Woman acts like she is the only pregnant woman in the world. Film at 11.
May 19, 2006 7:23 PM   Subscribe

Help me document (on film) my pre-conception, conception and pregnancy process.

I would like to film various parts of my getting-pregnant process in such a way that my product will serve as a video diary as well as be editable into a smaller form that can be shared with family/friends/gay parenting groups. I have a borrowed video recorder from my uni library, and no film background whatsoever. So far, my ideas are to tape conversations with my partner, our donor, our friends and our family and to diarize (just sit in front of the camera and talk). What else can we do to make this interesting as well as capture the meaningful stuff that's happening? What pitfalls should we try to avoid.

Has anyone else done this? Were people actually interested in seeing the tape or did you do it mostly as a diary? Is there any merit to my idea of making a film of our stuggles to share with gay/lesbian groups?
posted by arcticwoman to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd capture as much not talking heads as possible -- the phone calls with people when you tell them it worked. The pregnancy test waiting for both successful and unsuccessful tries. The shopping for baby stuff (if they'll legally let you film there).

No one wants to see hours of unedited footage, but if you get say Final Cut and cut into together into a quick story, cutting between heads and footage, why not?

The unedited is probably interesting to the kid and you guys only.
posted by Gucky at 7:56 PM on May 19, 2006

Yes, yes, yes!!!

The best I ever saw was several years ago - maybe seven or eight - at Sundance, called Baby It's You.

Check it out - she did a great job on this and you'd probably get some good ideas from it.

And best of luck - I went through the IVF wringer - email if you need/want any info!
posted by OhPuhLeez at 8:02 PM on May 19, 2006

I second Gucky's point about talking heads. The best way to avoid that, I feel, is to not shoot it yourself. You'll be too busy worrying about, you know, having a baby and stuff like that to worry about shooting a film. Do you have a close friend (not your partner or donor) who could devote the time to shoot it? An outside view seems a better choice to me.

Actually, upon thinking more about it, why not put a notice out on Craigslist or something? I'm sure that there are plenty of filmmakers out there who would jump at a chance to document a gay pregnancy. Hell, if you lived in the SF Bay Area, my roommate and I would definitely be into it. This would be a good story to tell, and I'm sure you'd have no shortage of takers.
posted by brundlefly at 8:29 PM on May 19, 2006

Take a photo of yourself every day; front view, and both side views, preferably against a blank backdrop.

Timelapse the end result and use somewhere in the larger film you are making.
posted by extrabox at 8:38 PM on May 19, 2006

Plan to edit and cut drastically -- my last project went from eleven 60-minute DV tapes to a 15-minute final product during the editing process. In order to get useful material, you'll wind up shooting a LOT of fluff. If you don't, you run the risk of missing something you'll want later. When it comes down to editing, remember that just because you shot it doesn't mean you have to use it. This sounds like trivial advice, I'm sure, but when you're in the midst of an edit, it will help you.

I second brundlefly -- If you possibly can, get someone else to shoot it. While there's something to be said for shooting it yourself (I reccomend Stan Brakhage's Window Water Baby Moving for a very beautiful pregnancy film shot by a member of the couple), you'll certainly get a different aesthetic than if its photographed by a relatively independent cameraperson, even if neither of you is Brakhage.

Either way, I'd say you need to make a decision relatively early on and stick with it, in terms of style. If you don't, you run the risk of having multiple styles fighting for dominance in the finished piece. If you want that, it could be aesthetically functional; if not, it will drive you batty in the edit as you try to reconcile multiple different cinematographic styles into a single piece.

A lot of your ideas sound interesting, to begin with, in terms of mixing candid tape of yourself and your partner with diary material. Be sure to get lots of B-roll material -- things you can cut to during diary / talking-head moments to make things more visually interesting. That aforementioned 15-minute film didn't have much in the way of B-roll, and wow did it suffer for it..

In general, be aware that documenting something like this really is a full-time job, and if you do it yourself, it will affect a lot of things about your life for the durration of the project. Either you'll be devoting time to filming, or you'll be opening up your life for someone else to film. Make sure your partner is on board, too

One other technical note: Invest in a good microphone. I wound up shooting most of the interview material for my last project using a pair of Audio-Technica wireless lavs (lapel mics). The first few shooting days I used a sennheiser shotgun mounted to my DVX100A, and the output was far too noisy; I can only imagine the nightmares you'll have with an onboard mic. Upgrade your audio recording equipment before you upgrade your camera, for sure.

And finally, good luck. It sounds like a very worthy project. I hope some of my ramble helped in some way.
posted by Alterscape at 8:52 PM on May 19, 2006

And I must second Alterscape on the mic issue. This seems like a very dialogue centered piece, so at least one lav mic would be a good investment. The one useful thing I got out of film school was the importance of audio. You can be an epileptic with a VHS camera, and you can make do as long as you have good audio. Bad audio, and you're shot.

EX: I just had to shoot something with a 3-chip Handycam... without external mic. The internal mic was facing up from the top of the camera. The footage looked fine, but you could hear me freakin' breathing into the mic. Not all cameras are as poorly designed as that, mind you, but you'll want an external mic if you want people to look at this as something other than a home movie.
posted by brundlefly at 9:07 PM on May 19, 2006

Response by poster: Ok, first task: external mic. I will certainly look into getting one. Heck, my library might even have some to go along with the cameras.

