Thursday, 27 September 2007

Remembering Intent

Shooting of In Other People's Skins began yesterday. It was very intense on a technical level. I spent the whole of the previous day helping construct a set of twin towers to span a walkway between them so that I could then set up two cameras above the table. I say helping construct, however, I mean giving moral support as I was in my own private hell sorting out import and export functions with systems I wasn't familiar with. Then on to rigging links between cameras, vision mixer, computers, monitors, setting up sound, lighting - the paraphernalia of a shoot.

Then yesterday morning came and having woken at 4am and making copious notes about what was still to do, I started the day with a list of technical goals which by 5pm I had begun to win through. A reception outside the studio ensued and various people with glasses of wine and the bonhomie born of having finished their day of staff meetings (and wine was the best way to dispense the tensions gathered in that sort of human occupation). However, there I was with my team finishing off the technicalities and beginning to sort out the art of it all.

The Team: Charlotte Humpston, Production Designer, Jennie Norman Art Director, Prashant Roy and Yuan Li shooting 'the making of', Rod Terry, construction and Holly Foulds construction and also helping on the shot (sort of stage management), Phoebe Beedell People Wrangler and Alison Sterling overall Producer.

I haven't yet written about the art direction choices, suffice it to say that one reaches into one's cultural knowledge gained from living in the world and doing some research to find out what you can and can't do and then sourcing as close as one can what fits the descriptions made to oneself. Then instructions to the team and off they go to see what can be sourced, then coming back together to present to me and me making choices and all the time Alison warning against stereotyping and cultural imperialism.

By 7.45 we have another production meeting to make sure everything is together and then off the cars go to pick up our 15 Gujerati friends. A moment of quiet (and going through the elements - one last recording to make sure it works, checking camera positions) then, before long, the cars come back.

I speak for 15 minutes introducing the people to the theatre space we are in, show the table and describe how the installation will work then try to relax everyone. I make sure I serve everyone a glass of water so that I tell them through that gesture that I am as they are and without them there would be nothing. I hope this communicates through the simple act of going from person to person asking if they want water. I'm the director and artist and it is important to me they understand that I am simply inhabiting an archetype for the event.

We rehearse laying the table and giving people places to sit, all the time trying to let the 'Ma' of the community take control. She does so and wonderfully organises the other women (prompted by Charlotte's interventions from her experience on many high level shoots). The Hindu priest is a delight - Mr Vyas organised everyone to come - and agrees to say prayers after the plates are laid and just after our Ma lights the candles.

Eventually the food arrives from Myristica (we have organised a series of restaurants to supply the food which will be good publicity for them when the installation goes on tat the local cathedral). We go to it and because of the rehearsal the meal/soot goes off without a hitch. At the end I transfer all the data to computer as the people are ferried home.

I expect each day to go like this and shall write further with some insights garnered from hanging a camera above a group, of people who give their time to this piece of art. In 20 minutes I again journey to the studio to shoot the 1st century meal and some pack shots of bread being broken in detail so that I might drop these in to the overall shot of the 5 meals - so that people are for a moment looking at a screen and not at the virtual simulation of a dinner party for 12. I want people to both believe and question the deception before them as well as examine the issue around placing their hands in Other People's Skins.

I have to keep reminding myself what we are really doing here - the art of it all - the intent to transfer insight to an audience. The insight though must not be articulated - if it is, then it evaporates and becomes mere intellectualism.

Later tonight we shoot footage for the pan Asian region.