My film project ‘Untucked Margate’, came from my anthropological interest in gender and identity and my interest within the LGBT community. I did not want my film to have some political agenda, or make the film into a controversy. I wanted to show a “minority” group just as they are in their everyday setting/life. This is what I aimed at in the process of making my film. I wanted to show the audience the perspective of the drag queens. I wanted to show how they lead normal life’s to everyone else, and prove any misconceptions or ideas people may of had about drag queens, to have it dismissed and challenged. In this sense, I was trying to education people on what drag queens do, and why they do it. “We do not grasp an image of the world but rather construct representations that substitute for the world”(Grasseni 2011,p.42). This is what I wanted to portray in my film.
My inspiration came from films such as Paris is burning and Tangerine. Particularly, Paris is burning, this challenged gender and identity at the time, and was one of the first documentaries to show what drag queens do. The film was hugely successful still to this day, and is why a number of drag queens first get into drag themselves. It can be seen as a history to drag. As Paris is burning set the stone of drag, it helped put it on the map at the time, and is still relevant today.
I first got in contact with the group, asking them if they would like to be in the documentary and they kindly agreed. I then took it upon myself to go to one of their shows but without any camera equipment, just to introduce myself and get a feel of the group and to make the comfortable around me, and find out who I was. The first meeting with them, with me introducing myself and talking about my ideas for the film helped bring a bond between us. This helped make them feel more comfortable in front of the camera. The drag queens were very much involved throughout the creative process as I was. We discussed ideas for the film, what they wanted to bring to the documentary. Communication and collaboration from both parties really helped shape the film and bring a realness, authentic feel to the film. I feel like this is a very important element to have when working in film. It is very important to include collaborative work. It enables informants to produce or contribute to documents they want, it enables research and the creation of other forms of academic knowledge
For Rouch (1989) “the process of film making is an act of belief, the belief that his films are as much a product of his unconscious “filmmaker’s” mind as they are the careful documentaries of an “ethnographer”(DeBouzek 1989, p,306) . He acknowledges the ambiguous nature of the relationship between the person who films and those who are filmed, a relationship that brings into question the nature of an absolute “truth” seen from a single point of view. Ambiguity and the unknown rather than posing a problem to the “surrealist ethnographer,” is actively pursued; it is through ambiguity that another reality can reveal itself. I included this in my approach when it came to editing. I wanted to portray the film as ambiguous, I want people to make their own interpretations of the film.
Berger (1972) described what we see is influenced by culture and what we see at that time and how we interpret it. Berger argues that using ethnographic media it can make us look at the world differently, that sight is a way of consulting what we see. However, with visual, the films and photos do not always represent a true representation, there is often a mystification of what we are looking at. This could be due to the editing process how we synthesize at the moment of filming/relationship between editor and subjective author/presentation of rushes to those who participated.As just like writing ethnography the anthropologist chooses what he thinks is relevant to show the audience. I found this a problem when it came to editing my project. I found out that it is very easy to manipulate your footage, and edit in a way that you want it to look, even know that it is not necessarily what the person is communicating. I think this is a prevalent problem within anthropology, we never know what is authentic, or if it is a true representation. We often make that decision ourselves. However, in my film I did not want to manipulate the footage, I wanted it to come across as authentic and represent a true representation of the drag queens.
Throughout the whole process of making my film, I learned the importance of reflexivity, subjectivity, authenticity and the relationship between the camera and the film-maker. “imagemaking is largely a form of extension of the self towards others, rather than a form of reception or appropriation. We are using our bodies and cameras as kindred spirits” (MacDougall 1998,p,27). I think this emphasises the importance of the relationship between the film maker and their subjects, and how you communicate with them. I feel like my film relates to a number of themes and theoretical underpinnings within anthropology itself. For example, as I have already mentioned topics such as gender and identity. As more often than not these are very sensitive subjects, and difficult to define. As visual anthropology is on the rise, and being taken more seriously by the discipline, I think it is important to consider all aspects of visual anthropology, and how effectively they can present ethnographer and research.