project owed a great deal to site-specific installation practice; sound design was conceived as an integral part of the film directing process.

'Coccolith' is part of a broader practice-as-research project investigating how audio-visual practices might represent the experiences of ruined spaces, a collaboration between Brown and composer Andrew Knight-Hill at the University of Greenwich. Brown and Knight-Hill’s article ‘Stories of a ruined space: filmic and sonic approaches to practice-as-research’ (published in Media Practice and Education 19.3, a special issue by the Filmmaking Research Network) explored how the project sought to reconfigure the relationship between film and sound practice. Another forthcoming article by Brown discusses the film’s approach to screen performance in terms of a creative remapping of the tunnels, designed to critique the spatial foundations of wartime nostalgia and national mythmaking (one way in which the film sought to engage with traditions of site-specific installation practice).

The film will screen at the Greenwich Picturehouse in London on 26th November 2018. The screening will be preceded by a talk in which Brown and Knight-Hill discuss the concepts behind the film and its development; the audience will comprise academics and students working in creative practice disciplines, and members of the public. The film will next screen as part of the conference 'Mapping Spaces, Sounding Places: Geographies of Sound in Audiovisual Media' to be held at the University of Pavia, Cremona in March 2019; the screening at the Teatro Monteverdi will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.

More information about the film, including the director’s statement, and cast and crew biographies, is available at

Item Type: Video
Keywords: film, Ramsgate Tunnels, practice-as-research, experimental narrative
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion pictures
Depositing User: Christopher Brown
Date Deposited: 05 Nov 2018 17:22
Last Modified: 05 Nov 2018 17:23

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