From the Mind Of... Debbie Isitt
Debbie Isitt is the director of Confetti, which opens in select theatres September 15th.
So there I was about to shoot a film without a script, and I felt very 'exposed' to say the least. Getting a feature film financed had not been the easiest ride of my life and I was determined to enjoy it. Here is the premise: three couples are about to get married in a wedding competition run by a bridal magazine. The prize is a dream house and the couple who has the kookiest wedding will win. One couple will have a tennis themed wedding, one couple a musical wedding and one couple will have a naturist wedding - simple enough? Hmmmmm...
With no script I had to engage the actors in some kind of workshop process, talking to them about their characters and the possible journeys they might go on. So I gave them all the blah blah on how I was going to set them up with real lives, real homes etc. and how they would plan their weddings. I would follow them with a camera and out of their characters' desperate desire to have the most original wedding and win a house, I was sure they would all come up with funny and emotional stuff. That's when May Chu, my co-producer (and my right arm), walked into the room waving a naturist magazine shouting "Hey, I've got us into Spielplatz!" Okay, so here is where things get interesting.
Spielplatz is the oldest naturist community in the U.K and they were inviting us to film at their camp to provide an authentic backdrop for our actor's story. So off to Spielplatz trouped May and I and the two actors who were playing the naturist couple. As we drove up the leafy lane that led to the club we all started giggling like kids. A sign reading NAKED PEOPLE THIS WAY (or was it 'Spielplatz Naturist Reserve'?) greeted us and sent us all into nervous convulsions. To our surprise the man on the gate was fully clothed and welcoming so we went right on in. By the time we parked up we had already spotted a couple of naked people milling around outside their little mobile homes, but none of us was talking about it. We got out of the car and were greeted by a naked man in his fifties. We didn't know where to look, but I told myself it was nothing to worry about - it's only human flesh after all - nothing I haven't seen before - don't look down - don't look - too late. I saw it dangling before me, then quickly averted my eyes. The naked man informed us that it wasn't courteous to stare at the bodies of naturists and that one of the benefits of being a naturist meant you held eye contact with each other for longer. So the eyes have it!
Further into the camp we went, passing naked people smiling and waving and nodding as they went about their business, weeding their gardens and repairing their cars and stuff. Inside the club house there was a small gathering of naked folk chatting and playing pool and drinking at the bar. Okay so they had no clothes on, but it was all starting to seem strangely NORMAL. We were introduced to the man's wife who was naked apart from a pair of cowboy boots. I remember those cowboy boots in great detail because I stared at them for half an hour as she chatted to me. Soon there were several naturists surrounding us, chatting casually about the nature of naturism and life in the club. The four of us were beginning to feel a little uncomfortable, after all we were clothed in our winter woolies. I think we'd all had the same idea, like playing strip poker as a teenager, the more layers you wear, the less chance of being exposed you have. The heating in the club was set at 'Bahamas' level, because naturally when you are naked you need to feel warm. So the sweat was beginning to pour from under our thermal vests. Cut to: half an hour later and we're all around the pool wearing nothing but our birthday suits. It was a pretty odd experience seeing your professional collaborators in the buff. The four of us were all smiling and grinding our teeth at the same time. Sure it was embarrassing, but once we all got in the swimming pool we felt more relaxed, more 'covered' and certainly a little cooler. Chatting to perfect strangers starkers in a pool remains one of the most surreal experiences of my life, but listening to those people share their stories I had a growing feeling of respect for them. They didn't want to hurt or offend anyone. They just wanted to be naked. I'm not sure why naturism is still thriving in England, I mean the weather is hardly conducive to stripping off but I left Spielplatz feeling like making a film without a script wasn't so exposing after all. Compared to that, it was going to be a fully clothed walk in the park.
-- Debbie Isitt, director of Confetti.