Filming a Tarot Collection

Yesterday was a long day, but it was great. My companion Ambrosia, who was coming both for moral support and to be the guinea-pig for a reading demonstration, arrived early. She turned up wearing black and amber – I was wearing black and amber. I so rarely wear black at all, and my amber string only gets worn occasionally, too.

I’d cleared the decks, and entirely covered my tables with a sea of decks, carefully putting sub-collections in piles so that I would have them easily to hand when I talked about sub-collections, and sub-collections that had decks in common with each other near each other. Ambrosia, a very visual person, immediately set about rearranging them despite my shrieks. Oh well, there goes any sense of organisation or preparedness. And during her attack, I noticed some of them no longer had the cards I wanted to display on top. I love Ambrosia to bits – she’s a really good friend and only wants the best for me.

(grrr …. )

An unmarked white van pulled up out the front, and a heap of technology got out of it. I’m quite gleeful about what the neighbours must have thought – a lot of laughter leaked out of the house from time to time. The team consisted of the producer/interviewer, a cameraman and a sound man, plus gear. We needed a shoehorn to get everyone in. Our meditation group sits relatively still when they visit, and only just fits in – the crew fully intended, somehow, to *work*! Oh, did I mention gear? Not only a large TV camera, light poles, a sound unit and about four kilometres of cabling, but a scaffolding structure as well.

The cameraman walked in, glanced around, and decided that all the light had to go. (I don’t blame him, really). So up went big blackout curtains over all the windows and doorways, and out went the House Lights. He wasn’t happy with the backgrounds, either, so they rigged up scaffolding and hung my deck-wrapping silks everywhere.

The sound guy had severe problems wiring me for sound – can’t have been a Cliff Richard fan. In the end he resorted to overhead booms, after I’d changed tops to try and get more microphone-friendly clothes for him. I changed back.

The producer, Tracy, had a heap of paperwork that the researcher, Jill, and I had discussed, and still I had a list of things I wanted to mention that I handed her!

They filmed the “interview” first – Tracy sat off-camera and asked me a string of questions that I was to talk about spontaneously as if no questions had been asked. Ambrosia was standing (and she’s tall!) behind the camera, and as a Tarotista she obviously had opinions, so she kept twitching and I kept looking up. We had to retape a few questions until she crouched down behind the camera where I couldn’t see her – much more psychically comfortable for me.

The interview covered a heaps of stuff: Tarot history, main trends, how I feel about collecting generally – “being infected with the collecting gene”, the start of my association with Tarot, when I realised I was collecting, when I actually started collecting before that and why, how I felt about my collection (working collection, no museum-curator-approved conditions for my decks), the love of portable art, themes in Tarot, early Tarot history, historically important decks, the “golden age” of Tarot development, sub-collecting, and even developing a sub-collection of sub-collections, demographic of Tarot users (academics, atheists, men, woman, gay, straight, rainbow-lovin’ fluffi bunnis, scientists, mystics, truck drivers, etc), publishers, deck creators, what limitations I put on my collecting urges (I forgot to mention the de-enablement thread!), OOP decks, how I would value my collection for insurance, and a heap of other stuff.

Then we did stuff specifically for the online Tarot friends I have, who had put in several requests – I had to fight for it, like my Special Technique for Shuffling Monster Cards With Stubby Little Hands (the Pierpont-Morgan Visconti stepped up to the plate here, magnificently – its backs are marginally less offensive than the Cary-Yale Visconti which would otherwise have been my pick), and footage of my special technique of wrapping a deck where the silk turns into a rigid, deck-protecting box and which some  keep asking me about. Then the producer said it would be romantic to have a close-up of my unwrapping a deck, so we did that too.

Then we talked about individual decks. Granny Jones and the Servants of the Light featured, of course, and I talked about heaps of others. Magic Realist Press got a special mention for good cardstock and great design, and we looked at all three of theirs in my collection; the Cloisters; the Thoth and Liber-T together; a few RWS clones (the producer had believed until she got given the assignment that RWS was all there was, and she specifically wanted me to do a piece to camera pointing out for mainstream folk that it isn’t); The Talking Tarot and the Dali Universal decks, two I enjoy having because I loathe them with enjoyable relish, got extensively discussed. My TT is currently out there in the world, doing Good Work traumatising Gregory’s collection, but Ambrosia came to the rescue – she introduced me to the creator of the deck and angled for my free review-copy, so her own copy stood in for mine (cheating, I know) and she salvaged my Deviant Moon from the noisome nether dungeons of her daughter’s bedroom. We talked about the collectibility of signed and numbered decks, and I talked about the quirky instance of having a signed “Deck number 548/500” – the 548th deck out of a 500-deck print-run. We talked about more decks than I could possibly mention here.

