Tuesday, May 24, 2011

a new take on Debt Slavery

I was recently contacted by Barry Pettit (of Pettit Integrated Solutions ) about a one day filming session here at the Wareham Forge.

Barry had a project underway to produce an educational video for a large Christian organization in the USA, one with a predominately Black congregation. Normally I would shy away from that kind of situation, but it was clear that this group was also quite concerned about improving peoples 'here and now' as well as their hereafter.

Not surprising when you think about it, people of African American decent make up a very disportionate percentage of working poor in the United States. There is a clear link to lower education levels, lower overall physical health and poor general living conditions. It may be hard to aim at a specific link in that overall chain, but it is certain that these factors relate to each other.

With recent economic events in America, the Church organization decided to target one very clear problem : that of credit card and other debts. Small short term gain for crushing long term losses and restrictions. Borrow a dollar now (often to purchase feel good luxuries) and find you end up bound to the banks.

They wanted to make a very clear and dramatic parallel between modern debt - and historic slavery in America.

Barry's concept was to show people, often elegantly dressed, trapped in a set of arm shackles as they recounted their personal stories of debt. This is an extremely powerful and highly personal image for that target community.
As a way of introducing the concept of modern 'debt slavery', Barry wanted to film a series of close ups of the actual forging of the shackles. The tight views of the individual steps in producing the object would not be clear at first. It might not be till the end of the forging process that the true nature of the object would be clear.

As forged object, this set of simple shackles are not complex. The frames are forged from 3/8 x 1 1/2 flat stock.
These are the steps we filmed:
1) Forging down a 1 x 1 stock bar into the starting 3/8 x 1 1/2 flat
2) Rounding off the rectangular end
3) Hot punching then drifting the holes
4) Hot cutting a section to length
6) Bending the end to a 60 degree tab
7) Forming the curve
(Those steps repeated a total of eight times to form the 4 half shackle segments)
8) Apply a makers mark ('branding')
9) Adjust the end tabs flat
10) Adjust the half sections to fit each other
11) Form a pair of small rings
12) Re-profile about 18 inches of commercial heavy chain by flattening end links
(assemble the finished parts into the complete shackles)

Barry proved excellent to work with. He allowed the work to proceed as it actually would - no 'fake' overheating or oil on the anvil set ups. The many repeats of the individual steps allowed him to both observe the individual steps, but also easily get several takes from different angles of each process in the series.

He showed me some of the recorded sequences as the day progressed. What a difference a professional level video camera makes!

Although Barry's original interest was just in filming the process, I suggested that the small amount of extra time involved in finishing a complete object was certainly worth doing. I was imagining the finished documentary in presentation, and how powerful it would be for a presenter to be able to hold up the actual shackles before the target audience.


Dawson said...

Both the filming and the project they are doing sound interesting. Thanks for posting.

stag said...

Depressing commission.


February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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