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Redheads Of The World Unite

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The first redhead gathering that I heard about was The Redhead Days in The Netherlands.  And I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really sure what to make of it.  I didn’t exactly love my hair, and I didn’t see the appeal of hanging out with hundreds of other redheads.

Then I went.

And now I can’t wait for my next redhead gathering.

It seems like there must be something going on because it feels like I hear about a new one every week.  I get emails from other redheads wanting to know if there is a gathering of some kind closer to them, so I decided to list all of the ones that I am aware of.  If I’m missing any, please let me know.

Rossitalia – May 26th in Milan, Italy

Gingerpalooza – June 1st, in Austin, Texas (my own hometown, but I won’t be able to make it this year.)  Their kickoff event is a pub crawl, with the proceeds going to fight bullying and skin cancer, two issues most of us are concerned about.

Redhead Day UK (I will be there, and I’m going to try to show a scene or two from the film.) – June 29th in Manchester, England

Dublin Irish Festival – August 2nd, 3rd, & 4th in Dublin, Ohio

Redhead Event – August 17th in Portland, Oregon

Irish Redhead Convention – August 23rd, 24th, & 25th in Cork, Ireland (I will make it for this one.)  They also work to raise money to benefit the Irish Cancer Society

The Redhead Days – August 30th, 31st, and September 1st in Breda, The Netherlands.  This is the granddaddy of them all, proud holders of the world record for most redheads in one place at one time.  I was there last year, and I promise you nothing will keep me from going back for more.

Redhead Day Brazil – September 7th and 8th in Rio de Janeiro

And there is an event in Mexico City on September 9th

I would be remiss if I forgot to also recognize these two from earlier in the year,

Rock It Like A Redhead – March 16th, 2013 in New York City

Rassemblement de Vrais Roux – May 4th, 2013 in Montréal, Canada

Like I said, if you know of a big redhead gathering not listed here, please let me know.

beinggingerthefilm@gmail.com

What makes a good comedy?

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As I continue to edit the film, I’ve spent some time thinking about the nature of comedy.  I always thought the key to comedy was timing and surprise, but I’ve been catching up on Arrested Development in anticipation for May 26th, and what promises to be the single greatest TV binge session ever (I just hope the entire internet doesn’t collapse).  It’s a series I’ve watched many times, so why do I still laugh, not only at the jokes I know well, but at the setups for jokes that will come later?  I laughed so hard at the scene where Tobias is in the bathtub with the camera phone because I immediately thought about Henry Winkler’s line ten minutes later that would pay it off.  It is the same with The Big Lebowski.  I wasn’t a huge fan the first time I watched it, but a few years later when my roommate made me watch it again, I found myself chuckling when Maud keeps telling The Dude to go see the doctor, “He’s a good man.  And thorough.”  What makes a comedy worth watching over and over again?  Is it a matter of having good setups that pay off much later?  You don’t really notice the setup the first time you watch it, but the second time…

Can you think of any other examples of setups that really made you laugh the second time around?  Or other comedies that just get better with each viewing?

(By the way, if you happen to be a fan of The Big Lebowski, there is a great pub here in Edinburgh called Lebowski’s, they have a few subtle things on the walls related to the film, but the real attraction is the drinks list.  They have twenty-one different white russians, one for each character in the film.  I’m trying to make my way through the list.  This is The Jackie Treehorn:)

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(Made with Bolivian coca leaf liqueur, Kahlua coffee liqueur and 50/50 milk and cream.)

Why I’m Making This Film

ImageToday is a special day for me.  It was two years ago today that I first took my camera and went to the park to see if I could find a woman who had a thing for men with red hair.  I was nearing the end of a Masters program in Filmmaking at the Edinburgh College of Art and I thought I could make a cute short film about being ginger.  In my wildest dreams I did not think it would lead me here.

I received a nice letter yesterday from a woman in Greece.  She told me that she wished she had red hair.  She also expressed complete dismay over the fact that I was making this film.  She simply could not understand why having red hair is an issue.  This is a fairly common letter so I thought today would be a good day to address it here.

