Short Film – The Book of Sand (Jorge Luis Borges).

The Book of Sand is probably the most ambitious project I’ve attempted so far.  The technique I’ve been using to make films for the last year or so (using a photographic sports mode on a Canon 600D and then animating the results like a stop-motion) may have seemed gimmick lead but, until very recently, this has been the only way I’ve been able to make anything that I’ve been even vaguely happy with enough to share.

The film is an adaptation of a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, a writer who deserves more adaptations really.  It concerns the finding of an infinite book which eventually drives its finder close to madness, similarly to the relationship I currently have with my cameras.  I’ve taken a lot of liberties with the original text (who doesn’t?) and the production has been a larger one due to the involvement with the Young Everyman Playhouse group who have helped produce it.  This meant that more props could be sourced, better locations be discovered (the University of Liverpool no less who proved both helpful and immensely frustrating simultaneously) and talented performers could be brought in (there was a small budget of about £100).

Book-of-Sand-Library-shoot-1-208 Book-of-Sand-Library-shoot-1-358

I can’t help but feel that the audio would actually work on its own as an audio-book due to its sheer quality; a quality I personally don’t feel is matched by my direction or cinematography.  The various shoots (which were split between effects shots and the live shots as well as a separate voice over session for Paul) were productive and the initial takes were great though it is the audio that is the strongest element.

I’ve received largely positive feedback from this photo-style technique (the last music video I made in the technique is playing at FACT’s latest exhibition) though there’s been an underlying feeling that people around me think it looks a bit naff.   They’re probably right or perhaps it’s just paranoia on my part.  It looks different, it feels different and it can bring out extremely unusual performances from the actors.  Yet I am part of a generation obsessed with the gloss of a digital nature and these films just don’t sit comfortably within this accepted new norm of “quality”.  However, it’s this gloss that I feel I have to constantly contend with in spite of its obvious vacuous nature (several recent music video knock-backs have all but confirmed this to be the norm).  I hope you enjoy it; enjoy Paul’s honey-rich voice, Shane’s ambient, Vangelis-esque score and Peter’s quite astonishing beard and swagger.


Luckily, my own track down this digital path is almost complete, having come into possession of a new lens and taken a bit of time to relearn the craft of digital filmmaking.  This, for the moment then, will be my last film in this style and I’ll hopefully be able to smuggle something more interesting underneath the usual aesthetics of in-focus/out-focus and forever Polaroid coloured visuals that everyone seems so obsessed with when making music promos and other such things.  Alongside this, there’s the new Super 8 film that I’m currently making.  Though my next project is shot purely on Super 8 film, the next short after that will be a mixture of both digital and Super 8, mixing the best of both worlds.


A link to The Book of Sand on Vimeo (which may or may not be automatically higher quality) can be found here –


2 thoughts on “Short Film – The Book of Sand (Jorge Luis Borges).

  1. I liked it. It’s much harder to represent infinity in image than in text, and in lieu of expensive CGI, the “photo-style technique” worked well when filming the book. I felt the tone of the voice was perhaps somewhat inappropriate? Not enough “old academic at the brink of insanity” in it, imo. At least it’s not what I imagine when I read Borges…

    I recently saw another short based on The Book of Sand (here:, which took a very different approach…it’s fun to compare and contrast.

    1. Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      I have watched that version recently and though it was some excellent moments, I didn’t really like the visual aspects of the CGI which seems rather over the top and felt it would have been better to focus on the drama aspects which are really great (and clearly have a decent budget!).

      As for the voice, I think it’s my fault that I haven’t made it overt in the film that the voice-over is recalling the past (i.e. removed from the insanity and obsession of the book and now more melancholic). I know this is away from Borges’ original text though it was more of budgetary decision more than anything!

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