Voices from the Laundromat

Voices from the Laundromat from Tom Abray on Vimeo.

I’m adding some explanation to this post now, in mid-June, after having just recently added some English sub-titles to the French sections of the film. Laundromats were a subject that I had wanted to explore for a few years. For the first ten years after I had moved away from my parents, initially to go to university, I spent a couple of hours a week in a laundromat. On the one hand, it was a chore, but at the same time, I found it was an aesthetic experience, much like sitting in a cafĂ©. A few years ago, my laundromat days were re-awakened when I taught a piece of creative non-fiction from the Pushcart Anthology called “Laundry”, written by Maureen Stanton.

 

When I began shooting this, I did not have much of a preconception about what form it would take. I simply walked into a laundromat with my camera and started to ask people if they would mind answering a few questions. Those who were willing to speak to me had fascinating things to say. I shot at about six laundromats, mostly in the summer, and a little more in the winter, when I could find time. The surprise for me was the owners. I had not thought about what it was like to be an owner of a laundromat. But it is actually pretty obvious that laundromats will play a big part in the lives of those who make their livings from them. Thankfully, the owners at two laundromats were very generous with their time. I went back to visit them more than once. They had so many interesting things to say, when it came time to edit I used the words of the owners and managers to structure the film.

 

After shooting for a while I started to get a feel for what form I wanted to film to take. Personally, I found the interviewees so interesting, I just decided to trust them. I thought I would make the film that I would find most interesting, and not worry about conjuring up things that would only distract from the beautiful and compelling interviews. Still, there was a lot of editing to do. I decided to try a create a sort of stream of consciousness where, in most cases, the words of one speaker lead to what the next speaker has to say. I really enjoyed creating the winding path of stories and ideas. I pulled out my hair at times trying to settle on where to start, where to finish and how to get there, but I tried to enjoy the process and not put too much pressure on myself. In the end the pieces came together like a puzzle, sometimes one piece found its partner. Other times I really had to watch and re-watch in order to find where a good sound bite fit best. At the beginning, I made use of a feature in Adobe Premiere that lets you colour the video clip icons. I used about 6 colours to signify different themes and then grouped the ideas by themes, rather than interviewee. That really helped give some rough form to when I had so much footage to consider.

 

Overall, well, it’s a micro budget film and that shows (and sounds), but what I enjoy about the film is the people in it. I could not have invented them, nor could I or have I ever conjured up as much joy, honesty, good will and many other human qualities that they evoke through their voices and words. I feel like I was just one part of a much larger crew (even though I was the only “crew”). I’ve submitted the film to a few festivals and I hope that it will be accepted by at least a couple, so that viewers can meet the same people that I met and experience the laundromat experience through their words.

 

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