TS20: Critical Mass

“How many colours are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of “Green”?  …Imagine a world alive with incomprehensible objects and shimmering with an endless variety of movement and innumerable graduations of colour.” —Stan Brakhage, Metaphors on Vision.

In many ways the coming of the UK Film Council in 2002 was a positive thing, however, for many of the artists we knew who worked with the moving image, it seemed the hand-over of responsibility for film from Arts Council to UK Film Council had left a gap through which they were falling.  Many would get repeatedly shortlisted on the strength of their ideas but fail to secure the commission.  Being on the selection panels for some of those schemes we could see how their approach to cinema as a poetic form worked against them for panels with strict guidelines around business modelling. This is where we saw a role for Threshold. 

We established Critical Mass; a Training Linked to Production initiative funded by Arts Council England, specifically targeted at facilitating established and emergent artists who had limited experience of filmmaking, who wanted to embrace moving image as a key element of their future practice.  Our role was to spot a talent with a strong idea and build a team around that individual to realise it.  It stretched our networks and widened our own skills and knowledge bases.

Between 2003 and 2010 we commissioned 22 artists films.  Most were screened internationally at festivals and a strong handful won awards for our artists.   Three DVD collections followed.  The first shifted almost 600 copies across Europe.  The second did less well and, by the third edition, people were no longer buying discs but were looking for content online.

The whole Critical Mass playlist remains on our Youtube channel.

Barry Hale

in Rust Red September 2018