Those of you who have followed the progress of the project know that we actually shot the video in 2001. (Yes, that’s six years ago!)
I know, I know--what happened??
Well, for those who are curious, here are some details about how the project was made.
Back in the spring of 2001, I decided to take a little time off from my regular job and develop this video idea I had tucked away in the back of my mind. I scribbled a few notes down in a notebook. I could sorta picture what the shots might look like and I sketched out these very rudimentary storyboards.
However, I had no idea of how to go about finding dozens of women willing to pose naked for a documentary 'art' film. (I work as an editor on documentary TV shows, but didn't know much about the production end of things.) So I asked my friend Beth Westrate--who works on the production end--for some advice. She estimated it wouldn't take more than a couple of months to find and cast the women, and luckily for me, she offered to help with the casting process and planning the shoot as well! Our goal was to shoot the video by the end of the summer.
We sent emails to everyone we knew and hung flyers all over town in search of our fifty models. We were shocked but delighted by the huge flood of responses. Some women were too shy to actually pose naked, but wrote in just to cheer us on in our endeavor.
By the end of July, we had found & cast fifty women who would represent a diverse range of ages, shapes, sizes, and ethnicities. I had also raised just enough money to cover the studio, crew, & equipment rental for a 3-day shoot.
Near the end of August, a crew of fifteen women gathered along with the fifty chosen models in a NYC studio. We filmed the women in half-hour sessions, 8 hours per day, over 3 days. To keep track of which body parts we had covered, one of the crew sat by the video feed, keeping meticulous notes and a running tally for every shot in our storyboard.
The models were photographed in a smaller studio first and then moved to the larger studio for the video portion. We asked the ladies to bring loose clothing to wear between their sessions (so as not to have "bra band" marks & such on their bodies), and many of the women brought brightly colored kimonos and wraps. So over the three days there was a constant assembly line of half-clad ladies, parading about in all manners of get-ups and often barefoot. They moved from station to station through maze-like dividers we had set up to keep the studios private. Between sessions the women could relax on the couches, have refreshments and meet each other (a second camera unit was on hand to capture some of the spontaneous conversations & goings-on backstage). It was a remarkable, fun, and fascinating experience to see all these disparate women--some young, some old, some shy, some bold--all together and in the altogether! By the end of the third day, even some of the crew got into the spirit and posed as well, putting our tally over the targeted fifty!
Who were the ladies? Let's see... there was a retired civil rights attorney, a professor, a children's underwear designer, a black-belt in karate, three office workers, two softball players, a retired horror-movie actress, a midwife ... some were moms, some grandmothers, and some were very, very pregnant. Who were the ladies?--they were the women you pass on the street every day.
Then just a few weeks after the shoot, the events of 9/11 devastated New York City. I had just started another fundraising push to get thru post-production, but the reality was that many charitable funds had to be re-directed to the more immediate needs of the city. And in truth, I felt embarrassed to be fundraising for a project that, in light of current events, seemed so frivolous. (Naked ladies!)
So I decided to build a home edit system and finish the project at home. I set up the edit system on the kitchen table and started to sort through all the footage. At the same time I worked with a composer in the evenings, and by the following spring I had a rough cut finished. But I had also run outta money by then, so I shelved the project and went back to work doing TV gigs. Every once in a while I'd dust off the project & attack it anew--and it always seemed to be "just about finished" & then I'd run out of steam (or money) again.
Meanwhile, over the next six years, some of the women died; many moved out of the city or even out of the country; some of the women had their first babies, then second babies etc.... Finally last year I had enough resources pulled together to do all the technical “finishing” parts for the video without stopping (in post production terms, that's the audio mix, online & color correct, DVD encoding, and then the package design).
p.s. Sometime when I’ve gathered enough steam again I’ll revisit some of the hours and hours of behind-the-scenes footage from the shoot itself [there are so many interesting interviews!]--not to mention the thousands of still photographs--but until then you can enjoy this short and to-the-point video: a veritable barrage of images, showing all kinds of women's bodies in all their naked glory. For your edification, reference and entertainment—enjoy!
—M.R., Dec. 2007