When talking with Zach from Unclad Grain about what he wanted, he was actually kind of unsure. He wanted something real and believable. So while that gives freedom to create, that also gives a little bit of too much freedom.
So I needed to breakdown what was important to him. Where he found values and where challenges were. The main points he showed value and importance were with learning his trade from his father early on, his relationship with his wife and daughter, his time in the military, and how wood working was his vice in stressful times. Once I got that information, it was pretty easy to form a story.
Starting with scripting, I partnered with my writer friend Mark Apel. That dude is legit with writing. He’s helped me with a few projects and i’m always pumped with what he comes back with. We wrote out a script together of a voice over for a man who is at the table… reflecting on life. The VO is essentially the voice in Zach’s head. A few revisions later and the script was good to go. Scenes were planned around the script to bring authenticity and that “real” feeling Zach had mentioned.
“I WANT A PITCH BLACK ROOM WITH A TABLE AND SOME LIGHTS” – Jay
So how did we do that? My Production Assistant PJ brought some Arri Lights, and we blacked out Zach’s garage. I mean towels under the doors completely blacked out. This helped give that tone that this was Zach in his head. Nothing around him. Just the table, his thoughts, his vice.
Setting up two Arri Lights off in the corners of the table giving him some back lighting. This allowed to have dust particles become visible as well as casting shadows that outlined him in a silhouette look, or high contrast shadows that added a dramatic look to close up shots.
For whatever reason, this was one of my favorite scenes i’ve ever shot. It just felt so real to me. Like I could relate to him. I chose to not show his face a ton in this scene. Just hints of it, or shots that were sort of dark so you could kind of make out his face. The reason is, I wanted it to feel almost dreamlike. Like you are right there with him inside his head.
Production – Storyline
While Zach had mentioned his dad’s legacy being passed to him and the importance of it, as well as his relationship with his own daughter, a light bulb moment came to me. I wanted to show Zach as a kid with his dad doing something and then show Zach older with his dad continuing to learn and grow in knowledge. Also show Zach with his daughter doing the same things he did with his dad.
Production – Sound Design
I had a killer script for the voice over. I had a great song that met the tone I was looking for. But that wasn’t enough. I needed more. So while filming, I stood with Zach getting sounds for specific scenes we did. A lot of sounds of him working with the wood on the table. I also made sure to get sounds of him talking with his wife, sounds of his daughter talking, even sounds of the old truck going by.
Production – Aerial and Old Workshop
So many people want drone footage just to have it. However it’s not always necessary. I challenged myself to have the aerial footage in this film not too much and not too obvious. I wanted it to be intentional and placed right. It took a few passes but eventually it felt right to me.
The old workshop and yard was really important to me to look and feel a certain way. It once again had to be believable. It had to feel like the past and the present. Walking on to that set and seeing it the first time, I was truly blown away at how it looked. It reminded me of when I was a little kid seeing my uncle’s old garage. Old cans everywhere, spiderwebs, junk, but character. Lots and lots of character.
So to tie in Zach’s story with his father, as well as Zach’s story of working with his hands and hand picking material, we used this same location to make it feel like the past and the present.
Editing this, I had two things in mind… It had to be gritty, and it had to be real. I ended up doing the Voice Over myself. I had this idea of how I wanted it to sound for Zach but it was all in my head. After doing a few sample tracks, everyone agreed that I should do the final version because of how well it fit. Took a good amount of takes but I am really happy with how it turned out.
I edited this all in Premiere Pro CC and Audition CC for some audio clean up. I had way more audio tracks that video layers because of how much sound design was put in there. Watch this film again and notice the sound not from the voice over or the music. Hear the sound of the sanding of the table, the chug of the truck, the hammer beating down, the laugh from his wife, the “i love you daddy” at the end. It really brings the authenticity to the film.