Nuclear Family
Year of release: 1990
Original format: 16mm
Running time: 4 minutes 15 seconds
Screening format: 16mm comopt print; digital screening versions available
Credits: A film by Kayla Parker
Director/producer/animator/editor: Kayla Parker
Mother’s voice: Joanna Parker
Script: Joanna Parker and Kayla Parker
Live action camera: Stuart Moore, Kayla Parker, family and friends
Sound: Gareth Stuart
Thanks to: Exeter Film and Video Workshop, Lefkos Greco, Frank Passingham, and Jane Simmonds; thanks also to: Amy, Andrew, Fiona, Henri, Kief, Miles, Nakki, Ruthie, and Xtal; special thanks to: Stuart Moore
Funded by the Television South West (TSW) and South West Arts Film Award commission
Distribution and sales: Sundog Media and LUX Distribution

Autobiographical film in which the film-maker’s mother recalls incidents from her daughter's childhood in a Somerset mining village, and the three imaginary friends, two with red hair and one with dark hair, who ‘came down from the stars’.

My mother has told me this story, my own personal fairy-tale, ever since I can remember. I have no memory of the time she speaks of, and can only experience it vicariously, coloured by her nostalgia and her feelings as a mother. I tried to recover a meaning of my own by drawing directly on the surface of the film - like the wax crayon and scratch pictures I made as a child. But the persistence of my mother’s memory still overpowered anything I almost remembered.
Production notes
In my funding application the title of the film was We’re Not a Nuclear Family Anymore. The original title from my proposal appears at the start of the film because all the 2-D ‘source’ material - old black and white photos of me as a baby and my mum, drawings, title and credit sequences - was shot early in the summer of 1989 when I started filming; I shortened the title to ‘Nuclear Family’ during post-production. For the 2-D stuff, I hired Mike Wagen’s Neilson Hordell 16mm rostrum camera in Bristol, and used to travel up from Exeter for a day’s filming. Both Mike and Frank Passingham, who was there filming Linda McCartney’s photos for a Wings’ music video, were very helpful. Frank (who’d worked on Richard Kwietniowski’s 1987 film Alfalfa) showed me how to load up the rostrum camera with developed 16mm footage, which could then be projected down onto the flatbed for rotoscoping; on one of my visits I rotoscoped a random bit of filming I’d shot at the end of a 100 foot roll of colour reversal film, on my way back to Exeter Film and Video Workshop (EFVW). My first rotoscoped sequence is known as 'Tumblers': after I’d roughed in the positions of moving human figures and a dog on Mike Wagen’s rostrum, I coloured the drawings (just over 100) and filmed them on my next visit. I thought I might use Tumblers as the basis for another film or to project live at music events, but never did; and have only showed it to students to demonstrate rotoscoping.
Sandford and Down Diving and Water Sports on Pier Street, West Hoe, Plymouth: Video Ciné International was on the first floor (photo taken end of May 2012)

During the autumn of 1989 I worked on the Nuclear Family film in Plymouth, as there wasn’t a 16mm Steenbeck available at EFVW. Stuart Moore introduced me to Lefkos Greco, a television film editor, who owned a production company called Video Ciné International (VCI). We met at Lefkos’ flat on Plymouth Hoe and agreed a hire fee of 50 quid for me to use his Steenbeck at the VCI premises in West Hoe, and I was given a set of keys. The other part of the bargain was that I’d answer the phone when it rang, along the lines of “Video Ciné International, how may I help you? I’m sorry, Mr Greco is unavailable/in a meeting/out of the country. Can I take a message?” And afterwards, to pass on the details to Lefkos. VCI HQ was the first floor flat above Sandford and Down’s diving shop: I had a key to the side door, then went upstairs to a huge front room with the curtains drawn shut on all the windows. It was full of 16mm film equipment and cardboard boxes of editing bits and pieces, videotape and film... and a 16mm Steenbeck and a phone. The electric was on a 50p coin meter and Lefkos lent me a portable gas heater. So I set myself up by the Steenbeck, and racked up my shots over the edit bins. I installed my lightbox and set to work re-colouring and overprinting the sequences with a set of photographic dyes, American watercolour inks, my grandmother Bid’s old food colouring dyes, and OHP pens, and engraving frames with a scalpel. I spent hours there on my own, crouched over my lightbox and running strips through the Steenbeck in the gloom, with the gas heater blaring. I travelled to Plymouth several times a week, walking to and from the bus or train stations to West Hoe. I remember it was pretty cold that autumn.
Colour photo of Sandford and Down's Diving & Water Sports shop on Pier Street, West Hoe, Plymouth: Video Ciné International HQ was on the first floor in 1989Sandford and Down Diving and Water Sports on Pier Street, West Hoe, Plymouth (photo taken beginning of November 2009)

