Many thanks to everyone who came out to the our premiere! We were both inspired to make this film by our many years volunteering for World Film, and all the amazing films we saw and film makers we met there, in the first place, so it was very exciting for us to also be able to have our premiere there. And thanks to Carlo Cubero for leading a thoughtful and encouraging post-film discussion! Here are a few images from the event, thanks to Johanna Rannula (1, 2, 4) and Justin Time (3) for the photos.
Year of release: 2018
Duration: 35 min
Director: Patrick Tubin McGinley, Daniel Edward Allen
Original Language: English, Estonian
Country of production: Estonia
Shooting location: Estonia
The Mill is an experimental documentary focusing on the sensorial experience within an unmodernised paper mill in south Estonia. It is non-narrative, and although people are present there is no central human character. Rather, it is a cinematic investigation of a space, portraying one small part of the industrial world through the activity of the factory’s machines and the people who interact with them. At times the film verges on sensory overload, skirting the boundary between documentary and abstraction.
When filming The Mill we needed a quick and easy way to reference the rooms and machines that we were filming. So we came up with some terms based on the look and feel of the machines, or the characteristics of the rooms. Here are a few clips from the film using the Language of The Mill.
The Steam Train (detail)
Only part of this huge machine is shown in this clip. The machine, which dries the wet paper, produces a wide range of great sounds and movements, not to mention the gloopy black grease and pastel colours seen here. Among the sounds in this clip is the ‘Church Bell’.
The Swimming Pool
You’d never want to swim in here, not least because there’s a large propeller just below the surface that keeps the pulp moving. This room was hot and humid, and badly lit, but it produced possibly our favourite sound, the ‘Bomber’, heard in this clip.
The Science Fiction Room
This room brings together a few of the factory’s themes: there’s the tinkling of water, the creaking sound made by the Green Machine upstairs, the layers of paper dust covering everything and the dystopian fluorescent glow from the light. The room is no longer actively used so the only movement comes from an insect flying around the light, leaving the activity upstairs to tell the story through sound.
This is one of the largest rooms at the factory, where paper for recycling is stored. It’s an indoor/outdoor space where the birds are happy to come and go, only making way for people when they have to. Sometimes when filming in a room like this you wait days for something filmic to happen, like a couple of pigeons landing in the middle of the shot and kicking dust into the sunshine – and sometimes it happens as soon as you switch the camera on.
The Coat Room
This room shows the dynamic range of the factory, both sonically and visually. On some days, as in this clip, it was quieter with muffled low frequencies coming from other rooms and very little movement; on other days it was a barrage against the senses.
The Jiggery Machine
This mesmerising abstract movement was found in a small puddle on top of a machine in the Coat Room (on a noisy day). The movement is complimented by the insistent repetitive thrumming from the machine as it oscillates to separate paper fibres from water.
The Pipe Room
This room has a nice moment of interaction between man and machine. One of the pulpers traces out the route of a particular pipe as it passes through the room, although it’s unclear if he finds what he’s looking for. The all-enveloping pipework twisting back and forth and the sounds that fill this room add to a slightly uneasy feeling that man might not be fully in control here.
The Blue Pipes (Pipe Room)
The way these pipes rock from side to side gives the feeling of barely contained power. Their shape and the way they protrude down into the shot seem reminiscent of rocket engines, giving the feeling that something could break loose at any second.
Patrick is an American-born sound, performance and radio artist who works specifically with location and field recording in both documentary and abstracted form. He has recorded and designed sound for a number of films, released many albums of compositional work under the moniker Murmer, and produced Framework Radio, a program for the field recording community, for over 15 years.
Daniel is originally from the UK and is from a photography background. His interest is in experimental forms of photography, especially analogue, and he is active in promoting this, as well as experimental film, in Estonia. He has given various workshops in this field, and has had photography exhibited and published in Estonia and abroad.
Both now live in Estonia where they are involved in sound, photography and more mainstream film individually, and experimental film collectively. The Mill is their first film together and forms part of an on-going series that investigates Estonia as a regenerating post-occupation society.
The opportunity to film at the paper mill arose from a sound project that Patrick had previously undertaken using recordings made there. This, combined with a supportive and friendly factory manager, opened the door to the film a year later.