Case Study: Music Video Before/After

I’ve been talking a LOT about tour visuals recently. And maybe that’s not your thing… But the truth is that the concepts behind creating tour visuals can have a big impact of helping take your edits to the next level in general - especially for projects like music videos...

For me, this experience really came to life in my work for the first time on a music video I directed a couple years ago for a song called “Til the End of Time.”

The song (as the title states) explores the concept of time running out. And to bring it to life, I wanted to incorporate stylistic moments that made it feel like the footage was tearing apart or degrading in some strange way (as if time had not been kind to it).

The song (production and lyrics) just felt like it was calling for more than just a simple footage edit. So here’s how I created something a little different…


01. Below is a sequence of the clean footage only (before being affected and “remixed”). The red footage was shot in studio with a strobe effect on both Skypanels shooting at the white cyc wall. We also projected a countdown clock on the wall behind Cody for a few takes to add a stylistic element. It was motivated by the lyrics and the sense of urgency that the production of the song brought to life:

02. Here was the same sequence but with the overlays only (footage muted). To create this I took a sequence of stock elements run through an analogue TV and filmed it in 4K:

03. Here’s the same sequence with portions of the footage heavily affected (overlays muted):

04. And FINALLY, this is how the pieces all came together in that sequence to create subtle moments of energy and intricacy:

Plus, here’s the final music video if you want to see more of these moments in play.

It’s a couple years old now, so I’ve learned a lot since then. But (in my opinion), these little details added to a massive improvement in the energy, connection to the meaning of the lyrics, etc. And even 2 years later, it still grabs my attention.

Up til this point in my career, I had kept the worlds of experimenting with textures and editing “real videos” separate. But allowing those worlds to collide brought a fresh approach to this video and caused new clients to take a second look at my work. I can honestly say it was a big catalyst that’s led to work with some of my dream clients in the past 2 years (including more work with Cody). Only sharing to encourage that it’s worth trying new things and pushing the boundaries of an edit. You’d be surprised what can come of it…

If you’re interested in how I create moments like this, I break down my favorite effects and techniques in my new Tour Visuals + Textures Masterclass. Like I’ve said before, these concepts are for WAY more than just tour visual projects. So click here to learn more!

Happy editing everyone!

Ezra CohenComment
MINIMALIST TOUR VISUALS + OPENER

Whether it’s for a commercial, music video, doc, or tour visuals… the way you style your text and typography is one of those little details that can take a project from 8 or 9 to a 10.

I recently had a unique opportunity to work specifically on that skillset for a tour with the artist, Cody Carnes.

The idea for this show was to make his song lyrics the hero. First of all, Cody is a brilliant lyricist, so I wanted that aspect of his artistry to shine. Secondly, we wanted to make this a show where people felt encouraged to sing along.

Now, since Cody was the opening act, we were also asked not to use the entire screen. So the idea of utilizing typography and minimal texture also allowed us to capitalize on the “negative space” or the black area of the screen. This was awesome because it made it feel like there was no set frame size and that we were using just as big of a screen area as the headliner (less is more!).

Below is a “before” still taken from the original export (not very inspiring)…

But after running it all through some of my favorite plugins and playing with texture, styling, etc. we got something a little more interesting:

This is the type of project that just gets me so excited because it’s proof that you can do so much with so little. And best of all… experimenting with these textures resulted in an effect that I could apply to other projects.

In fact I used it to add a new level of energy and intricacy to Cody’s show opener to life as well. We’re still working on the final audio (lol). But with a little sound design and with the band playing live on top of this track, it really came to life and set an amazing tone for the show.

I’m stoked about how all this turned out. And I love that it didn’t take a lot to make something really interesting.

Notice anything familiar btw? I built it almost entirely with Tour Visual Elements VOL 1 (plus a couple cheap/free stock assets I found online).

If you’re interested in seeing how I made this, I’m including a full breakdown of how I created this style (something I’ve kept pretty close to the chest til now) as a bonus lesson in my new Tour Visuals + Textures Masterclass.

To check it out click here, and see how you can bring some new texture to your projects as well!

Ezra Cohen
HELLO FUTURE - TOUR VISUALS

I had the immense privilege of getting to work with Toby Mac on the visuals for his headlining arena tour in 2019. Below is one of my favorite moments from the concert captured by their incredible team.

Toby wrote this song after being inspired by a series of paintings called “The Voyage of Life” by Thomas Cole.

So for the visuals, we utilized hi res images found online and brought them to life in layers with subtle animation throughout as well as some more glitchy moments in the big musical drops.

This was a really fun one and resulted in a very memorable part of the night :)

Ezra Cohen
Burnout sucks...

I’ve been there. Believe me.

Clients who just won’t give it a rest. 

Looming deadlines forcing you to stay up til ungodly hours. 

Girlfriend/Wife asking if it’s always going to be like this… if you’ll ever have the time or energy to be emotionally present.

In 2018, I worked an average of 70 hours a week. Going to sleep at sunrise for days on end. Missing my friends. Missing myself. 