Publication and comments
David Curtis (ed.) (1996) ‘Kayla Parker’ in A directory of British film and video artists. Luton: John Libbey and Arts Council of England. pp. 138-139
Jayne Pilling (ed.) (1992) ‘International biographical dictionary A-Z: Parker, Kayla’ in Women and animation: a compendium. London: British Film Institute. pp. 133-134
Peter Carpenter (1990) Out of the West. Exeter: South West Arts [programme notes, film and video art collection]
David Curtis (1990) Getting Animated. Exeter: South West Arts [programme notes, animated film tour]
(1990) Hertake. Glasgow [conference papers]

Exhibition selected
Festival screenings include: Leicester (Film and Video Now), Edinburgh Fringe, Glastonbury (Vision Vortex), Cork (Award of Merit), London, EMAF Osnabrück
BEEF: Handmade 16mm film screening, programmed by Kim Knowles and projected from 16mm by Vicky Smith, Bristol Experimental Expanded Film Portland Square, Bristol, UK (24 April 2015)
Object Documentary: Everything research presentation by Minou Norouzi which questions what the ethical implications are of using actuality as an object, keeping an open, critical perspective on the positioning of documentary as material in art production - rather than simply as a genre as in film practice. It investigates how far the ‘creative use’ of actuality can be taken in this context, occupying an intentionally oppositional space, and asks when and how it might be useful to objectify. Films screened: Everything by Minou Norouzi (UK, 2013 work in progress); Future Diaries by Daniel Mann (Israel, 2010); 2843 Colborne St. E by Josh Weissbach (USA, 2012); and Nuclear Family (UK, 1990). North Carolina State University, USA (28 October 2013)

Hand Eye Visions: the Films of Kayla Parker and Stuart Moore Cine-City, the Brighton film festival; Lighthouse, Brighton, UK. We presented a programme of 17 direct animation films, made over the last 20 years, for the third and final Hand Eye Visions event, curated by Ian Helliwell (27 November 2010)
The Measure of It 16mm film-drawing performance and screening with artist’s talk; Nuclear Family projected from 16mm print, Studio One at Plymouth Arts Centre, UK (6pm - 8.30pm 28 April 2010)

Put Away these Childish Things exhibition (as video installation); Viewpoint Gallery Plymouth, UK. As Yet Unseen also shown in the exhibition (24 January to 3 February 2006)

Happy Families? exhibition, ICA, London, UK

Ashton Court Festival Creative Video and Electronic Arts Marquee, Bristol Community Festival, Ashton Court, Bristol, UK. The Electronic Arts programme featured six short films by Kayla Parker: Cage of Flame, Fanny and Johnny on Acid, Looks Familiar, Night Sounding, Nuclear Family, and Unknown Woman.“...showcasing the most exciting, creative and innovative new film and video in the South West. Over the weekend the programme will provide wider exposure for a range of rarely-seen experimental works which challenge and shift our perceptions of video art” (programme notes) (7 and 8 August 1993)

