• Olivia Haywood Smith

About the Project: Reflection

Updated: May 2, 2020

I was struggling to formulate an idea for my project until I engaged in reflecting on all the significant times, events and moments in my life. A moment which struck out to me was 6 months before when I began tracking my monthly menstrual cycle.

My best friend Meg had shared with me that she had began tracking her monthly menstrual cycle in detail and that I should try doing the same. She explained the different stages she experiences in her cycle and how engaging in tracking it had changed her life. I decided to start tracking mine and discovered so much about how my body and emotions change at different times of each month in a repetitive cycle. I was not only starting to understand the cycle but also parts of myself I had neglected or resented for so long. The period before women bleed, the premenstrual stage of the cycle, is part of the cycle I always struggled with, so often being full of self-criticism and emotional turmoil. Since engaging with my cycle I now see this time as integral and a time when women can learn and grow. After comes bleeding, for so long i associated my period with annoyance, pain and slight disgust, now I can meet it with relief and joy and a time for precious rest and recuperation. I began reading about menstrual cycle awareness; a popular model used to describe the monthly changes was that of the four inner seasons. Engaging with this model and tracking the whole month of my menstrual cycle allowed me to embrace my period and learn to love what I had for so long resented. This engagement changed my life. Thus came the idea of the project: to create an ethnographic study of my best friend engaging with her cycle while on her period.

The main aims of the project became:

- To share with others the power of this engagement.

- To examine perceptions towards periods.

- To engage the audience with the taboo topic of monthly bleeding in a non-isolating manner.

I look forward to sharing the film and receiving feedback on these areas from the audiences. It would be interesting to record and examine their reactions.

Important initial ideas about filming/editing:

Film Meg in her space - To be surrounded by her things and to closely follow her way of living, this also allowed me to use her paintings and notes (See painting below).

My role as filmmaker and friend- I used Jean Rouch's style of film making, his films were based on 'shared anthropology' which outlines the collaboration aspect he held with his subjects. I think that participatory film making is integral when making an ethnographic film (Rouch & Fulchignoni 2003). Being close friends with my subjects allowed me to engage with them in a very intimate way, for instance filming Megs period blood/waking up in the morning. The close relationship with between Meg and I enabled this trust which is so important between the filmmaker and subject (Rouch 1974). As I was so engaged in the film I wanted it to be me filming her and our interaction, making it very clear how involved I was.

Relationships - Another aspect which was important for me was to film her interaction with her boyfriend and how he engages in the cycle awareness and how it affects their relationship. Having an equal balance of feminine and masculine characters in this was especially important for this topic which so many men find themselves excluded from.

Time frame - In terms of filming I conducted all the filming in a 3 day period, I arrived day 28 of her cycle and left on day 2.

Footage - I wanted to include multiple interviews checking in with her and Cam as well as plenty of b-roll over the three days to allow for a narrative to form. I also wanted one interview of her explaining the model she uses to track her cycle.

Editing - After, I started editing straight away to keep the footage fresh in my mind. An aspect of the Editing which was very important for me was to continually include both Meg and Cam by sharing what I had done so far, hearing their feedback and changing it accordingly.

Reflections after filming and editing:

The filming process was fascinating, I wanted to capture the experience of the weekend in the best way I could. This meant i had a lot of footage and editing was a long process, especially as I had so much interview time i needed to fit into 12 minutes. This topic is vast and choosing the aspects to include was difficult. In editing i had many aspects in mind, including: a good representation of meg and cams opinions and experiences, the weekend and my involvement. I also had the final audience in mind, I wanted to explain the concept as well as Meg and Cams interaction with it in equal measures. This gave me huge insight into objectivity and the filmmakers process, one key aspect which struck out for me was seeing that the footage was from a static moment in time. This ethnography is just a snapshot of the three days in which it was filmed and the days of editing afterwards. Not only will the subjects change but also I will change and the way I may have edited or filmed it will be different.


Rouch, J. and Fulchignoni, E., 2003. Ciné-Anthropology.Ciné-Ethnography, pp.147-187.

Rouch, J. (1974). The Camera and man. Studies in the Anthropology of Visual Communication, 1(1),PP.37-44

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