Way back at the start of the year we were reflecting on the nature of play - and particularly what makes it universal, timeless and instinctive. We recalled playing as young children, finding a playmate on holiday - that intuitive language that connects all children regardless of mother tongue or background.
We wondered how a den might have been constructed 100 years ago or more. Children have an intuitive urge to create their own handcrafted spaces - we were sure there would have been dens back then - and feel pretty sure they’ll carry on into the future. We had our Christmas film theme - outdoor play for now, for then, forever.
The storyline follows two young children - one in the modern day and one in the last century - both arriving at the same location to build a den, though a hundred or so years apart. The film transitions between the children as they echo each other’s movements, albeit with different equipment. We needed the close up shots for these transitions, so there were a few takes - including running up a hill carrying a heavy basket (behind the scenes encouragement including much cheering and possibly one or two biscuits) and various camera angles of the tarp billowing over the rope.
The girl finds an acorn and plants it on the hill - the same hill on which we see the modern day boy playing under a large oak tree. An acorn from this tree lands in front of him - which he in turn plants - continuing the natural cycle and suggesting a nod to the future.
The shoot took two days, early in October (weather-watch expanded to include ‘leaf-watch’ in the hope that we’d capture some glorious autumn light). Our youngest model (aged 4) bravely trudged with us across the fields that first day, up a hill to an iron-age fort deep in Shropshire, not complaining that her leather boots were dew-soaked by the time we got to the top, but stopping regularly to admire the fungi and several slugs.
Low mist screened the views beyond the fort and the interior basin was filled with swirling cloud - our arrival disturbing four roe deer in the bracken (too fast to catch on camera). It was ethereal and other-worldly and the colours were beautiful - we felt like we were on top of a mountain and it absolutely set the scene for our ‘olden days’ sequences.
Happily for us, the mist cleared on the second day and revealed a panoramic view beyond, allowing us the chance to use a drone and capture some footage of the oak tree and den from way above our heads. This awesome technology created quite a stir amongst the children - with a couple being allowed to hold the controls and cheer as the drone whizzed about the sky.During that second day we welcomed our photographer Faye together with our support team of children who spent hours making bird pizzas, foraging for bird nest materials, playing in the den and finishing up with a fire, hot chocolate and marshmallows. No-one wanted to leave and new friendships had been cemented. We’d lost (and found) Kay, who had walked at least twice the distance as everyone else (laden down with lunch), we’d hidden in bracken, crafted stars from sticks and twine, eaten hot dogs and used hours worth of film.
Whilst our photoshoots are admittedly exhausting for all involved, they are also tremendous fun and yet another reminder of the enduring appeal of outdoor play - as we watch our young models spend time on and off camera with our kits and in nature. They’re a record of our brand journey and our annual workshop screening traditionally elicits tears - being the culmination of a year of hard work in a very strange and discombobulating world.
It is our dearest hope that our 1.41 mins of film will make you smile and warm your heart.
The Den Kit Co. was created to encourage children to play outdoors and engage them in nature.