Four-Mations Channel 4. Television broadcast, UK

Mostra Internazionale di Cinema Montecatini Terme, British Council programme, Rome, Italy (7 to 13 July 1991)
On the Make programme of shorts, animation and experimental pieces from Devon and Cornwall, Watershed Media Centre, Bristol, UK ( 2 July 1991)
IMPAKT Festival voor Experimentele Kunst Utrecht, The Netherlands (22 to 26 May 1991)
VIII International Film and Video Art Festival Györ, Hungary (2 to 5 May 1991)
MINIMALEN Short Film Festival Trondheim, Norway (15 to 17 March 1991)
10th Women in the Director's Chair International Film and Video Festival, 'Animation and in Visible Colours' programme: "Kayla Parker's remarkable We're Not a Nuclear (1990) from the United Kingdom, which strikingly combines animation with live action and still photos" (Chicago Reader Arts & Culture 7 March 1991). "Choosing subject matter from ancient myths to modern day life, these women animators use themes and techniques that fit their individual complex visions" (programme notes). Chicago, Illinois, USA (7 to 10 March 1991)

Out of the West: A Touring Programme of Independent Film and Video from South-West England curated by Peter Carpenter. The South West Arts collection was available for hire with a speaker (Peter Carpenter) and for purchase on U-Matic, BetaSP and VHS; and also included work by Hazel Gower, Hazel Grian, Nathaniel Lane, and Folake Shoga (1990-1993)
AVE International Audio Visuel Experimental Festival 1990, Great Britain programme Arnhem, The Netherlands. The programme also included Alison Leaf’s The Loaded Dice and the Blunt Pen, Phil Mulloy’s Tin Fish, and Georgina Starr’s Climat’ic (17 to 24 November 1990)
34th London Film Festival Programme Two: Fear, Phantasy and Myth, London Film Makers’ Co-op cinema London, UK (11 November 1990)
Hertake International Women's Film Festival and Conference Glasgow, Scotland, UK. I entered two 16mm films Looks Familiar and Nuclear Family: both were selected, and my brother lent me the trainfare from Exeter to Glasgow and back. Hertake attracted women from across the UK and beyond; highlights included a screening of work by Trinh T. Minh-ha and Sue Friedrick, and Kathleen Maitland-Carter’s Desire Drives Her Car; a tape/slide presentation Teaching Feminism by Kate Henderson; and Sexuality and Seduction, a panel discussion with Moira Sweeney and Jean Matthe. During the Hertake weekend, I danced with Cherry Smyth when we hit King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in downtown Glasgow on Saturday night, and met several women whose lives were to connect with my own in the following decade, including Laura Hudson, artist, film-maker and co-organiser of Hertake, later programmer for the London Film Makers Co-op, and financial and cultural developer for Cinenova, a non-profit organisation distributing women’s film and video, formed in 1991 from the merger of two feminist distributors, Circles and Cinema of Women; animator Vicky Smith; and film-maker Sarah Turner (29 and 30 September 1990)
London Film-Makers’ Co-op Summer Film Festival Dance and Animation programme, LFMC cinema London, UK (July 1990)
Getting Animated South West Arts touring programme, The Arts Council, UK. The South West Arts Tour was organised by Michael Rose, then film programmer at Watershed Media Centre in Bristol. Three programmes of British animated film were curated “to highlight eighty years of independence and experimentation” (Michael Rose, programme notes). My film was included in the first programme, Redrawing the Boundaries: 80 Years of Experimentation, curated and introduced by David Curtis, then Film and Video Officer at The Arts Council of Great Britain. Programme two was devoted entirely to the work of female animators: Drawing to a Conclusion looked “at a range of strategies which have been used to negotiate and redefine being female within the animated frame” (Janis Goodman, programme notes); Karen Watson introduced the third programme Along Political Lines, which featured her 1987 graduation film Daddy’s Little Bit of Dresden China, made to express her feelings about the abuse she had experienced as child within her family (premiere: 1990)