American novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler once said: "A good story cannot be devised; it has to be distilled.” This is the reality we live under every time the Creō team gets together to tell a story. It is a difficult process. A process of discovery, discussion, and disagreement. A process that, in and of itself, shapes our own story as a team, better yet, a family of people trying to make the most of our creativity and passion.
But before I get too melodramatic, let’s get back to the topic at hand: how we told the story of our friend Margaret Barrett.
Three things stand out to me when I think about Margaret’s story: the story arch, the lighting, and the sound.
1. The story arch.
In keeping with the analogy of distillation, no good whiskey ever came about by chance. It takes a considerable amount of planning, trial and error, and last minute changes. Same goes for a good story. The more stories we produce, the more we have realized how much planning - or ‘preproduction’ - is necessary. This time, we decided we needed to push the boundaries of what we were doing with our “Craft” video. This video is, as the title clearly exposes, is primarily about the craft - what is created - and how it is formed.
Up until now we have focused on simply showing the process of creation but have failed to really get at the heart of what the person has to go through to arrive at that cathartic moment of completion. So this time we talked to Margaret for quite some time about what it takes for her to finish a song and what some of the misconceptions are about what song writing looks like. She told us it can take weeks to finally arrive at a finished piece, so we knew we would need to speed up the process for the film without making her out to be some sort of super human composer. Put all that together, add some conflict, and you get what you saw: a fictional piece describing a very real process of creating.
2. The lighting.
One of the most influential quotes I’ve ever heard in regards to filmmaking comes from Vernon Trent: "Amateurs worry about equipment, professionals worry about money, masters worry about light... I just take pictures.” Another area we’ve been working really hard as a team to grow in is our use of artificial lighting. So far, we’ve made use of natural lighting which, though fantastic in many ways, forces filmmakers and photographers to play by it’s rules. Though I’ve seen people do incredible work using natural lighting, I’ve not seen anyone able to bend the Sun to do it’s bidding. So we’ve known we needed to up our game with artificial lighting but haven’t made the move until now.
We had two big things going for us: One, Bolt Productions provided us with a great three light LED kit they just got a week or two ago. The Fiilex K302 light kit, with variable power and color temperature, gave us the options we needed to pull of the look we were hoping to achieve. Our second ‘Ace up our sleeve’ was none other than our own Sean Berry. Sean, among other things, is a master of lighting. Through natural talent and plenty of hard work he has developed an eye for lighting that is absolutely uncanny. As we talked through what the different moods for these stories would be, Sean was able to take what we talked about and turn them into a reality.
3. The sound.
The thing that perhaps made me the most nervous about this story was the sound. Our hearing is the first means we use to learn as humans, as we hear our mother’s voice from the womb. Therefore, sound (or the lack thereof) makes a massive impact on how well we are brought into a story, whether through film or that story about ‘the days in Nam’ your great uncle tells every Christmas. I asked Geoff Sirkel, a good friend and incredibly talented sound engineer, to come help us out. I knew his particular expertese was going to be absolutely necessary for this particular piece.
We spent one day recording with Octothorpe, the brass quintet that performed Margaret’s piece. Other than recording the entire piece, we had the group play a series of sections of the song - some incorrectly - that we would use later on in the edit. Then, at Margaret’s house, we had her play those same sections on the piano. Needless to say, it was a difficult and all together new process for me. I’m extremely thankful Geoff was there to help and I am really happy with how it turned out.
That’s it. Well, not really. There is plenty we could say about other lessons we learned or mistakes we made, but those are the main ones. A big thanks to Ian Harber for coming out and shooting all the BTS photos and raw video. It’s always great to have someone willing to come out and help document the process. Let us know if there is someone or something you would like to hear more about! We love hearing from y’all and how you are trying to use and grow your creativity.