Now this:
I'm sure that there are plenty of filmmakers out there who would jump at a chance to document a gay pregnancy. This would be a good story to tell, and I'm sure you'd have no shortage of takers.
looks like a fascinating idea. Unfortunately I live in a small city in rural Alberta (Canada) so Craigslist is a no-go. There is, however, a university and a college in my town and I'm sure I could find an aspiring film-student who would be interested. What sort of remuneration would be appropriate?
posted by arcticwoman at 9:13 PM on May 19, 2006

Actually, I don't think any remuneration would be appropriate. This would be a golden opportunity for a film student. If they're asking for money, they're probably not the person you'd want for this. Give them the right to send it off the festivals, and that should be all the payment they need. This could be someone's thesis, really. Put up some fliers on campus (I was using Craigslist as an example), and I'm sure you'd have no shortage of takers.
posted by brundlefly at 9:26 PM on May 19, 2006

["to festivals"]
posted by brundlefly at 9:29 PM on May 19, 2006

Brundlefly is right about the money *IF* you can find the right person -- bfly brings up a very important larger issue about your rights to the product and its future in the world.

If you offer this opportunity to a stranger, you're allowing her to tell the story as she would, not as you would. So you have to find someone who you're very confident you can trust and be sympatico with... and even then, you're just guessing.

Paying someone would have the advantage that you can accurately call it work for hire and you will have the rights to it, and control over its public life (if any) should you feel it's inaccurate or nor for the public in some other way.

And check Craigslist.org to make sure -- there might actually be one in your area!
posted by allterrainbrain at 11:44 PM on May 19, 2006

After reading the new responses here, I'm massively conflicted regarding the "do it yourself" vs. "find someone to do it for you" nature of the project.

If, as atb says, you find the right person, it could be incredible. You'd benefit from the filmmaker's experience in a lot of ways. However, there's also the question of losing control. If you find the wrong person, there's all manner of things that could go wrong. Personality conflicts on a long term project can get rocky; be cautious!

Brundlefly's original suggestion of a close friend almost makes more sense to me -- someone like this would already be comfortable around you. Plus, they'd most likely be comfortable giving you the tapes to edit after the fact. Maybe you could work out some way to use a combination of your own camerawork, and a friend's? Just make sure you train them on the equipment, and whatever happens, tell them not to zoom while something interesting is happening! Reframing typically works alright, so long as the conditions of the shot are changing, but a zoom is the kiss-of-death for the usefulness of a shot, in my experience.

You might want to check out some films made by/about th same person, for inspiration in terms of what you want / don't want your film to be. A modern example would be Morgan Spurlock's Super-Size Me. I'm not talking about the subject matter, just that he basically made it himself with the help of a friend for some of the camerawork. You might also check out Su Friedrich's The Ties That Bind. Friedrich gets into some crazy territory aesthetically, but again, it's the subject/creator line blurring that I think you'd be interested in. I named Stan Brakhage's Window Water Baby Moving above, but in hindsight, it isn't at all what you want -- its more about the aesthetics of pregnancy than anything else. One thing that worked for him, however, was letting his wife hold the camera and film him reacting to her. This, depending on the style you choose, could be a powerful choice -- filming eachother. However, its said that Stan ruined his marriage by inserting the camera into every argument, so, don't take this to an irrational extreme. :P

I'm not sure where you can find these films in rural Alberta, though (most of my family lives in rural Manitoba, so I well understand the middle-of-nowhere effect). Netflix, perhaps?
posted by Alterscape at 5:35 AM on May 20, 2006

You have a few implicit assumptions - notably, that your conception attempts will result in pregnancy, and that your pregnancy will result in a live birth. It's likely that those things will happen, but not a given. Would you want to distribute the film in the event of infertility or miscarriage? Think about that before you give your story to a film student/somebody other than you, because said film student would most likely want to finish the project regardless of outcome.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:45 AM on May 20, 2006

Response by poster: I understand that not all couples end up conceiving. In fact, I probably understand it better than most, since in the lesbian trying-to-conceive community most couples are over thirty-five and are mostly unsuccessful. I think that's one of the reasons that we want to do the film: we can help other lesbians see that they aren't alone, whether we get pregnant or not.

That is definitely something to think about, though. How comfortable will I feel with some film student making a movie out of our "failure" when it will most certainly be emotionally difficult.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:26 AM on May 20, 2006

If you live in Central Iowa, the Octagon center for the arts is offering a class in "pregnant belly casting" where you come in and cast your belly.

Just thought I would throw that out there.
posted by delmoi at 10:24 AM on May 20, 2006

For more education on self-made films, you may want to check out Tarnation. How good a film it is is highly arguable, but the film itself and his commentary on how he compiled material to tell his story could give you some ideas on ways to use images and sound.

Even if you shoot the whole thing yourself, consider bringing in a friend to help with editing.
posted by desuetude at 3:42 PM on May 20, 2006

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