By Our Selves retraces John Clare's journey on foot from Epping Forest up into Northamptonshire. The film will feature Iain Sinclair, Alan Moore, Toby Jones and a Straw Bear.
The film focuses on two figures, sometimes Andrew Kötting, sometimes Toby Jones as the middle-aged John Clare. As they channel, in their own fashion, the psychic wound exposed by Clare. John Clare is alone, between the two communities of the Epping Forest asylum and the hospital in Northamptonshire.
Kötting is dressed as a straw bear, (an alter-ego and metaphor for otherness). At the mercy of the voices and visions and the hard realities of the road.... eating the hedgerow, sleeping on gravel, foot-foundered but determined. Framing the narrative momentum of the walk – in the acoustic footsteps of Clare – is the more complex drama of the two asylum interludes. The forest edge in High Beach, the meeting with the gypsies. The desperation of being lost, with no sense of direction, among the ancient trees.
The actor Freddie Jones (father of Toby) plays the older Clare in his final Northamptonshire incarceration. At the point when his identity is lost.
We think, in its apparent simplicity of means, in the bite of Clare’s language and observations of the seasons and the natural world, this is one of the great English stories.
As ever the twin mirage of the moving image and the road travelled.
“Life to me a dream that never wakes:
Night finds me on this lengthening road alone.
Love is to me a thought that ever aches,
A frost-bound thought that freezes life to stone.
Mary, in truth and nature still my own...
Midnight, when sleep takes charge of nature’s rest,
Finds me awake and friendless – not distrest.”
Background to the film
The inspiration for this project, which always carried trace elements of Werner Herzog’s The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser and Andrew Kötting’s This Filthy Earth, was John Clare’s impassioned manuscript, Journey out of Essex.
Starving, delusional, chewing grass, he tramped for three-and-a-half days, covering 80 miles or more, up the Great North Road to Peterborough and beyond. In the village of Werrington he was taken up by his wife and son in a borrowed farm cart. Mary Joyce, the young love of his life, his anima, and the motive behind the whole wild escapade, was dead, suffering the after-effects of a fire. Within a few months, Clare was relocated to St Andrew’s Hospital, the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum where he spent the rest of his life.
Haunted by this story, and by his wife’s memories of Helpston (where Clare attended the village school and met Mary Joyce), Iain Sinclair wrote a book called Edge of the Orison. Clare’s forced march is the spine of the project. A great English pilgrimage, a self-enacted novel in the tradition of Pilgrim’s Progress. Made fearful by agricultural enclosures, by his brief exposure to fame in London, Clare sticks to the road, sleeps in ditches, and hallucinates.
We have raised funding for the shoot and we have confirmed distribution support from UK distributor Soda Pictures who will be putting up all the costs of the UK theatrical and DVD release. So we know the film will be released, but now we just need to finish it!
And that’s where you come in! We want this film to be a collaborative effort, we are extremely reliant on your generosity in order to meet our target, but hope that in return we can be open with our filmmaking process and show you all the steps of our journey. And hopefully you’ll find our rewards make it worthwhile too!
What do we need the money for? The shoot is taking place right now, but we will need the money to cover the editing process and the post production of the film. This process should take two or three months and will involve hiring edit suites, post-production staff, the sound design (we have ambitious plans) and sound mix. We are also anticipating shooting further footage including interviews with John Clare specialists and some pick up shots.
What’s in it for you?
We’ve put together a variety of rewards, if there’s anything you want to see added – please send us suggestions and we’ll see what we can do.
