Noble Spirit: Documentary
For over 9 months we toiled away on Editing and shooting pick ups for this documentary. I was handed 4TB of footage shot over the previous 3 years. A mixture of all types of cameras were used, from GoPro and handycams to DSLRs, Sony f700s and RED. The first order of business was to understand what had been shot and if a good story could be told. Fred’s story is a fascinating and inspiring look at how your past shapes your experiences and can prepare you for challenges in your future. We needed to see if that story was in the multiple TB's of footage.
I brought on Chris Stamey and John Considine to assistant edit, prep and go through all the footage. With the hard work these guys put in scouring through the footage I was able to get a good understanding about how we could build a narrative and what was missing that we would need to source and newly capture. There were stories that could only be told through archival images and video, interviews and video portraiture that would need to be shot, and scenes that we would have to be re-created.
I created a storyboard for the entire structure of the film, this gave the Directors, Andrea Johnson & Bob Holmes, and Producer, Tim Shisler, a visual road map of how the film would flow. They gave the thumbs up and we moved ahead with the editing. We made a rough cut using only existing footage and interviews. This gave everyone a clear understanding what exactly was missing visually and what we needed to focus on for the final round of interviews. Both Andrea and Bob live in Portland and where able to pick some shots here and there. In June 2013, a huge moment came when they were able to shoot Fred Paragliding on the Washington coast for the last time. We had talked about this being the visuals for the final climax of the film. The day turned out to be just good enough to get Fred up in the air and get the shots!
*above are still grabs pulled from footage I captured to supplement footage supplied by the Producers
We had gotten to the point in the edit where I needed to come up to Portland to shoot a handful of interviews with the people who would become the backbone of how we told the story. Fred had such a huge impact on his friends and family so we decided to use their voices to drive the story along. For the interviews I chose to do a fairly simple setup with no rim light, the new interviews couldn’t look completely different form the interviews shot by Andrea & Bob. But I did want them have a good feel and not be distracting to the viewer. I used a LitePanel Helio bounced off a white board as the key with fall off to one side of the face. No rim light and very little power on another Helio on the background. We also shot a bunch of slo-mo video portraiture with Fred, him looking at photos, in his chair with natural light falling on him, with his brother, getting acupuncture treatment, getting in his car and Fred’s wake up routine getting out of bed. I also had the luck of having a view of Mt. Hood from my hotel and was able to shoot a few scenic shots of the mountain and wildlife that got used in the film. All footage was shot on the RED Epic Cinema Camera with Leica-R Lenses.
We edited the film in Adobe Premiere Pro CC and created the graphics in Adobe After Effects CC and Photoshop CC. Premiere does a great job at handling any video file you throw at it. After Effects & Photoshop were used to cut up, layer and bring to life many of Fred’s archival photos. We edited at 1920×1080 16×9 aspect ratio but for final export we gave it a 2:1 aspect ratio crop for a bit more of a widescreen feel.
Working on long form projects is really a mixed bag of emotions. At first there is a lot of excitement surrounding the project and as you get into the middle the reality of the undertaking hits you. The understanding of that reality and the drive to keep pushing forward, little detail by little detail is so very rewarding when you hit the finish line. There are obviously things I would have done differently, maybe cut out or delved deeper into for this film but in the end it is about fulfilling the wishes and desires set by your client. I’m really happy with the way the film has turned out and excited to to get it in front of viewers. The Producer & Directors worked on film festival submissions as the first step and we were selected to a handful and won best documentary in the DAM Festival in Oregon.