The Creative Process
My creative process is not conventional, and depends a lot on frequent changes and improvisation throughout all aspects of production. Everything along the way is bounced off my trusty girlfriend Sonya, who is also the film’s producer and camera operator. She rules, and is integral in this process.
The process begins with general and loose ideas of images, moods and messages I want to convey in the film’s entirety, which then turns into hand sketched storyboards and shot planning.
One of the crucial steps in the early stages is to track down the right music in order to nail down the mood. Once we’ve found the right music, I like to direct movement in the shots and time the edits to the music as early as possible.
For shooting we plan everything around the editing process, and shot transitions required to tell the story properly. This becomes our rough guide for location scouting, costumes, props, gear and people requirement.
Once we track down everything needed, or find better alternatives, we revise the storyboards and set a rough schedule.
As we shot everything outdoors in the wilderness we are completely controlled by the weather and the lighting it provides. It has always been our intent to film only with all natural light as we feel this portrays Johnny as a real person, and not a highlighted Hollywood actor.
If the weather is appropriate, we head on out to the location we found in advance and shoot the storyboard requirements, sometimes with over 20 takes to capture the subtle nuances that are found later in editing. Beyond the planned shots, we improvise shots and action based on our surroundings, new ideas, backup shots for edits or shots we could possibly use for scenes in the future.
Once shooting is complete we review every shot in the editing program, look for flaws or effectiveness, and either move on to the next scene or reshoot when it’s appropriate. Some scenes we’ve had to re-shoot 4 different days as weather or non ideal results voided our efforts.
POST PRODUCTION aka “sitting at computer and not sleeping much”
Once most of the shooting is complete, the majority of work hours begins.
I am relentless in seeking out the best option during the structuring of the storytelling and edit timing to the music. It’s only once I feel like I don’t want to separate a combination and flow of shots do I know it’s working. Once this process is somewhat complete and nailed down to the music track, then comes extensive colour tuning, visual fx, sound fx and scene transition tuning.
Once all of this is roughly 90% attained, only then do I actually write the specific dialogue. Of course in my mind I have a rough idea of what general message needs to be said, but that too can often change up to the last stages of production. Ironically some of the dialogue we like the best was written hours before we finished the film, and even whole messages within a scene change entirely last minute.
Here’s an example…. “When your heart breaks, you find out what it’s really made of” was initially themed towards losing your identity and passion amidst the haunting of the loss. This identity struggle never sat right until the end, and we struggled to support any particular line rewrite along the way. So, within an hour of posting the video to You-Tube, we changed the dialogue towards the broken heart, and then changed the final line in the wheat field scene to accommodate it. Thank goodness we did as that was the key shift of emotion in the whole film, and it needed to be strong.
Purposely ignoring the boring technical side to everything and the speed bumps along the way (losing my voice, suspenders breaking, Hakai the dog getting way too excited about the lamb meat in my axe hand, llamas crashing the shots…) that’s the general process we undergo to make these films. It may not work for many, but it works for us, and it’s pretty fun to boot.