Monday, 6 November 2006

about the doco and a few other things

There was a time in my life when I harboured dreams about being a film maker. Before that I simply loved films and it hadn't really occured to me that the making bit might be fun. I just loved to escape into that darkened world, to be carried away, to inhabit another life for a time.

And then more by accident than design I ended up enrolling in a film theory class in my first year at uni. I really loved cinema studies and bit by bit it began to take over the rest of my degree and the rest of my life. It wasn't a practical film-making course by any means, but I began to think more about what went on behind the camera.

More than that I realised that I thought in cinematic images. Reading books, which I had always done with gusto, was really just an exercise in creating films in my head and writing (something else I'd also done a lot of) was about trying to capture those visual images in words. So I started playing with video cameras and even 16mm film.

More and more it was documentaries that really interested me. I watched what is generaly considered to be the first 'documentary', Nanook of the North, and realised that it was very hard to imagine a world where what we take for granted in terms of access to other real worlds via film didn't exist. I liked uncovering the layer upon layer of assumption and construction that made up the so called window to reality, and the various processes, tools and devices that transformed the world out there into the 46 minute snapshot.

I made my first doco as part of my honours research thesis. It was about the first of what I think of as the major 'trap door' experiences of life, the end of high school. I used interviews with eight girls, four in their last year of high school and four who had finished four years earlier to explore what their expectations were of life post school and how their experiences on leaving matched those expectations. In my thesis I linked these themes with the process of education and how it's outcomes were not as direct or predictable as are generally thought.

Then in a moment of madness I set off to India where I made another doco about an illegal street clinic run by volunteer doctors. It was a really hard project because I had absolutely no grip on what was going on, because I was completely unprepared to find myself alone in India, because I was suffereing a major romantic disappointment, because the preparations made ahead of time to borrow cameras and the like had fallen through at the last moment and I was filming on a dinasaur video camera at great cost and in the shadow of the camera owners who were terrified of the police finding us filming the clinic.

And then I stopped making films. I was disappointed by the technology, and what a huge gap there was between the films I loved to watch and the films I could make, how hard it was to get access to equipment once I was no longer a student. But I also couldn't see a way to make films 'lightly'. Writing can take as little as a pen and paper, a computer at best. But films need cameras and lights and lots of people and editing suites and the capacity to set aside months of your time and of course a truck load of cash. I can't see myself as the deal maker, sucking up all those resources based on my self assurance.

Fast forward 15 years to my post birth tail spin. I felt a lot of the same things I felt about finishing school, that I was in a free fall that somehow I should have been better prepared for. That I had worked hard towards a goal that turned out to be nothing like I expected, that somehow I slipped through a trap door and I could never go back, but neither could I have ever seen what was coming. It got me thinking about what it was like for other women too. Did they feel like I felt? Could telling their stories help other women prepare for the unknown? Could exploring their stories help me to understand mine?

So in a casual I'm not really that interested kind of way I went down to the camera shop to have a look at the new generation digital video cameras. In the blink of an eye I'd bought a camera and enrolled in a short course in desktop video editing and was busy sending out emials to everyone I knew recruiting subjects for interviews.

I titled the film expecting because I liked the play on all those meanings expecting has. I developed a list of very broad questions and taped interviews with 25 or so women who had children, were pregnant or who wanted children. I thought a bit about it and what I thought some themes or film structures might be and I loaded up some beautiful footage from Amy's ultrasound and I even picked what I would like the sound track to be if I could get the artists' permission.

And then we got robbed and the camera was stolen (as was the laptop on which I did the editing). I replaced the camera, but the bubble burst. I also left my job and threw a whole stack of other cards in the air and lots of those questions I was looking to answer got channelled into my thesis. So now there is a box of little tapes and an idea waiting for me when I can find the brainspace and the time.

And now so completely unrelated images of the stuff getting made around here.

Lemon shortbread. Sadly all gone.

Some pressies for a friend, welcome Pia!
And Amy's first ever basically unassisted effort sewing. I've never seen her prouder. So we rushed out and got some tapestry canvass and she did this. So cool.


Janet said...

I love Amy's sewing efforts and can see why you're so proud. What a moment! (of course, yours are absolutely ace too, but I'm used to that)

ableknife said...

thanks for your story. sounds like you have a special goal and a gift. hearing your story reminds me to take stock of some of my passions, too. i just read a book called Chazown by Craig Groeschel that helps one use those passions in working towards a goal, and finding a "calling" so to speak. the book was a good reminder to myself that we are all so unique and with purpose. check it out.

African Kelli said...

mmm... incredible romantic disappointment sends the very best of women into a tailspin, much less those who are trying to tackle a major issue in a new country,
You are so adventurous!

telfair said...

I loved your story but now that I am here in "comments," I can't seem to focus on anything except how adorable those little bears are.

Suse said...

Love the bears, love Amy's sewing!

I hope you get the doco up and running again some day. Your post reminded me that I participated in a friend's doco on breastfeeding - she did it for her work purposes and interviewed 3 women only - I had completely and utterly forgotten it. I wonder if it's still floating around Melbourne hospitals somewhere ...

tiel s-k said...

you should do another course to get you going again. Melbourne is the place for this kind of thing.

Anonymous said...

I will visit this blog in the hoep that eventually you do get back to your film making. i need someone to inspire me! Just did a digital storytellign course at acmi and it was fantastic but now i need to set up at home with software... maybe Final cut express, not sure. have a mac. g'waawwwn!!!!!