Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Getting Frayed in Traverse City and Sutton's Bay, MI

It was a fine late summer day in Dhaka. Sara Baumann decided she was going back home for Thanksgiving. I decided I was going to buy a RED when I was gong back to LA during that same time. As most film ideas happen, the director just had a random thought: "Why don't we shoot a short film in Traverse City?".
"Sure", I said, thinking it was just her wanting to shoot like a music video or like a touristy thing.
What transpired shortly after was a 20 page short film, which was originally going to be shot on my new RED Epic. Thus "The Frayed Ends" was born.

Everything fell apart shortly after. No real producers and finally no real RED, cause the buyer of my old camera backed out at the last possible minute. Yeah, life sucked back then.
We finally decided to shoot with DSLRs and try our best to come up with something that would show the awesomeness that is Traverse City.
After the entire Yogi show in LA, I was mentally and physically exhausted, knowing fully that I had more late nights ahead, shooting this short film. I flew up to Michigan. What happened after was truly one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had.

The entire community of Suttons Bay/Traverse City sort of rallied around one of their own, Sara Baumann, to get this project rolled out. A big shout-out goes to Mr Scott Tompkins, a school teacher who teaches media/TV production to high school kids. He got a group of kids together, who were all crying out for some practical experiences in the field. They all shared a common thing: a love for making films. These kids were awesome. They weren't payed anything. They didn't have any proper experience. They worked their asses off. They never threw hissy fits. They never even thought twice about anything that was told to them. Dhaka, Hollywood are you reading??

Everyone in TC/SB welcomed the film. We shot in the winery and the owner gave us access to everything, even his 1970s Ford Truck. We shot in a Lighthouse and the caretakers let us do whatever we wanted. THIS NEVER HAPPENS!! Usually its people being "okay" with shooting and then once the shoot is done, you're greeted with frowns and pissed off peeps looking to score money. Like I said....amazing.
Another awesome experience was getting to meet the Baumanns. Mr Warren Baumann aka "The Mayor" makes the best food, ever. Sorry mom, he wins that battle. I usually don't eat when it comes to shooting, apart from the usual caffeinated beverages, but holy cow was his food amazing. At one point I ate a quarter of a big aluminum pan of chicken pot pie and then licked it too.....spotless.
Ms Baumann and I drove up and down Michigan as well, going to Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids for casting and of course hitting up Zingerman's Deli while I was there. So I think I got more Michigan than I hoped for.

Sidetracking before the filming itself, while we were location scouting, Sara's sis in law, Jetty Rae (aka Britney Stewart) decided she wanted us to film a cover of Pumped Up Kicks. Her husband Jason, a really cool guy, came up with the concept of a sped of slow motion of the video, ala Coldplay's Yellow. One shot, one scene. The video was done in 3 hours....thats shooting, editing and color grading. Here's a look:

The shooting itself was good. I had recently purchased a Steadicam Merlin. Its a thing of beauty. Awesome shots, everytime, well most of the time. I brought my Zeiss primes as well and put them on the 7D. Brilliant images. I'm gonna start not recommending Canon glass to people, as the Zeiss glass is so much more cinematic, better contrast, better sharpness. But then again, they are about 5000 dollars more. Some of the shots don't even look as if they were shot with a DSLR, might I dare say, CineAlta-ish.

We shot for 5 days straight. The weather was ridonculous. I shot a segment among sleet that hit me square on the face. Oh yeah, that was with a steadicam too. Next time, I'm getting an operator while I'm cozying up with the rest of the crew. Yeah, like thats gonna happen. I only had one light kit. 4 Lowe Totes and 2 small fresnels. The dolly was made by the Mayor, but it worked fine. No jibs. But its when you have absolutely nothing, that the best stuff comes out from you. This being a prime example. My camera crew were awesome. Micah, Jeff and Curtis. They were carved of wood once they passed MK's school of hard knock DP-ing and they never bitched about it either. The art dept. was kick ass, the costume designer was straight (yeah, you heard me) and the make up was freakin awesome. All for free, unless you count smiles, hugs and Mr Baumann's cooking, which is payment enough in my book.

All in all, a great shoot with great people in a great place. I wish most of the "film communities" I've been in are more like Sutton's Bay/Traverse City. It would make my life much easier. With guys like Mr Tompkins and all those involved helping the young kids out there, I'm sure its gonna go places. Maybe I can even help setup (shameless plugin from the movie) the Jericho Swanson School for Kids Who Wanna Make Good Films and Do Other Cinematic Things Also. Food for thought. Oh and if anyone from Sutton's Bay is actually reading guys need more coffee shops (aka Starbucks) to get us film folk out there.

Here are some snaps:

The Merlin kickin ass

 Its cold, see how everyone leaves the DP to freeze
 Marisa, my beautiful
 Cam crew....FIGHT ON!

Wrap! The Director is happy she doesn't have to argue with me about epic wides

 Grilling the kids
 Yeah, I'm Steadicam approved
When it came to cutting people, it was my job.....thanks Sara

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