While making a pair of leather sandals in her cluttered East Village shop, pioneer NYC craftswoman Barbara Shaum muses on her craft, her history-making sip of ale, and her pickiest client ever – Chiki the llama.
Lind shot “Barbara Leather” with a hand-wound 16mm Bolex camera, edited on an ancient flatbed, and preserved resulting splices and jumps to give the film a handmade look that complements the artistic process shown on screen. He also solved a problem that few indie filmmakers have had to tackle: finding a llama outdoors, in the winter, in New York City.
Seth Lind is a filmmaker living in New York City. He was a co-producer and cinematographer on the award-winning 2004 documentary film “Stranger: Bernie Worrell on Earth”, about the genius keyboardist of P-Funk and Talking Heads. “Barbara Leather” is his first film as director. Seth currently works as Production Manager for the public radio show and television series “This American Life”.
What inspired you to make this piece?
I lived near Barbara Shaum’s shop in the East Village, and when I walked by I’d often stop to look through the window at all of her cool old tools and workbenches and piles of leather. I couldn’t see anything that looked like it was made after 1950. I thought it would be a really great space to film on 16mm, because the esthetic of that format tends to make things look old, and make old things look pretty. Barbara keeps odd hours, so I had never actually seen her. After I met her I learned that she was a compelling character who inhabited the space.
Briefly tell us about how you made your film or video: what camera and format did you use to shoot your piece, and what system did you use to edit it? What is your working process? Did you use any special techniques to make this work?
I conducted and edited audio interviews with Barbara to create the structure of the film, then filmed to complement the audio story. I shot on a hand wound 16mm Bolex camera from the 1940s and edited on a Steenbeck flatbed. I’m thankful, because I’ll probably never have the opportunity – or the patience – to edit like this again. I transferred the work print to video, preserving splice jumps to give it a handmade aesthetic, and finished the soundtrack in Pro Tools, including a really nice original score by Grace Kang.
Do you have any interesting behind-the-scenes stories about the making of this particular work?
I really wanted to film a real llama, but it seemed like a long shot to find one outdoors in New York City in the winter. But it turns out they had a few at the Queens Zoo out in Flushing Meadows. A friend and I dragged the equipment through the snow and got some pretty great black and white shots of the llamas. The Zoo staff was very accommodating.
What is the relationship between your work as a video/filmmaker and life in the New York metropolitan area?
I made this film soon after moving to New York, so it reminds me of my time adapting to living in this city. It also tells a small but exciting story in New York history, of Barbara being the first woman served at the last bar to serve women, McSorley’s Old Ale House.
What films/videos and makers have inspired you or influenced your work? And why?
The movie that made me want to be a filmmaker is American Movie by Chris Smith and Sarah Price. Not really in terms of the what it is about or even the quality, though it’s a fantastic movie, but more that it was the first time I recognized that these filmmakers had devoted several years of their lives to telling a story, with no real guarantee that it would work out. I really admired that dedication. And though you don’t see it in this film, I’m also inspired by what I’d call the ‘quirky macabre’ school of filmmaking, exemplified by Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam and Jeunet & Caro. I think I’m growing out of it a bit, but all those guys really know how to give a beating heart to a perverse idea.
If viewers are interested in obtaining copies of your work for rental or purchase, whom should they contact and at what address and phone number?
Seth Lind. firstname.lastname@example.org