“In the midst of separation, one boy’s silent longing has the power to change everything.”
The Raven on the Jetty is an 88-minute-long feature film about a boy called Thomas and his separated parents. The film starts as Thomas travels with his mother on his ninth birthday to visit his estranged father who, since an acrimonious divorce, has abandoned urban living in favour of an isolated rural life in the English Lake District. The bitter separation of his parents is not something Thomas understands, nor does he understand his own dysfunctional behaviour as a silent cry for help. As a digital native city boy, Thomas’s encounter with the natural world, and his gradual understanding of the pivotal connection he provides for his, ultimately, lonely parents, leads to realisation and discovery. There are things his parents don’t know about each other that only he can reveal. Perhaps he has the power and the means to change everything.
Despite the powerful development of Thomas’s story throughout the film, he only speaks once.
The film was written and directed by Professor Erik Knudsen and released by his production company, One Day Films.
It was shot in the Lake District in 2013 and premiered in Manchester before screenings at five international film festivals. It won the Jury Award at the Madrid International Film Festival in 2014.
The Raven On The Jetty constitutes practice research located within the field of narrative independent film and world cinema. The film forms part of Knudsen’s ongoing critical and practical exploration of transcendent narrative forms and the impact of technologically inspired independence on the telling of prototypical stories (Booker 2004, Hogan 2003).
The Raven On The Jetty is an exploration of transcendental narrative strategies that can enhance our engagement with themes that go beyond psychology. How can one create narratives that engage with our participatory feelings rather than our self assertive emotions? (Koestler, 1964). This work challenges the hegemonic dominance of the classical narrative, and its variants, within independent film. Building on the narrative theories of Paul Schrader (1972), Patrick Hogan (2003) and Christopher Booker (2004), Knudsen compliments his challenging of existing practices within narrative film with applied theoretical outputs, including the monograph Finding The Personal Voice In Filmmaking and the journal articles, The Total Filmmaker and Zen and The Art of Film Narrative, and constructs a rigorous link between theory and practice in developing the film. Situated within the context of works by Ceylan (The Wild Pear Tree, 2018 and Winter Sleep, 2014), Kim Ki Duk (The Bow, 2005) and Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, 2010) The Raven On The Jetty brings an original narrative approach to the Western and Anglo Saxon cinematic experience by challenging dominant approaches to dialogue, psychological motivation, story perspectives and the role of sound. The result is a unique narrative work, whose silently-portrayed transcendent story told from a uniquely experiential narrative perspective, contributes significant new possibilities for telling cinematic stories in narrative film.
Winner of the 2014 Jury Award at the Madrid International Film Festival, The Raven On The Jetty also screened at 5 further international film festivals. The Raven On The Jetty had a limited UK theatrical release in 2015 before subsequently being released internationally through VOD platforms iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play and onedayfilms.com.
Behind the scenes
Prof Knudsen has released a series of 30 vlogs that give a complete account of the process of making a feature film. It covers everything from influences, location scouting, casting and costumes, to filming, animation, post-production, colour grading and more.
Vlog 14 of The Raven on the Jetty: First day of shooting
A signed and numbered Limited Edition Production Scrapbook and DVD has also been made available, telling the story of the film via beautiful photography and the final screenplay.
The Raven On The Jetty constitutes practice-as-research located within the frame of narrative independent film and world cinema. The film is part of Prof Knudsen’s ongoing critical and practical exploration of ideas through the practice of filmmaking.
The work is an exploration of transcendental narrative strategies that can enhance our engagement with themes that go beyond psychology. How can one create narratives that engage with our participatory feelings rather than our self assertive emotions?
The Raven on the Jetty challenges the hegemonic dominance of (variations of) the classical narrative within independent film. Developing story and narrative theories of Arthur Koestler, Paul Schrader, Patrick Hogan and Christopher Booker, Prof Knudsen has examined existing practices within narrative film in such works as ‘Zen and the art of film narrative: towards a transcendental realism in film’ (Journal of Screenwriting, 1(2): 2010, 343-355), and constructed a rigorous link between theory and practice in developing the film.
An original narrative approach challenges the function of dialogue, psychological motivation, story perspectives and the role of sound. The result is a narrative work whose silently-portrayed transcendent story told from a uniquely experiential narrative perspective contributes significant new possibilities for telling cinematic stories in narrative film.
The showing of the film at an international film festival in Ghana was accompanied by a keynote speech by Prof Knudsen which articulated the research outcomes in the context of the digital revolution in film production. It further explored what its potential impact may be on film policy and production practices.
Eyes and Narrative Perspectives
Prof Knudsen has also written about “Eyes and Narrative Perspectives on Story”, using The Raven on the Jetty as a practice-led exploration of the use of eyes and eye lines in fiction film.
He said: “The eyes and the use of eyes by a performer needs as much creative and technical attention as shot composition, sound, production design and editing.” His paper examines how, in fictional cinematic expression, eyes can be deployed to enhance an introspective and transcendent narrative perspective on a story.
The Total Filmmaker
In this article, Prof Knudsen discusses thinking of screenwriting, directing and editing as one role, using the example of his experience of making The Raven on the Jetty.
He explores how filmmaking could be taught, and concludes that while someone might be certain about their intended path as a screenwriter, they should still approach their education on the basis of the Total Filmmaker.
“The more the screenwriter can confidently incorporate the considerations of the director and editor (indeed, the sound designer, too) in shaping the screenplay, the more likely the writer will be able to shape the screenplay in such a way that it utilises as much of the formal cinematic elements as possible,” he writes.
Screen Production Research: Creative Practice as a Mode of Enquiry
Prof Knudsen has used his practice-led research experience of making The Raven on the Jetty to write a chapter in the book Screen Production Research: Creative Practice as a Mode of Enquiry.
Entitled Method in Madness: A Case Study in Practice Research Methods, the chapter explains how making a film can be used as research. It covers the importance of “documentation that somehow charts a tacit creative research process” in order to make creative practice accessible to others.
Prof Knudsen also explains how key outputs – in this case the film, scrapbook, vlogs and articles – contribute to the “broader creative ecology” of a film.