Since I was busy on Saturday 12th which was the day everyone would pick up their DV, HD, EX cam or DSLR and shoot distinguishing features of Britain for Morgan Matthews, Ridley Scott, Kevin McDonald and the BBC. I decided that I would shoot an unique perspective of the deaf club in Newcastle upon Tyne, which regularly opens its doors to the deaf community of Newcastle, (to correct myself, the elderly community of Newcastle as most deaf people of my age rarely attend the deaf club at all) at 7pm and closes at 11pm.
I knew that everyone was going to shoot something unique that has a meaning to him or her, in his or her way of life. I decided to shoot the people at the deaf club, showing what they do in the club, as a part of their daily lives. In the deaf community, deaf clubs are a part of their lives and most people in the community refers to the deaf clubs as a second home. I also wanted the film to be unique so I decided to shoot on the lowest ISO and aperture possible, creating an enchanting shallow depth of field.
I meant to shoot in an observational mode of documentary, like a fly on the wall recording everything as the action unfolded. But within minutes of shooting, I knew I had to abandon my original idea and switched to a Broomfield-esque persona but with less intervening and retained my persona and who I am instead of Broomfield himself, who creates several personas in his documentaries to get what he wants from his subjects. I believed that if I shot all from a point of view, the film would be almost meaningless, so if I reacted and asked people a few questions, then the film would mean something. It turned from a perspective into a tiny, but yet false, documentary.
Shooting was a phenomenal experience for me; I had completely forgotten what the club meant to the people there. They all come from an age where there were absolutely no technology like today and most of them are likely not to embrace today’s technology. Some people in the club are widowed or single, so when they’re at home, they cannot listen to the radio, or watch the TV because recently the standard of subtitles on TV has decreased a lot. So for most of the people, when they go to their homes, they have that nauseating feeling, probably like when you’re forced to visit your boring and old fashioned grandparents when you’re young while you’d prefer to go out and play with your friends. The people at the club have that feeling when they go home because they know they will be lost in boredom.
So when they all go to the deaf club, they know it is their real home, a place where they can call home. They go to the club to see their friends, and to play their traditional game of bingo, keybox and dominoes. Just remember that most of the people there do not have a mobile phone and cannot arrange to meet up with their friends during the week so the club is their only chance to see their friends and catch up on news and gossip. The hot topic that everyone talked about was England’s decisive and defensive win over Spain. Just seeing the people’s answers when I asked them what did the club meant to them was overwhelming. I knew that most of them had stories to tell.
I did not mean to shoot an interactive documentary in the first place, hence I’d say about 20-30% of the film was interactive and that was enough to inspire me to come back and make a documentary about the club, or a specific individual. It was an inspiring shoot indeed, in a place where it meant something to the people there.
I shot over 20GB of footage, which I was satisfied with, all of the rushes was so dark, but I knew they would look fine after grading. After converting all of them into ProRes, I started to edit the footage, looking for music and audio tracks. It was at this point when I realized that Britain in a Day had strict rules on the footages. They wanted to see unedited and ungraded rushes. That was a problem for me, since 12th of November had already flew past and in most of the footages was about 2-3 minutes each with only 5-8 seconds of pure gem footage that I could incorporate into the edit. Since I have edited and graded the footages already, I decided to upload this video on Vimeo as a personal project and forget about ‘Britain in a Day’ (author’s note to the author – Make sure you read everything, such as the rules, in and out before doing a project!).
Grading this film was a vital point in the end of the film’s look, it was enjoyable and a new experience for me. Since most of the footage was really dark, I had to brighten the whites and mids, de-saturated a couple of shots and played around with the colour until I was satisfied. I had little knowledge in grading and this was a hand on grading experience for me and I hope that people will think I did OK for an amateur at grading! Maybe it is time to re-read the grading chapter in Stu’s book.
Lastly, I would like to add that I discovered an individual, Tom Lilley, which is a wonderful man. I would like to tell a short story of him, I remember attending the deaf club when I was 8 year old and that was the first time I could remember seeing Tom’s tattooed arms, which scared me and I had nightmares of Tom, and he was my version of what everyone would call the ‘boogeyman’ and I cried several nights and I could not sleep at all. Eventually one day, I gave up and told my Mam about Tom. The next time I attended the club, Tom came up and talked to me, and gave me sweets (or candy). My fear of him was completely vanished, but little did I know that Mam told Tom that I was scared of him and he decided to come and talk to me to comfort my fear and nightmares.
But Tom is an extremely decent gentleman, and he was always generous and nice to me every time I saw him, which made me aware of judging people by its cover. On the outside, he was a tall, sunken, and gaunt looking man, with several scary tattoos tattooed on his arms and hands. But Tom would make a point to come and talk to me every time I went to the club. It hit me hard last Sunday after I had wrapped up shooting and as I settled for a pint, Tom told me that he had prostate cancer and would lose his hair and his moustache within weeks. He prided himself in his moustache that has remained the same since my first recollection of him.
So it is bitterly disappointing knowing that Tom had cancer and I hope he is able to fight the cancer and make a speedy recovery because I hope to make a short documentary about him, his life and his choice of tattoos. So I implore you, please donate to Philip Bloom’s and Stephen Collins’s Movember campaign for prostate cancer and I can genuinely confirm that Stephen has a cute tash! Please do give me with something positive I can share to Tom the next time I see him.
Here’s the link to video on Vimeo, so please enjoy the video and I hope you will try and understand what deaf club means to the people in the video.