I am an introvert, so more often than not, I prefer working by myself. I have come to discover that many filmmakers, even the famous ones are introverts such as Stephen Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock. But as fate would cruelly have it, filmmaking is not a career which allows you to fly solo, as I have now discovered. (You can read the article below written by Elliot Grove, the founder of Raindance Film Festival)
After my decision to produce, direct, film and edit my half an hour thesis film by myself, I began in earnest and on November 17, I made an official “move” to live at the Bread of Life bakery in Lang Fang, Hebei until February/March 2015.
For 1 week I woke up every morning, went to the bakery and washed dishes. I did that because, I wanted to get to know the people at the bakery, especially the four women whose lives I would be filming. I also wanted them to trust me and get to know me as well. I didn’t want them to feel that I was just some stranger invading their privacy, but rather that I was someone they trusted who just wanted to tell their story.
This part was hard for me, but absolutely necessary. At first, I felt extremely out of place and awkward. I didn’t know them well enough, I didn’t speak the language well enough and I hated being around so many people at the same time all day long. There were always at least 4 other people besides me in the bakery at any one time.
Then after a few days, they started asking me to eat with them which was nice but I mostly stayed quiet because I didn’t feel that I had anything to say or that it was my right to say anything. After all, I had only known them for a few days. Then one day at lunch, Sara, one of the workers at the Agape Foster Home said, “You don’t talk much”. I think that was the catalyst I needed to open up, which I did.
A few days turned into a week, then two weeks and at the end of the second week, something happened which made me realise that my living with them was not in vain and maybe they had actually began to trust me.
When I had just started going to visit the bakery in October, my friends would always ask me to bring something back for them. I would always respond with, “They don’t have a store front, so they don’t have any left overs. They sell everything they make.”
But the second Sunday after I had begun to live with them, I accompanied them to a Christmas bazaar in order to film them and also to help out a bit. That Sunday, after we came back from the bazaar, Danny, the manager at the bakery said to me, “Hey, we have some cinnamon rolls that we made which we didn’t sell and we can’t resell them now because they would be too stale. Do you want to take some? How many do you want?” It turns out that they actually do have leftovers and they keep them to eat later or they give them to the children at the Agape foster home which is attached to the bakery, or give them to whoever they feel like giving them to.
So although it was awkward and difficult at first it was necessary and a hurdle which I overcame. I decided that it was time to finally start filming.
P.S. This week (December 22 – 28) will be the 6th week that I will be there. I’m not sure where the time has gone but I’ve noticed that if I am away for a long time, I begin to miss the people at the bakery. It’s all about time. Everything in its time.
More in Part 3.