Lenses and Long-boards: The Making of "Still Life"


What is the importance of a moment? Is it negligible, fleeting as the time itself? Is it heavy, bearing down on us in succession like tiny time anvils? Do moments hold any importance at all, in an age where you are likely reading this post during a brief lunch break or in transit to somewhere else? Five months ago, we wanted to try tackling some of these questions. We also wanted to capture something beautiful and have some fun. So we spent 48 hours in NYC and made a film.

 

Today, we're excited to be bringing you our latest creative short, "Still Life." This project began as a speculative spot, but three script revisions, two long-boards, and one high-speed camera later, it had grown into something much more.

Co-Directors and Cinematographers Charles Frank and Jake Oleson shooting (carefully!) in Central Park

Co-Directors and Cinematographers Charles Frank and Jake Oleson shooting (carefully!) in Central Park

The result of shooting carefully

The result of shooting carefully

When we began conceptualizing "Still Life" back in November of 2013, we knew we wanted to focus on evoking a mood rather than emphasizing plot. This was an unusual practice for us, but having been inspired by some other short films (Sonder and 8,336,615) we decided that this piece would be a great opportunity to hone our ability to use mood with more specific purpose. We knew we wanted to pursue a thoughtful, introspective mood, which meant all we needed was a story to connect our ideas and feeling with the world. We threw around a lot of ideas at this stage, but it was when we started exploring the idea of 'time' that we discovered our muse: her name was Miro.

 

The Phantom Miro is a high speed camera, capable of shooting up to 1500 frames per second. To put this in perspective, most films are shot at 23.976 frames per second; this meant that even just a few seconds of record time could end up translating to minutes of real time footage. However, shooting at high-speed requires much more light to properly capture image, so we decided to augment the Miro with a set of Canon L Series Primes. For us, this combination proved to be an incredible tool to reveal moments in time that could easily be missed by the naked eye. So with camera in hand, we hit the streets of NYC with 48 hours to film and only the portions involving our intrepid photographer scripted. The rest was the product of adventure.

Charles braving NYC streets to take a long-board shot

Charles braving NYC streets to take a long-board shot

...followed soon after by Jake

...followed soon after by Jake

We wanted to shoot with as minimal crew as possible, even forgoing a lot of helpful equipment, because the less obvious a crew is, the more candid our footage can be. This resulted in some creative rigging and memorable experiences.

For instance the shot of a long-boarder dragging his hand along NY gravel required 17 takes, an improvised long-board dolly, and a few seconds of held breath in the middle of a busy city intersection (not to be attempted without adult supervision, express blessing of the gods, or a producer with an encyclopedic knowledge of insurance policies).

Similarly, the lovely couple kissing in the sunrise required us to shoot from the passenger seat of a car as it whipped around a cul-de-sac (with only four seconds of rolling time per shot, our driver had to be extra fast). This didn't prove too difficult, except that without a system for cuing up the shot precisely, we had to make due with Charles leaning out a window yelling "Now KISS!" at around 6:30am in the morning. A nearby doorman watched us do this for a plentiful number of takes, somehow with a simultaneous expression of indifference and disapproval. But, when we finally got the shot and cheers poured from open car windows, even the doorman cracked a smile. He doesn't know I saw, but I'm glad I did.

The Zandrak crew for this set: (from left to right) Charles Frank, Kyle Harper, Andrew Hutcheson

The Zandrak crew for this set: (from left to right) Charles Frank, Kyle Harper, Andrew Hutcheson

So, "Still Life" took us from Boston to NYC. Next it's traveling to the west coast, premiering for the first time on the big screen at this year's NFFTY festival during the Vitamin Water "Hustle" segment. But until then, we are so excited to be bringing it to you now, and would love to hear if you have any questions or thoughts about the piece! Feel free to start talking in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or shoot us an email. Regardless, we hope you are able to find something beautiful for yourself in "Still Life." Even more, we hope you find some way to be held by moments yourself.

Jake enjoys a bubbly moment in Central Park

Jake enjoys a bubbly moment in Central Park

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