- A digital download of By Our Selves
- A digital download of the By Our Selves soundtrack
- A DVD of By Our Selves
- A Limited edition postcard
- A signed copy of Iain Sinclair’s Edge of Orison: In the Traces of John Clare’s Journey Out of Essex
- A numbered and signed piece of straw from the Straw Bear
- Signed DVD/BluRay dual format edition of Andrew Kötting’s Swandown
- A limited edition signed vinyl release of Jem Finer and Andrew Kötting’s Visionary Seascapes (also includes CD)
- Signed copies of Jem Finer and Andrew Kötting's Visionary Seascapes on CD
- Feedback from Andrew Kötting on your film
- Detailed notes on your script from UK distributor Soda Pictures
- A2 Limited Edition black & white pinhole photograph by Anonymous Bosch and signed by the whole team
- A3 Limited Edition black & white pinhole photograph print by Anonymous Bosch
- A writer’s masterclass with Iain Sinclair
- A filmmaker’s masterclass with Andrew Kötting
- A guided tour by Iain Sinclair of a section of John Clare’s walk from Epping Forest to Northamptonshire.
- A private screening for up to 20 people of By Our Selves
- A private screening for up to 20 people of a film from Soda Pictures’ back catalogue.
- Signed Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie books
- Eden Kötting's Straw Bear paintings
- "Follow the Yellow Brick Road"
- "Indiscriminate Aesthetic Pessimism"
- "Intoxicated by the Myths of our Ancestors"
- "How Dorothy Saved the Straw Bears"
- Leila Badblood's John Clare themed purses:
- Calendar, Gardener, Horse Cart, Bird's Nest & Cottage
- This Filthy Earth DVD signed by Andrew Kötting and Sean Lock
- DVD of Two Years at Sea signed by Ben Rivers
- DVD of The Gospel of Us signed by Dave McKean
- DVD of Patience (After Sebald) signed by Grant Gee
- A3 Mask Prints by Zeroh on archival paper and inks
- Aardvark Printmongers in collaboration with Zeroh framed letterpress poster
- Signed Limited Edition DVD of Nichola Bruce's I Could Read the Sky
- A signed DVD box-set of Philip Trevelyan's seminal film The Moon and the Sledgehammer.
- A rare and signed copy of Jem Finer's book - Score For A Hole In The Ground
- Iain Sinclair and Dave McKean's Slow Chocolate Autopsy: Incidents From The Notorious Career of Norton, Prisoner of London.
- A very very rare and limited edition of Downriver (or, The Vessels of Warth) by Iain Sinclair.
- Signed copies of Ben Rivers' Ah, Liberty!
- Signed Stewart Lee DVDs, CDs and Books
- Signed copies of Clio Barnard's The Arbor and The Selfish Giant
- A portrait of an Owl signed by Jeremy Deller (from his film English Magic).
The Creative Team
Director of numerous award-winning films including Ivul, Swandown, This Filthy Earth and Gallivant.
Acclaimed writer and filmmaker. Author of titles including Edge of Orison: In the Traces of John Clare's Journey Out of Essex, London Orbital and American Smoke: Journeys to the End of Light.
Musician, artist and filmmaker. Previously collaborated with Andrew Kötting on the soundtrack to Swandown.
Famous for his roles in Berberian Sound Studio, Infamous and The Hunger Games will be portraying John Clare.
Celebrated actor (and father of Toby) will be playing the older version of John Clare.
Poet and performer. Previously collaborated with Andrew Kötting's and Jem Finer on the soundtrack to Swandown.
Nick Gordon Smith
Film-maker and DOP who has collaborated with Andrew Kotting on all his feature films from Gallivant, This Filthy Earth, Ivul and Swandown.
Sound designer, sound recordist, musician and Swissman extraordinaire worked with Andrew on Ivul and Swandown.
One of Andrew's ex students, artist, film-maker and pin-hole photographer who worked on Swandown
Blurt drummer, driver, fixer and Deptford Jack-in-the-Greenist.
Dorothy look-a-like, artist and performer.
Risks and challenges
Given the experience of the team we are confident that we can and will complete the project. However there is always the risk that we could lose certain elements, whether that's people due to availability dates or locations.
Should we experience any setbacks or delays we will be sure to update all backers and let them know how we are working to get the film completed.