PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Mastering A "Masterpiece"
When the phone call came in to Produce Thompson Square’s latest breakout hit “Masterpiece”, I was elated. Being able to work with one of my favorite directors, Evan Kaufmann and all-star music video cinematographer Cameron Schmucker was a dream. We had a trifecta of awesome, and I was ready to get this project in motion!
The creative deck that Evan had created required us to shoot in an old theater, and secure a group of volunteer families. Additionally, this project would be captured on both 8mm film, as well as digital cinema. And location…was everything.
Approaching the project, we didn’t have the resources of a major label with an unlimited budget to spend, so we had to make smart decisions to make our spending really count for something. We tapped into our individual relationships we had with fellow filmmakers, and Evan secured a Red Dragon in Austin, Cameron scored us an 8mm film camera and some Kodak film from Los Angeles, along with Pro8mm, a post house that gave us a heck of a deal on scans. I made some phone calls to the Tulsa area and reached out to some contacts I had up there to secure camera support, accessories, and lenses. Cameron opted for Canon Cine primes, a 24mm & an 85mm. I was also able to work us a tremendous rate on a slider to give our shots some dynamic motion.
Keifer Thompson recommended we shoot in his hometown of Miami, OK, because there was a fully-restored, 1929-built Vaudeville theater eager to be our setting, as well as being sentimentally important to him. Miami, (pronnounced My-am-uh, unlike its nametwin My-am-ee in Florida) was located about an hour and a half northeast of Tulsa Oklahoma. After a quick discussion, and negotiating, we settled on the Coleman Theater as our Location.
The next task on the list was to secure the extras. We needed around 5-6 families to show up on the day with their kids. Miami doesn’t have a casting agency there in town, and our budget couldn’t support traveling people in, so I reached out to the Coleman team, and they put out a post on their facebook page. Through the power of social media, my inbox began to flood with eager participants from Miami and the local towns. Everyone wanted to be a part of what their hometown heroes were doing.
Evan and I sat down and went through photo submissions and assembled a diverse cast of extras, and I arranged each of their schedules for the day. This gave us 6 setups in total to accomplish in a 5 hour span with a crew of 5. It was a little tight, but we were determined to make it work.
On the day, we worked feverishly, yet cohesively. The artists arrived camera ready, which saved us a ton of time. They were by far the most accommodating, easy to work with artists of their caliber I’ve ever produced. They didn’t separate themselves from us, they were part of us. They integrated themselves into our team. This was crucial to helping with our extremely tight schedule.
As the schedule grew tighter, I began to be extremely concerned about running into overtime. We simply didn’t have the budget to pay OT for the crew. Cameron paired down his lighting setups, and still made the scenes look cinematic and artful. Evan worked quickly with Keifer and Shawna to execute the scenes, to direct them, and our pace began to pick up. As we approached the afternoon block, that’s when we started involving the extras and their kids. I was extremely nervous about the time it would take to get the kids to behave well on camera with zero experience. Me and Evan being dads, we snapped into part 'dad mode’ and part ‘creative’ . One of my favorite moments that really showed me what kind of Dad Keifer was when we had one family who’s son simply wasn’t having it during a scene. He was crying, and fussy, and refused to sit still. Keifer saw Evan and I struggling to calm the boy from behind camera, and grabbed his empty water bottle, and started squeezing it to make noise above the lens of the camera. This caught the young boy’s attention and we were able to get the shot we were after with ease. That setup could have completely derailed our day if not for his quick thinking.
Our last shots of the day were with Keifer, Shawna, and their son Cooper outside on the streets of Miami. The weather was cooling down and everyone was bundled up. Cooper wasn’t so sure of the camera, and through Evan’s masterful “dad skills” he pulled out the 8mm and fired off some shots that were crucial to weaving the final story together.
At the days end, we ingested all of our footage, cleaned up the Coleman, said our goodbyes to the label reps, and to the Thompsons and had already began talking about our next project together. Everyone was stoked that we had made our day, and even had fun doing it!
What I think helped us the most in this entire process stay on time and on budget was a simplified, yet effective concept created by the Thompsons, The Label, and Evan; paired with an effective and timely schedule that I was able to assemble, coupled with a very tight team of friends working seamlessly to execute the shots. I relied heavily on the app “Shotlister” to help keep us on time and on track, along with my custom budget template I created to help keep our budget on track. Reaffirmed was my notion to trust in the process, because the process works.
All in all, this project turned out amazing and you can watch it on the link below. Also, dont miss the BTS photos!