“Ghosts and Fashion” is a visualization of a poem by the same name by world-renown poet Elaine Equi (The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, The Best American Poetry). The short tells the simple, lyrical story of a new ghost who now needs to figure out what to wear in the afterlife! Part of this year’s Visible Poetry Project, a New York City poetry-cinema initiative that screens thirty filmmaker/poet teams each day of National Poetry Month. Past participants have included Neil Gaiman, Tato Laviera, and many more.
From the Director, Gordon Shoemaker: When I was accepted into the 2018 Visible Poetry Project, the executive producer assigned to me, Christina Ellsberg, introduced me to Elaine Equi, who had agreed to participate in this year’s round of poem visualizations. Because of the ghostly nature of the short film I applied with (called “Lara”), Christina thought Elaine and I would make a great pairing. And boy was she correct! I immediately fell in love with the poem visualized here. It’s fun, it’s quirky, but in the end the words hit me with a sense of something acutely dramatic. So I took that feeling and ran with it, creating what you see here now!
During the Visible Poetry Project screening series in New York City, I had one occasion to do a Q&A with Elaine Equi. Going into it, I felt rather nervous, because one of the most important aspects of the project to me (besides safety of course) was making something Elaine felt good about! And so it was a tremendously rewarding experience to hear how happy she was this interpretation. Of particular interest to her was the ending. She said she had chosen her final words simply out of a desire to end her little comic piece, and that she could never have imagined I might glean a whole narrative from the closing lines.
Elaine’s favorite part however, were all my clothing stakes! This also made me very happy, as preparing the field for shooting had taken up the lion’s share of pre-production. And in fact, the clothing stakes were the deciding factor when I was trying to choose which of my three different visualizations I should go with. I went for the stakes option because I wanted to create frames that, no matter where the camera was placed, kept the audience in a surreal and errie limbo world. Obviously wanting to do so without a special effects budget meant I had to find a way to do that with my production design alone. And so, I hammered thirty gardening stakes into a hilltop field on my family’s farm, painted them all a dreamy shade of blue that would perfectly match thirty blue clothing hangers (hooray for Home Depot color match technology!!), and then finally I had to convince my family members to trust me with flying any and all blue or purple clothing they had atop a windy hill! And thanks to them it all came together!
“Ghosts and Fashion” will soon be screening at the NYC Poetry Festival on Govenors Island, July 28 and 29 at 3:45pm! Perhaps I’ll see you there!