In October, it all came to a head for me. I hit burnout. HARD. Right around the time it happened, I got emails to work with some of my dream clients. And I couldn’t think of a single concept to pitch them. Literally. (Usually the hard part for me is getting from 10 concepts to 1).

It was like my brain was broken. All I could do was sleep, watch TV, and try to figure what the hell was going on. It got kinda scary… I wondered if I’d ever feel creative again.

My wife assured me it would all be OK (believe it or not it wasn’t the first time I’d felt this way). But I swore I’d never let it happen again.

Since then, I’ve been committed to actively prevent burnout - to working SMART instead of HARD. And one of the things that has helped me the most has been paying attention to and capitalizing on workflow patterns. 

For me, working as an editor (and specifically as a tour visuals designer), that’s meant taking time to create assets that I will use over and over. Rather than building from scratch each time, I’ve taken a proactive approach to have content ready BEFORE the client calls. 

As you read this, I’m taking a quick writing break in the middle of creating Tour Visual Elements Volume 2. It’s packed with assets I know will KILL on my (and your) next job(s).. It definitely helps me sleep a little better at night knowing that I’m ahead of the game. 

But in the mean time, if you’re still reading and you relate to any of this, I wanted to offer 20% off any product to help you get ahead of burnout a little easier too. I get it. And I hope this helps in some small way.

Just use the code BACKTOSLEEP at checkout. And shoot me a message if you have any more questions or suggestions on other ways to beat this too!

Happy editing!
-Ezra

Ezra Cohen
Hillsong Young & Free - Let Go Music Video BTS

I’ve always been a massive fan of Hillsong Young & Free. So when my friend Ian Reid reached out to me about working together on a music video for their new album, I was thrilled. I knew it would be a project to remember. Looking back, I’d have to say it was probably the most grueling production stories any of us will have to tell for quite a while. But the final product so worth every moment. Here’s a bit of the story behind the process of bringing this one to life.


CONCEPT / TREATMENT

Ian Reid has become a good friend over the past couple years. He’s an incredible filmmaker and DP, and I’m truly grateful we got to work together on this project! He is ridiculously talented and brought such a polish to the ideas and shots in this piece!

As with any project, the initial conversations between the 2 of us included lots of ideas that never quite saw the light of day (including a “Hot Rod” style dance sequence with a series of jump cuts throughout a small desert town).

But surprisingly there were a couple core ideas that we both had in the first phone call that made it all the way. I loved this because it’s not everyday that 2 different people with 2 very different perspectives have the same initial idea coming into developing a treatment.

After listening to the song a number of times, the core concept we both felt would win was this idea of weightlessness - pulling from the lyrical theme of letting go. We knew we wanted to create the feeling that the laws of physics and time were beginning to fall away.

Initially our hope was to have Aodhan in a harness and rigged to either a large crane or helicopter. And while that could have been a great experience, looking back, I’m actually quite glad we had to figure out another solution.

GEAR

As our conversation evolved, Ian and I also loved the idea of shooting on multiple formats. From the beginning, we wanted the visual choices and aesthetic of the piece to also compliment the idea of “letting go” - as if the video itself was breaking all the rules.
And it was this idea ended up leading us to the solution of how to pull off Aodhan’s floating shot we had concepted by directing us away from harnesses and towards a Phantom high speed camera, a pile of crash pads and mattresses, and some VFX 101.

All in all, we ended up putting the majority of the budget into a lot of incredible gear:

-Alexa mini
-Red Epic (which stayed on movi pro)
-Phantom 1000fps
-Canon 512XL (8mm film)
-Nishika “3D” film stills camera
-Panasonic DVX100 (hi-8)

For lenses we had a set of Leica Summicron-C and a 50mm Kowa Anamorphic.


For lighting we tried to keep it to a bare minimum - both for budgetary and transport reasons. Ian used a 4x4 bead board for the majority of the shoot just to help reflect natural light and create fill where necessary. For some of the close up slow motion floating scenes, he brought out a M18 - specifically thanks to his research regarding the high-speed ballast it came with allowing us no shutter issues shooting at 1000fps. And finally for the strobe sequences set at night, we used 2x Skypanel S60’s set opposite each other.

LOCATION SCOUT

We had some initial direction from Hillsong Y&F manager and producer Johnny Rays about a location that complimented the theme of “oasis” that the lyrics also hint at. (Originally the cover art direction was aimed at a similar theme). So we discussed finding a desert with some sort of natural pool, etc. Funny enough we chose our final destination - the Bonneville Salt Flats outside of Salt Lake City, Utah - because of all the pictures we had seen of gorgeous reflective pools of water out in the middle of the stark landscape. But when it hasn’t rained for a while, those images don’t happen quite as easily. That said, by the end of the project, we all ended up loving the contrast that it created to not have the water element in the visual.

The Salt Flats are an almost alien-like landscape. AND the area is considered public land which made production quite a bit easier.

Neither Ian or I had ever been to Salt Lake City before, so we arrived 2 days before to make sure we knew EXACTLY where we were going. We had a lot to pull off with a quite a limited amount of time with the band, so we knew careful time budgeting was a must. Also, because we wanted to shoot with natural light as much as possible, we wanted to find out the best time to be at each location to make the most of the sun.

