t: video profile of tea artisan Pei Wang produced by Vidya Lahoti. Brewing tea is pressing a pause button in a stressful life, taking a few minutes to be in the present, attend to the tea leaves ‘dancing’ in their tea pot and enjoy the calm, focused, meditative state that we need for social, emotional, physical, spiritual and mental wellbeing. Pei takes the tea ritual out into unlikely, busy, spaces: an unusual tea event in Trafalgar Square promoting mindfulness. Teanamu chaya teahouse is in Notting Hill, London.
It was another chance meeting at Chaya Teahouse – this time with the talented and lovely Vidya Lahoti.
Vidya is an enthusiastic, young, Californian film producer who was here in London earlier this year on a training course with the prestigious Documentary Filmmakers Group. She has also launched her own online TV channel Vidya TV (www.vidya.tv) which shows videos, produced by herself and others, which are inspirational and aim to promote self-knowledge and self-empowerment.
Vidya had written to me to ask if I would be interested in making a short film with her on the topic of tea. We met and had a lengthy discussion bouncing ideas off each other. Both of us thought that it would be cool to do a tea ceremony in unlikely places (watch the video to see the unlikely place we finally settled on!)
Along came the Tuesday morning when filming was going to be done. Naïvely I’d imagined that Vidya and her colleague Nigel MacLennan (www.maclennan.biz) would come to Chaya Teahouse with a single camera and maybe a microphone to do the filming and would be gone in a couple of hours at most. But (to my delight, I should add) the filming took a whole day!
Vidya had done a fantastic job with her storyboard and Nigel was throwing out lots of ideas about clever camerawork. We had to improvise with extra lighting – never has so much light been shone on me before! – and found devious locations to conceal the microphones! We had to do several re-runs of the tea ceremony so that its various aspects could be pieced together from different perspectives.
What I thought was REALLY fun was when Nigel filmed me doing a completely wordless tea ceremony just to capture the pure sounds of water boiling, tea leaves dropping onto a porcelain tea dish, the pouring of tea into the tea cups. Vidya and Nigel were very excited with the quality of the sounds collected, but I only appreciated them when I saw the clip.
Outdoor filming was fun too. I prepared a very simple set of tea utensils, as used for our medTEAtation events, and, after a trial run, the team started to film me brewing and drinking tea and meditating in a very public space. I was a little self-conscious but was pleasantly surprised to find that when I started brewing the tea, all the hustle and bustle around me started to melt away, and I soon felt as if I was the only person there. Such can be the effect of tea!
I still have a slight impulse to cringe when watching and hearing myself on screen but I think Vidya and Nigel did fantastically well in the filming and the post-edit. Thank you very much to Vidya and Nigel for making me feel so special and for teaching me to appreciate the amount of work and intensity that goes into producing a film!
The interview process in one take – no NG allowed!
Let’s do a trial run of the tea ceremony.
Sound testing – a time to relax?
Another close-up: pouring tea into the tea cup.
Vidya and Nigel getting ‘intimate’ to get a close up of Dong Ding Oolong tea being placed on the tea dish.
Filming of the tea ceremony performed in silence.