Different people have different experiences, and different people respond in different ways to similar experiences, so it would be foolish of me or anyone else to think that they know what it is/was like for all redheads.  I try very hard to make it clear that I don’t speak for everyone.  I have met redheads who told me their hair was never an issue, and I’m very happy for them (if a little skeptical).

Having bright orange hair makes you stick out, and when you are a kid the last thing you want is to stick out.  The kid on the playground who sticks out, for any reason, is the one the bullies go after.  It has also been culturally acceptable to bully redheads for years, and for some (not all) it was terrible.  The fact that society has never deemed it terrible only makes it worse for those who go through it.

I’m fairly well adjusted now that I’m an adult, but people still say random things to me all the time, and some of it is shocking.  I’ve used dating as a subject in the film because the quest for love is something that everyone can relate to, and my hair and the way that I was treated because of it had an impact on my self-confidence.  Looking back at it now that I am near the end, it might be more accurate to say that the film is about the quest to be accepted, which might actually be more universal (can one thing be more universal than another, or is universality just a yes/no thing?)

I’ve spoken to people who weren’t redheaded who have asked me to make a film called “Being Tall” or “Being Short,” because for them being 6’6” or 4’11” had a big impact on their self-confidence, which in turn has impacted their social life as an adult.

The list of things that childhood bullies pick up on is staggering: being over-weight, being under-weight, having a facial scar, being too smart, not being smart enough, wearing glasses, being poor, being rich, being gay, being the only person of your race or religion in school, the list goes on forever.  This is something that (unless you are the luckiest person on the planet) we have all had to deal with at some point in our lives.  And while many people “get over it,” I know that many more don’t.  And that is who my film is for.  It’s called Being Ginger because that’s my thing, but really it should be called Being Different, and it is my sincere hope that it isn’t just a funny entertaining film (although I think it is that as well) but that it is my way of communicating to anyone who has self-confidence issues related to bullying that they aren’t alone.

Father of the year

I spent this past weekend taking part in a development workshop that was put on by The Scottish Documentary Institute.  While it was really helpful with the film, it got me thinking about something else.

One of the other films was about memories, and the filmmaker was using photographs from the subject’s childhood.  This led to a discussion about how you can show a person a fake photograph from their childhood, say when they were four or five, and they’ll remember it as a real memory.  That got me thinking.

At first, I thought, if I had a child, rather than take them to Disney World, I might doctor up a bunch of photos of them at Disney World.  Then when they grow up, they’ll think they really went.  And when they are eight or nine and they say they want to go, I’ll say, “We took you there four years ago, we can’t afford to go again.”

In fact, I could create a whole series of fake vacations and give my child amazing memories of Hawaii, and the Grand Canyon, and going on safari in Africa, and all for the cost of Photoshop.

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But then I really got to thinking.  If our experiences shape who we become, and I now have the power to give me imagined offspring any experience I want to give them, could I give them an experience that will make them a better adult?  For example, I could always tell my “son” about the time we went hiking in the Grand Canyon alone when he was four, and I broke my leg, and he had to walk all alone for five hours to the ranger’s station to get help.  He was brave, he was strong, and he saved my life.  That could be a life defining moment for him.  Something he looks back on as an adult to give himself courage.

What false memories would you give your child?

Those Sinful Gingers

I’m still trying to figure out the best way to keep a blog.  When it comes to the internet I’m not a very technical person.  Mostly I just want to work on the film, but little things keep coming up and I feel compelled to share them.  Hopefully this site will work for me.

So I just had an interesting chat with a fan on Facebook and I’d like to share it.  She’s a redhead living in the US and she told me that when she was six or seven growing up in Montana, in a strong Christian community, adults would tell her on a pretty regular basis that she had red hair because she was sinful, and that she was going to lead a life of sin.

I know that red hair has always been associated with sin in art.  Judas was painted as a redhead so that he would standout from the other 11 apostles, and this painting really struck me when I first saw it at Musée d’Orsay:

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But for adults to actually tell a small child that she’s sinful just because of her hair?  I’ve had to deal with my share of abuse, but I’ve never come across that.  And it wasn’t even that long ago, she was talking about the ‘80s. 

