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Margaret Tait
On most of her films Tait used a 16mm clockwork Bolex camera with fixed lenses. Her final camera, a Bolex with a zoom lens, was used on her last film, Garden Pieces.

She also moves between the fixed camera on a tripod in Rose Street to the drifting, breathing, and intimate hand-held camera that mark immediacy and engagement in Portrait of Ga and Hugh MacDiarmid a Portrait. The work Tait put into editing her films, each one evolving, will surely come to be more acknowledged. This process involved editing then projecting the work in progress, invariably to Alex Pirie, and then working on it again. She often reworked and reused bits of film and sequences, and in one case included the whole of an earlier film, Rose Street, in the later On The Mountain.

Tait sometimes commissioned the music for her films, notably from Hector MacAndrew for Where I am is Here and from John Gray for Blue Black Permanent and Garden Pieces. She used the ambient sounds of voices, of radio and the sounds of builders diggers and lorries in Place of Work.During the working process, Tait edited the picture first, and added the sound afterwards, a technique she had learnt in Rome. Alex Pirie has described how, when working on The Big Sheep the musician John MacAskill, who was playing the pibroch on Lament for Donald of Laggan fitted his sequence to required duration on the third attempt for the already edited film. The films were edited on a single track picture sync, with dubbing work and film processing done at studios in London. Tait's medical training probably helped when writing the detailed production notes she sent accompanying them.

The flurry of activity around the 2 Rose Street Film Festivals of 1954 and 1955, which Tait organised, and the publishing of her books of poetry and short stories in 1959 and 1960 was followed by consistent film work through the 1960s and 1970s, including the first of her longer films, Where I Am Is Here. After Land Makar in 1981 periods of serious illness caused her to concentrate her energies her ever-evolving screenplay, Dark Waters. The outcome was the realisation of her long-held ambition to direct a feature film, made was in 1992 under the title Blue Black Permanent. Finally there was to be the slow gestation of her last film, Garden Pieces.

Many of the films seem to just emerge in their own time and space, with images and sounds blending or changing as if they were somehow always like that...formed without the unnecessary, the clutter of things. This is found both in her short films like Portrait of Ga or longer ones such as Where I Am is Here. Tait's films seem so fresh that it is as if they had just been created. Her skill and experience in editing made this possible, as it had when she collected the original images and sounds to use; revisiting and selecting material. The amount of work that went into her films could be seen physically at her place of work, as the actress Gerda Stevenson wrote in her tribute; "She drove me one day, in the back of her rattling small van, down a winding Orkney seaside road, to the old kirk which was her work-base, the hub of Ancona Films...Every inch of floor was covered in leaning towers of dusty film-reel cans - her life's work". Also in her studio would have been the unrealised projects, like the feature length script, The Lillywhite Boys, unpublished stories and poems, and probably film images and recorded sounds that may or may not have been used at some point.

Still from A Portrait of Ga by Margaret Tait, 1955
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