Laura Kissel will be joining us with her film Cotton Road. Here are some questions to let you get to know more about her!
What is your connection to the South?
I’ve lived in South Carolina for 16 years now.
Where did you get your inspiration for this work?
I spent some time in a Georgia cotton field in the early 2000s, working on another film. I became fascinated with the cotton plant, watching it grow and change. After a farmer took me to do some filming inside a cotton gin, I wanted to keep following the cotton to see what would happen next. He told me that in order to do that, I’d have to go to China, since that’s where all his cotton was being shipped at the time. I have Georgia farmer Wayne Adkins to thank for giving me the idea for Cotton Road. Thanks, Wayne!
How did you start making films?
In college, back in the 1980s, with guillotine splicers, tape, hot cement and a steenbeck. And actual film.
Did anything interesting or funny happen on set during the shooting?
China was so interesting, all the time. I have so many stories. I remember one cab ride back to my apartment after an all-day shoot in a factory. I was pretty tired and wanted to zone out, but the cab driver was very chatty and insisted on trying to talk with me in Chinese about Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson had just died. He kept asking me if I like Michael Jackson, do I know his music, do I like to dance, etc. And I kept telling him in my broken Chinese, “Yes, yes! I like Michael Jackson!”
A couple of stories related to production: my Chinese producer, Li Zhen, and I stayed for several days in Changzhou to try to get more access to yarn factories. There weren’t many cabs out in the suburbs where the factories were, and the factory was too far from our hotel to walk with all our equipment. So we ended up hitching a ride with a migrant worker on his battery-powered cart that he used to haul things around. We paid him in RMB, but he really wanted a US dollar, because he hadn’t seen one before. I wish I had been able to give him one.
People often ask me if the factories I filmed in were sweatshops. Most of them were, by American factory standards. In fact, on one of our July shoots in the clothing factory in Shanghai it was so hot and humid, and the owner of the factory was sweating so much that she sweat right down inside the wireless mic she was wearing and it died in the middle of our interview.
What do you look forward to the most during Indie Grits?
Sharing my film with friends and supporters in Columbia on your beautiful screen! I’ve been dreaming about being able to do this for a very long time.
Why should someone see your film?
Cotton Road is a film that will encourage you to reflect on the South’s connections to the rest of the world. It will also compel you to think more deeply about the resources and labor that go into producing your clothing. It will make you wonder why your clothes are so cheap, and why you care so little for them. It might even encourage you to change your consumption habits!