Islands and Inspiration: The Making of "Everything is Story"


Production companies are supposed to have reels, right? Well, after three years of making film the Zandrak family is excited to finally bring you "Everything is Story;" a reel with a slightly unconventional approach, and blog post with a bunch of stuff you didn't get to see on screen!

Andrew's journey begins

Andrew's journey begins

So to begin, let's throw out some statistics. "Everything is Story" is comprised of: three short films, three commercials, one documentary, one music video, a feature film, a half-day of workplace B-roll, and a weekend of shooting in Martha's Vineyard. This was a process that required roughly 40 terabytes of footage to be edited down to a 1.65 gigabyte file. While these projects were filmed in 6 states and 2 countries, to date they have been viewed in 150 countries globally. In the process of making these films, office couches have been utilized as beds approximately 56 times, 436 gallons of water have been boiled for tea/coffee, and conservative estimates put the accumulated total of our fast food purchases at around the GDP of an average-sized island nation.

All this to say, "Everything is Story" is, in many ways, a distillation of who Zandrak is as a collection of filmmakers, production very much included. 

Charles takes in a view of the beach from above

Charles takes in a view of the beach from above

When we began thinking about creating our reel, the initial concept was very different. We knew we wanted to try something less conventional, maybe a reel with a poetic voiceover or unrelated footage cut into a new narrative. But, after some trouble with scripts feeling too dramatic, we ended up making a rough cut with formal interviews of the team. This wasn't the unorthodox reel we had hoped for, but it did get Charles thinking. One directorial brainstorm later, the team was spontaneously hopping a ferry to shoot for two days in Martha's Vineyard.  

David makes his way down to the ocean's edge

David makes his way down to the ocean's edge

A journey to the water's edge

A journey to the water's edge

Our goal in the Vineyard was to capture what it meant for each of us to pursue storytelling, a section which would later turn into the first minute of "Everything is Story." This personal element became the primary determining factor for much of how we organized the production. Flexibility was key, so we ended up forgoing a lot of otherwise normal set resources, like cast and crew (it was just the four of us on the Vineyard, serving as everything from actors to AC's), a shooting schedule, or paid locations. For gear, all we brought was our camera body (Red Epic), and a lens with a black 1/8 Pro Mist Filter; this simplified package allowed us the freedom to adjust to all sorts of possible shots and environments, while the filter allowed us to achieve a softer look in natural light without the need for more expensive lens kits or supplementary lighting. 

But what we gave up in equipment and personnel, we made up for with the most precious of set commodities: time.  Each day of set began with a goal instead of a schedule, and a full day to meet those goals with personal creativity. This proved to be perfect for what we were hoping to film, and also resulted in some stories of our own. 

We're not used to this kind of casting

We're not used to this kind of casting

Kyle tries to skip stones with variable success 

Kyle tries to skip stones with variable success 

Each of our locations offered up different inspirations, stories, and challenges. Andrew's moped ride around the island gave us a great opportunity to toy with perspective and motion in ways you can't normally do on foot (not to mention the unique joy of hanging out a car window on a beautiful day). David's shots by the ocean, on the other hand, presented more of an obstacle course than anything. If you look closely at his feet during his last shot (as he's casting his fishing rod) you'll notice some clay residue around his ankles; these are the remains of his valiant battle with a pit of quicksand. My portion on the rocks was perhaps the most serendipitous part of our shoot; the pier we shot under was actually on the way back from a forest we had planned to shoot in which, after a night of rain, had turned from a vibrantly colored location into a brown mire. 

But the most memorable location by far was the abandoned house which you see Charles exploring. Upon arriving, we found a shell of a home, stripped of copper piping and electrical wire, glass panes peppered with holes from carelessly thrown rocks, the floor littered with the leaves and dirt left by animals who had come and gone. Discarded clothes and neglected linens occasionally stuck out from broken cabinetry. It was sobering to shoot a project about stories in a place that felt so utterly forgotten. But perhaps there was a sort of memorial in us being there; everyone who shot on that location will tell you how they each distinctly heard the sounds of playing feet and children's laughter throughout the day. Whether these were just sounds we expected to hear or ghostly apparitions, the house had been allowed, for the time of our visit, to be alive again. 

Charles finds stories in a silent home

Charles finds stories in a silent home

David sits and listens for ghosts 

David sits and listens for ghosts 

We tell stories. At its essence, that is what "Everything is Story" has to say about the Zandrak family, and we think there is a artistry in that simplicity. The past three years have been exciting and beautiful and challenging for us, and this reel stands in part as a testament to everything that has brought us to this point. But we are even more excited about the other stories that this piece celebrates: the ones that we have yet to tell. 

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