Mostly I wonder about the long-term impact of that on a child.  It seems to me that it has the potential to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  It also makes me wonder about the stereotypes other groups face.

I’m curious, has anyone else had to deal with this stereotype?  And do you think it’s had an impact on the person you are today?

Leave a comment below, or email me: beinggingerthefilm@gmail.com

-scott

Keep me informed.

How far is too far?

I’m confused.

I need to start this off by saying that I don’t have any answers. Only questions.

I’ve come across a lot of random abuse for being ginger. Enough that I decided to make a film about it. Now that I’m an adult I think I’m rather well adjusted and I choose to just laugh stuff off. The South Parkepisode didn’t bother me, in fact I remember at the time rather liking it. I figured South Park makes fun of everyone; if they make fun of your “group” it just means that you really are a group. Plus, as a fan ofSouth Park I always thought that there was a sharp edge to their humor on par with the best political satire. I didn’t think they intended to spread hatred or mistreatment of redheads, but instead were mocking people who had those views. But what is the real world impact of those jokes?

I was just made aware of a joke in an episode of a TV show called The New Normal. It’s a US show that airs in the UK on E4. The show follows two gay men and the surrogate mother of their child. Early on in the third episode, Baby Clothes, the three of them visit the doctor where they discuss tests to make sure the baby is healthy. One of the tests can detect upwards of 85% of birth defects, “Anything from spina bifida to red hair.” This shocks one of the fathers who immediately says, “Red hair? Can we do that test now?” The doctor replies, “You know I read online that Judas was a redhead. I don’t trust any one of them. Every time I see Reba McEntire I just want to shout ‘You killed my Lord and savior.’ You see a redhead walking down the street just go, ‘Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole!’” (You can jump to 42 seconds in for the joke:)

I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. After all I’ve been told to my face that my hair color is a birth defect. My defense against such stupidity has always been to mock it. And I hope that is the intention here.

I haven’t actually watched The New Normal, apart from the first two and a half minutes of this episode, but it looks like a typical sitcom full of stereotypical characters. The one father who is so upset about the idea of having a redheaded child is also so vapid and materialist it would take an absolute moron to hold him up as a role model. So it should be okay for him to say something stupid and offensive because everything he says is stupid and offensive. But at the same time, what does it do to people who watch it and laugh at it? Also, no one corrects him. Instead they all look disgusted by the idea of having a redheaded child. The standard “rule,” which goes back to Archie Bunker on All In The Family, says two things: It’s okay to have an evil racist character as long as he is evil towards everything equally, and as long as there is someone else to correct him. This is the same rule that has allowed South Park to get away with so much. The anti-redheaded view is ridiculous, but not having someone there to point out how wrong it is, makes it okay. 

Last week I decided to take advantage of Google’s auto-fill feature to see what the most common searches were for “is being ginger.” First on the list was: is it a race, which is fair enough, but the eight options below it were quite shocking.

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I thought it was ridiculous, so I shared it on facebook. I’ve also recently started a meme with different ginger themed ecards. I decided to mock what I’d found on google with this:

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Now I’m sitting here, and I’m honestly afraid I might be part of the problem. At least one follower on facebook was offended, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and if you want to be creative and you want to be funny, sometimes you won’t be understood and some people will be offended. But I still feel bad about it.

I have other ecards planned, and some of them are based off of shocking things that real people have said to me. But now I’m questioning if I should actually put them out into the world. I can laugh at it all, I’ve been dealing with the stupidity for years, but I remember how hard it was a kid. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if the South Park episode had come out when I was 10.

Most of the feedback I get from other redheads has been extremely positive, thanking me for talking about the issue and sharing “our” experience. I hope that shining a light on it will make it better for others, but I just don’t know.

Please, tell me what you think. Where do you think the line is? Leave a comment below or send me an email: beinggingerthefilm@gmail.com

-scott
24 January 2013

Keep me informed.