STAMP SHOW screened at NewFilmmakers NY on Jan. 30, 2019.
Stamp Show screened at the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema on August 4, 2018 to a sold-out show and garnered a nomination for the festival's Best Documentary Award. Here's a clip from the Q&A following the screening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIRThw9DV8w&feature=youtu.be
A walk-through the world's largest stamp show., which takes place onve every ten years.
Director: Michael Fishman
Sound Recording: Shannon Smith & Erica Wong
Camera & Editing: Michael Fishman
Music: Jack Woodbridge
In 2016 the world’s largest stamp show, which takes place once every ten years, was held in New York City at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. I decided to attend and ask some stamp dealers to tell me about their passion, how they got into stamp collecting and what they were selling. I have long been drawn to documentaries that focus on individuals interested in a particular topic to the point of obsession, films such as Trekkies, Cinemania and Wordplay. I hoped I would find a few stamp dealers with the time and temperament to open up a bit.
Knowing it would be challenging, especially as a first-time filmmaker, to shoot in the sprawling and fairly chaotic Javits Center (the official count for attendees was 23,017), it was just me, a small camera and a filmmaker friend managing sound. There were many aspects of philately (stamp collecting) I knew I would not have time to cover in a film running less than 15 minutes, so I focused on the goal of capturing what inspired the stamp dealers I spoke to and what it was like to experience the show as an attendee. Running time: 14 mins.
Filming for STAMP SHOW took place during the first week of June, 2016 when the World Stamp Show was held in the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. The World Stamp Show is the world's largest stamp show and takes place just once every ten years. There are more than 300 stamp dealers and thousands of attendees come from all over the world to buy stamps and related memorabilia. The show lasts a full week so I went three times, filming about an hour and half each day.
Knowing it would be a somewhat chaotic and certainly crowded situation, it was juts me with a small camera and one person doing sound. I had contacted about a dozen dealers who I thought might make good subjects that I would be there and asked if they would be interested in being interviewed. They all were, but they all also said it would be impossible to schedule it and would have to depend on how busy they were. I very much respected that and my approached in filing was to be completely non-disruptive to them and the attendees, who were generally so focused on getting to as many tables as they could that few would stop to talk to me. So it was very much a "catch as catch can" situation and often I had to wait or circle back to the stamp dealers to steal a few quiet moments. I wound up with about four hours of footage and got to work editing it at home using Final Cut Pro.
After all the planning and then the actual shooting, I found the editing part to be the most fulfilling and enjoyable. It took many hours of sitting in front of my computer (!) but it was mostly a lot of fun to go through the footage and winnow it down to what I considered usable footage and then shape it to the 14 minute film I had in mind. There were a few interviews that unfortunately could not be used at all, generally due to noise issues; someone nearby would be on their phone or announcements would be made over the loud speakers system, and then customers would come and there would be no time to re-do the interview. But I was certainly grateful to the stamp dealers I was able to interview and who were gracious with their time and excited about the idea of the film. I was relieved, actually, when all of them reacted favorably to the final project! And perhaps most gratifying was the positive reaction from Wade Saadi, the President of the World Stamp Show who only wished it were longer!
In truth, I would love to make a longer film about the subject of philately (stamp collecting), looking at all the aspects I did not have time to address with this short film, such as the history of stamp collecting, famous collectors, the rarest of stamps, the history and pop culture reflected in the images on stamps, and what draws young people to collect stamps in this day and age when letter writing has been mostly replaced with e-mail and texting (there were a surprising number of young people at the show, most notably crowded around a table featuring Stars Wars and Star Trek stamps for sale). If this is of interest to you, please scroll down this page and you can read more about that under Future Projects.
The final touch was adding a little music to enliven the film and give it that classic documentary feel. I turned to my friend Jack Woodbridge, a wonderful professional singer/songwriter whose albums of upbeat, bluesy tunes (Jack plays piano, sings and writes his own material) I have long been a fan of, ever since I met him by chance in New York City; we frequented the same diner on the Upper West Side and got into a discussion about music, sparked I believe by the subject of Phoebe Snow coming up, who had recently passed away. Jack was enthusiastic about the film and after seeing a cut, graciously allowed me to use the music from his song. I always loved the feel of that song but just wanted the music so Jack sent me the underlying instrumental track to use as a I saw fit, and interestingly I wound up using the beginning, middle and end of the song for 3 sections in that order. That may be a detail that will be most interesting to other filmmakers, but it gave the film another level of organic feel that I liked and found satisfying.
Speaking of other filmmakers, I am deeply grateful to several filmmaking friends who watched various cuts of the film and gave me honest useful feedback. As with writing, I think it's extremely helpful to get opinions from at least a few people whose opinion you trust. Take or leave what they have to say, but be open and try and be objective about your project. That can be a challenge when you've been working on it for months, just you and the material. But it helped me enormously and I think helped get the film to the level it needed to be to get into a film festival.
A topic I would very much like to explore is people who collect butterflies, known as lepidopterists. What is that draws them to want to, essentially, capture beauty under glass? There have been some famous lepidopterists, such as Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) and the hobby has persisted. Some people, especially in this day and age, may perceive it as cruel, akin to hunting and mounting a trophy head on the wall of one's den. But there is a huge difference in wanting to show off a kill, and the desire to make permanent the unique beauty of a butterfly. This is not "man versus animal" in some kind of macho showdown, but rather a more "artistic," if you will, desire to stop the flow of time and the decay of life towards death.
I am currently writing a treatment for this project and making a plan for contacting collectors to interview. My plan at this point is to make a film with a running time of about 50 minutes, though if the project really takes off, perhaps a feature-length film may emerge. If anyone reading this would like to collaborate on this project, please drop me a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Having made a short film about the subject, and getting such a positive reaction, I am interested in making a longer film about stamp collecting.While I know there are films out there that look at rare stamps, I have yet to find a satisfying film delving into the history of philately and deeply considering the actual images on the stamps themselves, what they represent as far as geography, politics, culture, etc. As well, I would also like to continue exploring what keeps people life-long collectors, and what draws young people to collecting stamps; I saw a lot of young people at the World Stamp Show in 2016 and I was impressed with their dedication and how they connect this artifact to the modern world of social media. If anyone reading this would like to collaborate on such a project, please drop me a line at: mfishman4gmail.com.
Info coming soon.
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