Getting dolled up
Here’s my one-liner pitch: Three women in their 50s and 60s hit the dance floor every Friday night. As they “shake their groove thang” looking for love, lust or friendship, they prove that the search for connection never get old.
It was Saturday at 7:00pm. I sat in my first subject’s bedroom ready to start filming. My mom walked in.
“Turn that camera off.” she ordered. “I want to change.”
“But what about my “Golden Girls Gone Wild” trailer?” I joked, turning off the camera. Better respect my subject’s boundaries. Especially when that subject is my mother.
With my mom dressed, I could start gathering some G-rated footage. My plan was to film her getting ready for her night – doing her hair, putting on make up, deciding on jewellery – whatever. And while she was preparing, she could talk about her dancing experiences. A simple approach to my first documentary. Or so I thought.
“So when did you start going to the dance?” I asked to get the ball rolling.
“Tell me about it,” I encouraged. My mom loves attention and this time she had my full focus and I knew she had a good anecdote to share.
“It was good.”
I pressed on. “What did you like about it?”
My vocal, chatty mother had suddenly clammed up. It was the camera of course. I knew it was my job to get her talking. But I didn’t know how. I couldn’t shake the stories out of her.
Wait. Could I?
No I couldn’t.
I had asked permission to film at the dance but hadn’t received an answer. I didn’t let that stop me though. I took out my camera and pressed record. Not that I could get much – the light was too low. My mom started doing a hilarious off-beat Macarena. “Where’s your camera?” one of her friends scolded me. “ You should be taping this!” She was right. I started to record. Suddenly a woman stopped me.
This was at the bar. Gotta let those seniors know who's boss!
“There’s no filming here.” she declared, staring at me. I shrugged and switched off my camera.
An hour later I ventured outside to collect some exterior shots. Within seconds the the same woman approached me again. “You can’t film outside either.” What the hell? Was the Legion some kind of secret bunker? A hot spot for terrorist attacks? C’mon. It’s a bungalowed building with wood-paneled walls and cheap Coors Light.
But rules were rules. I turned off the camera and went back inside.
Not ready, Freddie
The next day I reviewed the rushes. “Your stories that are going to make this interesting.” I told my mom. “All those fun times that you talk about. Like that time when Dennis passed out.”
“You know we haven’t seen him since that time.” My mom mused. “He passed out on the table and I’m the only one who helped him. And then that lady thinks we’re together just because we’re both black.”
She was unself-conscious and chatting without reservation. Perfect. I reached for my camera and pressed record. Nothing happened.
I looked at it and immediately realized why. The memory card was empty. The battery was out of its slot. And the microphone wasn’t plugged in. I quickly put the camera together but by then the moment had evaporated. I missed it.
Disappointed, I realized that I needed to be ready all the time. I just never knew when something would happen. I kept the camera at my side for the rest of the afternoon.
Finally starting to feel more relaxed on camera.
Even when my parents drove me home, I had my camera in my lap, card in, miked up and ready to go. For 45 minutes, nothing much happened. Then an innocent question turned into a conversation about shoes, sex and men at the dance. As my mom’s light gossip deepened into a rant about relationships I started to record. This time I was ready. And this time, she kept talking.