Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Searching for the Ghost of Tom Joad

My Project for last autumn was going to be based on the Bruce Springsteen/Johnny Cash working of "Highway Patrolman", but I read "The Grapes of Wrath", finally saw the link with the Springsteen song with the main character's name and decided it was a worthy theme for a short video project.

Of course this was not a new subject for YouTube and I have to admit that I was influenced greatly by the work of YachiruXx (respect) in developing my own version. What I've tried to do is to strengthen to link to the period and the book and the film and Fonda's words in particular, and to recognise the work of Dorethea Lang, in capturing the images of the plight of the "Okies" during and after their migration across America, which in turn inspired Steinbeck in writing his novel.

I wanted my film to be widescreen so this has meant editing and panning across the original images. I searched the Internet for the highest resolution images I could find and some are so clear they could have been taken yesterday. Thanks to all the artists who have made their material available in this way and to the people whose images I have used. The same goes for the stills from the film and the images of Henry Fonda as Tom Joad.

It is customary when making a work of this kind to try and make it relevant for "today" and I thought about using images of Paternoster, Libya or Dale Farm. In the end I decided against it as I believe to use contemporary images would ultimately date the piece; as Tom Joad said "I'll be ever'-where - wherever you can look".

And so to the choice of soundtrack; Fonda's words are taken straight from the DVD soundtrack by playing the DVD through the PC; I found the instrumental portions of the Springsteen "Live in Dublin" version suitably haunting and felt they provided the perfect juxtaposition to the powerful vocals; I also toyed with the idea of using the Sprinsteen/Tom Morello live duet, but while I felt Morello sings his part with passion and depth his guitar work wasn't quite what I was looking for. I finished off with Red River Valley to complete my link to the film.

I made great use of the definitive picture of Florence Thompson and there are other YouTube videos that tell the story of how the picture came to be taken and the benefits that came from it. Ultimately the Tom Joad story has to be seen as one of hope and not despair; collectively and by working together we can make a difference.

I hope you enjoy it.