What Made Me Do It
I am a textile designer and maker. I have specialised in the resist-dyeing technique known as arashi-shibori since completing an MA in textiles in 2008. (Arashi is Japanese for “storm” – a word that accurately describes the signature slanted lines of resist patterning that look like wind-driven rain).
During the course of my degree I developed a machine to help me do my work – with the support of Bath Spa University. After graduating, I continued to develop this machine. I even exhibited it at IMB 2009, a major textile equipment exhibition held in Germany.
The machine won first prize for innovation and I found myself being propelled into developing it as a commercial product in its own right. Meanwhile, I was also making and selling my own multi-layered work.
The idea for a film arose from 2 needs:
#1: for a teaching aid for arashi shibori pleating – since many people asked me about courses
#2: to promote the machine by showing how it works to potential customers
There are some wonderful books available on the subject, but I knew from my own experience that I learn much more from watching actions rather than reading about them.
Take My Advice
1) Choose your film-maker carefully
We did this based on price and the feeling of being able to communicate well. I had to choose one that was local and affordable, fitting both my budget and the availability of the studio we had been offered by the University. My own studio space was not big enough for me and a camera/cameraman/lighting; the angles of shot would have been too limiting.
2) Choose your venue carefully
I needed a clear space – with a sink, power, work surfaces; this was offered to me by Bath Spa University for just 2 days – a small gap between semesters. Fortunately, it was a photographic studio with blackout blinds that more or less worked so we could control the evenness of the lighting throughout the day. This was a good thing since our shoots lasted almost 12 hours, from 8 am until almost 8 pm.
3) Write a complete script
I recall being advised to write the exact, complete script in preparation. I tried to do this; there were many drafts. They included columns for what stage (what is happening); what equipment was needed; what shot; what voice-over. We had decided I would not speak during the filming since doing so would have caused continuity problems with the editing process that came later. Instead, I would put in a ‘voice-over’ afterwards, once the sequence of shots was completed. Only in retrospect do I understand how fundamental this planning was – and how it would have helped if I had done it more precisely.
4) Prepare the ‘ones done earlier’
Essentially, I was compressing a 2 day process into 8 hours of filming (we ran over – it became 11 hours!). This meant having lots of duplicates, so I could jump in time. I dyed 10 scarves the same colour, had to have 6 pipes with work at different stages, 2 for each of the different types of wrapping. Continuity is a big issue! An example: I reuse my wrapping string so there are random knots showing. If you look closely, you can spot where I have changed pipes to cut forward to a different stage. We had to accept we could not have total perfection on our budget.
5) Set up the venue for filming
Ideally, we would have had Matt, our cameraman, with us as we set up the studio. We did our best. He arrived the next day and pointed out everything we had not thought about, most of which had to do with positioning of equipment and camera angles.
6) During Filming: Lights, Camera, Action, Continuity
This was a monster day! 12 hours, surviving on sandwiches eaten as we worked, and learning as we progressed. Technical issues were solved as we went. How to film through steam? How to show steam? I had to take care not to speak during the filming since that would make that shot useless. The hardest bit for me was learning the few lines I used to introduce the film – and relaxing enough to be filmed full on. I will not seek out a career as a film actor!
I was fine once I was doing the practical parts. Matt would have to ask me to stop something I was doing then start again as he adjusted the distance from which he filmed the shot. He was constantly aware of continuity of shot. I would need to remember exactly where I was when I started again or he would have problems with editing later. I became an expert at this by the evening. It was a totally exhausting day, but we left exhilarated and excited at what we had achieved and captured on film.
7) The Edit
Editing Issue #1: Matt warned me that the camera cannot lie. “If something is old and rusty in reality then that is how it will look in the film”. However, when he left his coffee cup in a shot on dyeing (and it is not good practice to eat or drink when dyeing and certainly not to have it visible in a film), I was amazed to see him erase it through some magic process! So the camera can lie…sometimes.
Editing Issue #2: After learning how copyright issues restrict us from using only the most bland commercial background music, we had to choose something that would both suit the mood and smoothly “attach” to the film, with no apparent seams. After listening to 10 CDs they all began to sound the same.
Editing Issue #3: Finally, after far longer in the editing suite than we ever imagined, planned or budgeted for, we were down to final details like sections and indices, credits, disclaimers, titles, fonts, and cover design. The devil is in the details!
Being invited to write about this brings back memories of both my exhaustion and exhilaration at having completed this film. I am so proud of the achievement it represents, especially after one of my sponsors had no other feedback than “Congratulations!” after viewing the rough edit I sent him for constructive criticism.
See the trailer here:
Anne Selby is an award-winning shibori artist (and SDA member) who specialises in multi-layering of silk. Based in the UK with a studio in Sri Lanka, she has developed a range of equipment for arashi work which includes the DVD and the Compleat™ Arashi Shibori Wrapping Machine.
For more information go to: www.anneselby.com