Knitting for the Camera! A Star is Born

Back in August Andrea Berman Price (author of Knitspeak), Joelle Hoverson (author of Last-Minute Knitted Gifts and More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts), and I (Melanie) were each visited by a camera crew from Open Road Media. The crew's job was to film us talking about our passion for knitting and then create documentary-style videos with their footage (all of this part of our launch plans for our new digital knitting book initiative). Not surprisingly, each of us felt a little hesitant about our interviews and then self-conscious about the results. It was definitely a test of our self-confidence and groundedness. I asked Andrea to share her memories of the day she was in the hot seat. I'll share my story soon.

Cheers, ladies (left to right): my friend Melissa, Lily, Lisa, and Polly from Open Road, and me

You may not believe me when I tell you that even a florid extrovert can get nervous and tongue-tied when faced with a crowd or a camera.  I’m not sure I have ever been as nervous as I was on the day in August when the Open Road crew came down from New York to DC to capture me on pixels for STC Craft. 

The crew rolled up to my rowhouse in Washington, DC, just after 11am and began unloading black bags full of wires and lights in my living room.  I hid upstairs, I was so jittery. I let them have the run of the first floor to set up without me in the way. I identified the crew by their voices. I began to wonder: Were they knitters? Were they hungry? Could I connect with them? I was relieved they were all women, and highly competent. For some reason it seemed easier to talk about knitting on camera with a female crew; I felt as if they’d respect my passion for it rather than ridicule it. And I think they did.

The camera was set up in a corner, and a chair was placed in the middle of the living room floor. This was  going to be the hot seat.  The interviewer, sat facing me, next to the camera so I could feel like we were having a conversation, but I was mesmerized by the black lens. I rambled on about how I learned to knit, about patterns, why I think knitting is so great.  My hope was that there was a good editor back at the studio who could make this sound cogent in postproduction.  

“What’s your angle?” I had asked the producer a few weeks prior.  “Our angle is you,” said the producer.  Ack.   What is it about me that would be important to talk about? I could talk about teaching knitting, I could talk about pattern reading, and common pattern problems, but oddly enough for those who know me, I did not want to talk about me.

As friendly as the crew was (and they really couldn't have been friendlier), this was not like speaking to fellow knitters at a fiber festival, or my weekend knitting group, or to a group gathered at a yarn store event; the camera didn’t smile back.  I thought about what I really wanted to come out of the conversation. The message would be: The joy that knitting has brought to my life can be accessed and celebrated by all. A humble cause when you think about it, that a folk craft learned at a grandmother’s side, can fascinate, calm, and delight. I kept rambling, stopping, and asking the crew to let me re-take the questions.

This may seem a trumped-up aim for a humble craft, but I wanted to get across that knitting (and crochet) is a meaningful activity for so many reasons. We show love by making gifts, we celebrate friendship in knitting groups, we recognize the love in the connection when we teach others, and with those who taught us even after they are long gone.

I was tongue-tied all day long; the nervousness never left. How could I communicate this grand thought in a way that did not sound silly? If I was unfocused myself about what I wanted to say, how could I produce a cogent message with those lights in my face? By the end of the day, at least one of the crew talked about rescuing a long-forgotten project from the back of the closet. She tried on a soft, swirly shawl as we set up the last shot. I realized then that through all the fumbling and re-takes, that I might have hit the mark. I had chattered and pontificated all day, but my enthusiasm was (I hoped) inspiring a sometimes-knitter to reach for the needles and try again. Some of the comments I got from old friends on Facebook in the first days after the video released reinforced the feeling that the message had gotten through. The message was: pick it up again; knitting might just satisfy a vague need for centering, for creating, for connection. We popped a bottle of prosecco and the crew ran off to catch the train.  I was exhausted.  All I wanted to do was knit.

Click here to see Andrea's video.