Sometimes when shooting a documentary magic happens right in front of you. It just happens and you know that you’re suddenly capturing an important moment that will enlighten the show, the one moment that brings meaning to everything else. You freeze, do your best not to shake the camera or fall over, and just let what’s happening in front of you happen. I had a moment like that on March 22, 2007. Magic happened right in front of me. I saw something that I had never seen before. The only problem was that my camera was locked in it’s case at my feet because we were forbidden to shoot. Let me explain:
CAT and I were invited to a big event at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York city. It was the kick–off promotional event of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee / The Yarn Harlot’s new book. Here’s part of her blog post/invitation:
The point of the evening is to get a whole whack of knitters into one room, then invite the media to come and see. Straighten them out on the world of possibilities, provide all of us with a moment that we can point to and say “See? Do you see what I mean?” An evening of proof. (Apparently The Knitting Olympics and Knitters Without Borders did not provide the world with this proof.) Now. The auditorium holds 750 people. This means that I could really, really be humiliated here (that’s the only part I don’t like. The image of me and the media in this huge auditorium while I try to explain that there really, really are a lot of knitters, I swear it.) but I don’t think that that’s going to be the case.
CAT and I were ecstatic. It was an event right here in NY, a message that was dear to our hearts, and they needed the media to cover it. Our video podcast and this event were a match made in heaven.
We then spent the next three days trading emails back and forth with the organizers. For some reason they kept throwing up crazy roadblocks that prevented us from shooting. What was going on? Don’t they want the publicity? Don’t they want the 5000 or so knitters who watch our show to know about the new book? According to the blog post they wanted the media there. We were very confused.
We finally got an e-mail the night before from Stephanie herself asking us to not shoot while she was speaking. We made arrangements to meet with her earlier in the day in Central Park but we couldn’t capture any of the main-event in the evening that people were coming from all over to see. OK, fine, we don’t understand but it’s her event so we won’t shoot it.
I didn’t think we had a show at that point but CAT is a big fan of the Yarn Harlot and she still wanted to go. We decided to make the best of it and see what we could get. We could always decide later to not post the show if we didn’t have a story.
We shot interviews with knitters before and after the event. Some of the knitters were a bit confused when we asked them to “guess” what Stephanie was going to talk about but we knew we couldn’t shoot inside and we needed something, anything, to fill the hole. I thought that we might get by somewhat on the knitters enthusiasm and to some extent that turned out to be true.
I also stole some shots inside the auditorium before the event began. There were about 650 knitters in there sitting, waiting, and knitting. It was still a prelude to the actual event but at least it was something visual and not just people talking about something that’s off screen.
Then I packed my camera away and CAT and I sat down for the presentation. It went well. There was humor and “snarky comments” as some of the knitters we interviewed had predicted. (Her speech was essentially an expanded version of her blog post/invitation.)
At one point Stephanie asked the 650 or so assembled knitters in the audience a question.
“How many of you read blogs on the internet?”
About 600 hands went up into the air right in front of me. It was like that moment in Close Encounters when they ask a crowd of people where the music came from and all the hands in the foreground pointed up to the sky.
“Man,” I thought. “That would have been an amazing shot.” Then she asked another question.
“How many of you write a blog on the internet?”
A few less hands went up but it was still quite impressive. Everything started to go in slow motion for me. The magic was happening. I felt the camera bag next to my foot. Should I reach in, grab the camera and try to get the shot? No. We agreed not to shoot the event. Probably take too long to power up the camera anyway.
“How many of you buy yarn online?”
Every single hand in the damn room went up. That was it. That was the moment. The economic power of knitting was on display. This was exactly what Stephanie hoped would happen in her blog post before the event. It was spontaneous, powerful and honest.
I saw it. My wife saw it. All the knitters in the room saw it. But unfortunately none of the people there needed to see it. And the people who do need to see it (the bankers, the “muggles”, etc.) will never know that it even happened.
I can describe what happened. I can show you still pictures of Stephanie standing at the podium. I can show you pictures of knitters sitting in an auditorium. I can show you talking heads of people just before and just after the event. But I can’t show anybody the actual magic… I can’t show anybody the actual “proof” …because it’s gone.
I hope somewhere, sometime, someone will organize another event like this and create another magic moment, so knitters will be able to show their numbers to the world. I’ll try to be there with my video camera, pointed in the right direction, in focus, and steady. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll catch lightning in a bottle again rather than just selling a few books to the choir.
LetsKnit2gether episode lk2g-014 Yarn Harlot in NYC to Represent