Made Here: My New Hair, STV

SAYS STV (here) of a documentary, My New Hair, being broadcast this evening on the channel, at 20.00: “STV will broadcast two brand new, 30-minute documentaries as part of This is Scotland, a documentary and new talent initiative run by the Scottish Documentary Institute (SDI) in association with Creative Scotland.

“The first of the documentaries, My New Hairwill air on Monday 16th February at 20.00. The second documentary, Lost in Transition, will be broadcast on the following Monday, 23rd February at 20.00.”

Ruth Carslaw, My New Hair director, answers the questions…

Who commissioned the programme?

Elizabeth Partyka, deputy director of channels at STV, for the ‘This is Scotland’ strand, supported by Creative Scotland and the Scottish Documentary Institute.

STV was looking for stories that would really get Scotland talking. When I researched the facts and figures about hair loss, I found it is an issue that is so widespread but hidden in plain sight.

It was a fantastic commission for something that was close to my heart.

Explain the thinking behind the programme’s ‘look and feel’.

This film is about image and emotion. Finding the moment when women take back control, showing strength in the face of adversity and giving people time to be themselves rather than just explain themselves.

I wanted the film to be bold with the camera acting like a mirror. There are confrontational, direct-to-camera portraits of women having their hair removed but also intimate moments. For instance, behind the door of the consultation room, capturing the private struggles when you’re faced with a reflection that isn’t quite you.

Who are the key personnel? How were they recruited?

I’m a self-shooting director so I researched the story and the main contributors, filmed it and edited it alongside the fantastic creative film editor, Anthea Harvey. I was looking for a strong female editor and found Edinburgh-based Anthea in the directory, Film Bang.

What kit and software?

I used a Canon 305 and a Gopro for the swimming pool scenes with Morgan, a little girl who goes swimming for the first time with her new wig on. I can’t swim, so it was above and beyond the call of duty.

The film was edited on Avid.

What were the main production challenges?

Timing and filming emotionally-charged moments – sometimes life-changing moments in women’s lives.

After meeting one potential contributor who was going through chemotherapy, she sent me a picture message that same night showing clumps of hair that had fallen out. The next day I had to drop everything and film her having what was left of her hair shaved off. You can’t put anything like this in your diary, so it was a very reactive production.

I was also filming with women at intensely emotional and vulnerable moments so fitting myself and my camera into those moments with sensitivity was important.

What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?

Staying calm and focused when I knew I only had one chance to capture that big key moment in somebody’s life.

Although it was the most emotional film I’ve ever made, it was one of the happiest. There was camaraderie among the women, which carried us all along.

During the filmmaking process, it was a real joy being part of two very special developments: a love story (between a woman going through chemo and her fiancé) and a coming-of-age story (when a nine year-old gets fitted with her new wig and she ‘grows up’ before our eyes).

To be welcomed into people’s lives on their journey, that’s the most magical thing about filmmaking.