At some stage the Sound Man, a lovely, stable Bavarian, called a halt to proceedings, as a lawnmower had come on. I went out and told the guy we were filming, and he seemed pleased to pack up and go do another job before coming back to finish that lawn – everything was good.

Then we did some sound grabs for voice-overs, then we set up a black screen for the cameraman to take portrait-shots of individual cards from different decks. Rather oddly, the deck they seemed to spend the most time on was the Deviant Moon, which we hardly talked about at all except in comparison to the Hieronymous Bosch.

Lunch time rocked around and the professionals were happy with the work they had done in the morning, so Ambrosia and I took them to our favourite waterfront cafe, Mojo’s, where the lovely Bianca treated the crew like royalty, and gave us all extra-large serves of everything, I noticed. There’s nothing much you can to to make a slab of Turkish bread bigger, but I noticed the char-grilled vegetables and cheese in the middle of it were even more generous than normal, and my side-salad alone could have fed a moderately small African republic. There was rather a lot of squid and salad on the sound-man’s salt and pepper squid, too, although his chips were, well, chips. In short, we feasted, and everyone was happy. Unfortunately the ABC, being a public broadcaster, doesn’t do expense accounts.

Afterwards, ambling back to the car, the producer ran the idea by me of filming the demonstration-reading by the waterfront in the park possibly near the stone pelican, because she thought the location was attractive. There was a bit of a breeze, though, and I really didn’t like the idea of cards flying everywhere, especially not right near the sea. So we went home, where I offered the crew a “lucky-dip” – a velvet bag half-filled with tumbled crystals, which they were encouraged to draw one from by feel. They each got something they seemed to love. I did a change of clothes and packed my Travelling Witch Kit with just the basics, and we went off to the club to do the reading, deciding on their walled external courtyard.

So I did a basic setup of the table, with cloths, three decks for my querent to choose from on-camera (she had previously made up her mind on the MRP Fantastic Menagerie) and my beautiful hourglass that the producer was very taken with and handled lovingly and often, and I did up my usual startup routine: which deck do you like best … shuffle that until it feels done … cut into four piles … put the piles back in a different order … and started laying out cards. In choosing the deck, Ambrosia made a snap-decision not to go with the FM when she saw close-up how gorgeous the Quantum (Kunati) looked on the table.

She had a real concern, so I laid out a what’s-important-right-now type spread and started talking, and I could feel a real reading coming on, but we kept getting cut off to do shuffling, cutting, laying out and handing-over stuff over and over. And when you cut a deck a few times, you’re not going to get the same cards on the table, are you. Eventually when we were between takes and the crew were not paying attention, I finally started gibbering away quickly to tell Ambrosia what was most important of all the cards on the table, something I wouldn’t have said in front of cameras.

Eventually the producer felt that she had enough shots of a sample reading being done, and the crew started packing up. As we finished, Tracy told me that normally she takes four forty-minute cannisters of film “and uses about two”. She had used all her film.

There was some talk of an hour-long documentary at some stage in the future. Depending on the ABC’s budget.

A frabjous day, calloo callay!

Postscript: Oh, somewhere during the morning’s filming, we took some Chariot cards out of miscellaneous decks, and threw them onto the table in front of the camera. For the rest of the day and all night, I was afterwards singing Tracy Chapman’s song “fast car”. Just couldn’t get it out of my head. I tend to divine the significance of songs I get stuck in my head, so I got to thinking about this one:

Poor self-esteem? Nup.

Poverty? Nup.

Wishful thinking? Nup.

Relationships that hold you back? Nup.

Alcoholic fathers giving you a bad start in life? Nup.

Well, what, then?

And a car sped by. I think in Tarot (much as you’d think in a language) a lot, and I found myself inwardly muttering not “bloody maniac driver”, but more “Bloody Chariot.”

Then I got it.

Dozens of Chariot cards. No wonder all I could hum for hours was “fast car”.


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