“Getting Out of My Own Way Was the Objective” | Bethann Hardison and Frédéric Tcheng, Invisible Beauty
Every production faces unexpected obstructions that require creative solutions and conceptual rethinking. What was an unforeseen obstacle, crisis, or simply unpredictable event you had to respond to, and how did this event impact or cause you to rethink your film?
Bethann Hardison: I’m not sure if it was an obstacle…but getting out of my own way was the objective. Wanting to tell the story and being the story required letting go and allowing total exposure when you were maybe not in the mood. For me, being the co-director and subject was a challenge to allow my directing partner to capture what was needed. Shaping a story within the time constraints also proved challenging. I saw it as a four hour film and having to edit it down to less than two hours was an obstacle. At every turn, we were determined to tell the intended story that gets shaped by the footage. It was a constant conversation: “How to use and not lose the substance.” A longer film would have given us a piece with far more knowledge, but in the end less is more.
Frédéric Tcheng: In January 2020, Bethann and I decided to direct Invisible Beauty together. Collaborating felt like the most authentic and exciting way to tell the story of Bethann’s activism in the fashion industry. Three months later, the pandemic started. It affected our production, but in ways that are very specific to Bethann and me. We couldn’t see each other—but we could talk. Filming was limited. So we started spending a lot of time on the phone. For me personally as a filmmaker, this felt very different. My impulse generally is to let the shooting drive my process. “Shoot first and think later” was my MO if I had to caricature it. The pandemic forced me to put the camera down and relate to the story in a different way—through conversation and voice. It was a small watershed moment for me. It brought a new intentionality to my process. It made me rethink the way I make films and deepened our collaboration.