Among the many last minute preparations during the final week before "Craft in America" came to my studio, I planned and laid out a sequence of jewelry fabrication demonstrations that they had requested. (The images in this post are a few of my step-by-step demo samples for the video shoot.)
The executive producer had specifically requested that I demo the making of a triangular bracelet featured in the Ornament Magazine article....(shown below) which is a fabulous, fabulous, fabulous bracelet, but it is made from tin cans that are very hard to find.
A major difficulty, however, was figuring out how to modularize the making of a one-of-a-kind bracelet that is dependent on difficult-to-find, one-of-a-kind tin cans. I don't buy tins from e-bay as I truly want my materials to be scavenged from the waste stream of our society, and NOT from a retail site like e-bay, ..... but this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Nothing was going to deter me from my plan. I eventually found (and guiltily ordered) two triangular Altoid tins offered on e-bay. One of them arrived only the day before the crew arrived. That was too close! I do not like to operate on the margin of a crisis.
In this situation, I learned of the extraordinary difference between "video time" - one or two minutes is all they wanted - and real craft fabrication time of five to 40 hours. I'll bet in the final television segment we will be looking at the fabrication for no more than a few seconds.
My regret was that I didn't have more of the intermediate step-by-step progressions prepared. However, I can take some comfort retrospectively that this was not a "how-to-video." My assumption is that they will use this setting to give the audience some insight into the creative process, and not a fabrication lesson. I've watched almost all of the prior "Craft In America" library of DVDs or videos on Youtube, and the fabrication shots are only part of the bigger picture.
Seriously, they would video each step for only a few minutes -- and even that seemed to be too long for the cameraman. Secretly I was told by Bill, my husband, that the cameraman seemed to be making all kinds of hand signals to the crew. At the time, I didn't notice (because I was not supposed to look at the camera).
Below is a screen capture from the JEWELRY video on PBS by Craft In America. If you watch the episode you can see me cutting the tin and soldering.
Eventually, the camera was turned off and the cameraman said, "Let me know when you get near to the end." I think he meant, "When will some real action happen?" I guess sawing, drilling, filing or grinding are not very exciting video content.
From an initial state of naïveté, I became increasingly aware of the chasm between my sense of craft making real-time and their sense of "video time". I was shocked by the rapid fire chop, chop, chop, jumping from one set up to another. No feedback, no transition and no time to reflect. I frequently found myself taking a deep breath, repeating the mantra, "I can do this" .... back straight, abs sucked in, go forward. Telling myself, "I can do this."
For example, hammering one tiny gold rivet usually takes me a few minutes. From my normal perspective, I had hours to go with more riveting, . . . but they were done with each segment of video recording after 3 or 4 minutes and cut off my snail's pace of gold riveting.
Every few minutes, the Director would ask, "What do you do next?" I would then jump right into a very short description of the next fabrication activity.
Typically a very short discussion ensued between the director and the DP, then a decision was made and instructions given, usually requiring the crew to move or shift the camera.
Moving the camera was a production in itself. I am not kidding!!!! The DP would lift the camera off the tripod with muscles flexing. The gaffer and focus guy would take charge of the tripod, collapsing the legs, pick it up, carry or move the very substantial tripod to the next proposed location.
Within a few moments, the tripod was placed in a new spot and the camera clicked back into the tripod. Simultaneously, lighting and sound were moved to new locations. Then sound was tested, lighting and framing confirmed, and focus checked. Ready? Go!
While the crew was repositioning, my brain was going a mile a minute about what tools I need to be ready for the next scene. I couldn't really pay any attention to what the crew was doing; if I wasted their time, I was also wasting this opportunity.
Truly the more variety of video scenes that they could record in that afternoon, the more possibilities that they would have to edit for the final product.
Any extra recorded scenes might become useful for YouTube excerpts or other promotional material to promote the show. In my head, it was my responsibility to be prepared and do my best.....but get this....there were never any practice takes.
No multiple takes. No "Take 2" or "Take 3". Each segment was done once! And then, video time moved on to the next step, segment, or topic.
I'm fascinated by film production and the making of documentaries. I'm no expert, but I have gained some insights over the years.
Documentaries emphasize capturing the video recordings without practice, it is supposed to be real life. I just didn't realize they would take that precept so literally considering the importance of this show.
This is the other side of the bracelet. It is not finished. Keep reading...
Another precept of documentaries is that they expect to get the best verbal commentary on the first take, especially with real people, not actors. Instead of improving with iterations of practice, the documentary subjects tend to begin sounding "rehearsed" or artificial. This was the foundation of making documentaries when I took a video class at the local community college several years ago.
I've also heard these kinds of comments by listening to the director's commentary on movies from Netflix, videos from the library, or YouTube! Every time I can find a director/producer commentary, I listen to learn more.
Those director commentaries always provide some new insight for a novice like myself. Some directors prefer to do several takes of a scene. Small changes in each take of the scene -- Take 1, Take 2, Take 3, Take 4, . . . . Other film makers, like Clint Eastwood, are well known for doing only one take of a scene. The expectation is that the actors put everything into the first take if they know that there will be no backup, no Take 2. This is it.
That was how the entire day went for me. One take! And on to a new scene . . . one take. Then another new scene . . . one take! Chop, chop, chop.
I grew more comfortable with this as the day went on, but it still surprised me.
Also, I was instructed to look only at Coby (the director), not at the camera or elsewhere. For me, that was really hard to do with five other people standing just outside of the "scene". In the beginning, I was very distracted. The artist's eye wants to see and look at everything. I have an eye for detail. How could my eyes only look at one spot or one person? This was yet another stress to force my brain to not look elsewhere.
What do you think?
Previous Posts in the "Craft In America" in my studio series.
This post was updated on December 2021.