Over three years in the making, our feature doc Making Time is almost finished, with the last few weeks of post underway. I am so proud of this film, so honoured to have worked with such a talented team… I will share more details soon.
During the making of the film, I had a lot of time to ponder, well, time. Here are some words about the film:
This is a film about five artists.
Five artists who create watches and clockwork sculptures.
Five horologists. (Horologists, or watchmakers if you like, have long been considered soothsayers, forging designs that walk the line between science and magic).
One uses his childhood imagination to make cutting edge designs. One uses ancient techniques to keep them alive. One is using his watch design to express his defiance, and another to express his pain. And one is using her work to understand our place in the universe.
All of them make objects that measure time.Through their stories we come to an understanding of this most ephemeral and intangible substance.
I’m interested in watches not so much for their ability to tell time or for the complexity of their mechanisms. I’m interested in watches because of the dedication, the skill and the life experiences of their makers. Objects and their makers are the same – communing with an object is communing with its maker. Everything they experience goes into the object. An enameller told me she didn’t eat parsley before working as her breath could affect the enamel. Everything is connected. And watches have an enigmatic magic about them. They speak to what’s most important and sacred to humans. They hold a connection between our bodies and the ebb and flow of the universe. Our bodies are walking clocks. Our heartbeats pulse like the tick tock of a mechanical watch. Deeper still, we have clock genes in all our cells. It is miraculous to me that they keep our metabolic, genetic and behavioural patterns synched to the earth’s 24 hour cycle, even if we don’t know what time of day it is. And these clock genes work by oscillation, the same way a pendulum clock does. This movement deep within our cells advances along a path only to be restrained and pushed back in the opposite direction. Tick tock.
All creatures and organic systems seek homeostasis, that still place of balance in the middle. It has been a solace to me to know that in the midst of great sorrow and turmoil, the nature of the pendulum means that life will swing back towards happiness and harmony.
Our horologists are anachronisms in some ways, a little out of time with modern life. A mechanical watch is not a necessity. For precise timekeeping, most of us now use phones, which receive time stamps from satellites in low-earth orbit above us. A mechanical watch can’t compete with that. And yet they remain coveted, collectors’ items selling for higher and higher figures. And for our five watchmakers, they are a means of expressing something vital and life-defining. The craft of mechanical watchmaking is a slow and highly skilled tradition, at odds with the modern world which values speed and expediency. Perhaps this is why I feel so moved by the makers’ dedication. The craft encompasses vast tracts of time. It links us to the past through the raw materials forged in the primordial explosion that gave birth to the universe 14 billion years ago. When time began. It links us to the artisans of the past who have passed on millennia of carefully hard-won knowledge. And it connects us to the future as the objects made today will outlive their makers, and be tended to by artisans not yet born.
We are in a time revolution right now. All species on the planet are perfectly adapted to earthly time and its circadian and seasonal rhythms. Except for us. We humans are more and more out of sync with earth time. We illuminate the night so it feels like day, we can have two or three summers in a year, fly to the other side of the world and start the same day all over again. We break time down into smaller fragments, so we can get more and more out of each minute. We want more lifespan, more travel, more speed. And yet, if the pandemic has taught us anything, we are fractured, exhausted, ill. Out of sync with nature. We have lost sight of what is important, have sacrificed significance for speed. More and more of us want to slow down, take stock, savour life, but are swept along in the world’s frantic pace. How do we step out of this? How do we find meaning in our finite lives?
This film is about how we experience time, told through the lens of our five horologists, whose creations measure time in sure and steady beats. I believe the stories of our five horologists can teach us something about how to live and how to use our time well. They tell what it means to search deep to find your purpose and follow your dream. And they speak to us about alchemy. Alchemy in the transformation of dull raw materials into valuable golden objects certainly, but deeper still, in the transformation of experience – sorrow, loss, love – into art. The pulse of the timepieces they create synchronises with the pulse running through all of life.
photo credit: Brittany Nicole Cox by Eli Goldstein