CREW

Let it be known that this video was pulled off with a total crew of 4 people (myself and Ian included). I knew we would need to keep our crew small to make travel easy. But I also wanted to make sure we had a couple guys out there that we already had a short hand with. We needed to be ready to work hard for a long time. And we needed to be friends. So I called the best of the best - my best friend (and incredible filmmaker) Paul Trimble and the best producer/gaffer/Swiss army knife I’ve ever met, Kirk Slawek. These guys absolutely crushed it the couple days of the shoot. They were always 3 steps ahead of Ian and me, and honestly the project may not have happened the way it did without them.

PRODUCTION

DAY 1

Ok so finally the day arrived to pick the band up from the airport and get to work, and from the first moments we were all having a blast. These guys are the funnest hang ever!
We grabbed some lunch, let the guys settle in to make final wardrobe choices for a second, and then we headed to our first location. We were lucky to find 3 pretty iconic feeling spots (tattered billboard, graffiti bus, and abandoned desert town) all within a few hundred yards of each other so it made for an easy first half day!

I’ll note here that the first moments of any shoot (in our case day 1) are all about getting to know each other and settling in to the weird world of making a music video together. It requires a lot of vulnerability to sing and dance on command with people you’ve only just met. So the goal for good directors and crew members is always to help set up an environment for that vulnerability to be normal. We tried to have a lot of fun and get as goofy as we could as quickly as possible.

DAY 2

And here came the beast. 3am lobby call to begin the 2 hour drive to the Bonneville Salt Flats from SLC (the band was thrilled). There by sunrise. Shot til 10pm that night (with a small lunch break - yes, McDonalds was our best option in the middle of the desert) before making the 2 hour trek back for whatever food was left open in SLC and to dump footage. I believe we were finally wrapped and in bed by 1am - 22 hours total.

But what a day! The whole team killed it and we felt really excited about the magic we were able to capture. Highlight of the day definitely had to have been Ian hanging out the left side of the minivan with a Movi in his lap with Paul driving 50 mph in a circle around Aodhan and Karina, Kirk wedged between seats pulling focus, and me watching monitor and screaming directions blaring music through the open windows. All with the backdrop of one of the most stunning sunsets we’d ever seen.

The next day, we pulled ourselves out of bed, did our best to remove all the salt and sand from the rental vehicles, and headed for the airport to get home and jump straight into the edit.

POST PRODUCTION

We had about 5 days from wrapping production to get the final colored picture lock turned in. I took the lead on the edit and began processing footage and prepping timelines as soon as we got home.

My workflow for music videos always consists of 2 elements:

1. A multicam sequence for performance footage
- A great performance is the foundation for this kind of video, so I always want to make sure I can easily pick and choose between takes as quickly as possible. Essentially I take every shot with singing or dancing specific to the timing of the song and line those all up to have easy view of all options.

2. A “selects” sequence for all other moments
- I collect any other possibly usable moment and place them all in a timeline on their own so I can grab great options without having to look for them again in the project folder. This way it’s just a matter of scrubbing through all the good stuff to find the best stuff for each moment. Long story short, I just eliminate the crap as soon as possible :)

Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 12.12.16 AM.png

Ok now for the answer to the money question Ian and I get asked most: “How did you pull off the floating shot?”

Ready for the not so glamorous answer? Our “floating” sequence was achieved by having Aodhan and Karina jump backwards onto a pile of crash pads and baby mattresses we ordered on amazon. We filmed them with the Phantom high speed camera (1000 frames per second) set completely static on the ground. Then, making sure the camera didn’t get moved at all, we removed the mattresses and crash pads and shot an empty plate of the ground.

A simple opacity mask (or garbage matte) later, you’ve got some pure movie making magic :)

The final thing that really made this edit special was being able to tie into the single artwork that the Y&F team created. The scratchy, almost child-like sketches were yet another element that added to the concept of letting go.

With the tight turnaround time, their team’s artist wasn’t able to deliver additional sketches to us. But luckily, I’m married to a ridiculously talented creative genius who discovered an amazing new skill set of creating the hand-drawn elements you see in the video. She sketched with crayons, markers, and colored pencils. And then we scanned and inverted them and used them as texture throughout.

+++


All in all, this project was one of my absolute favorites I’ve ever been a part of.
Loved getting to hang with the Young & Free guys and can’t wait for more collaborations to come!

Hope you’ve enjoyed a small peak behind the curtain. Please send me any questions you may have! I always love getting to chat with people about process, challenges etc!

Ezra Cohen
BTS - "BLOCK" (Circles 2016 Opener)

The Circles Conference has made quite a name for itself over the past 5 years, so when I ran into Ish Burciaga (the guy who runs Circles Co) at a coffee shop and he asked me to produce/direct the opener this year, I was thrilled. I knew pretty quickly what I wanted to do because there was actually a treatment I had developed previously that I was really hoping to work on at some point.

// CONCEPT //
The concept was a simple one really that came about when trying to brainstorm a concept for another project and experiencing severe writer's block. It tormented me until one little moment when all these ideas that seemed blurry and disconnected came together in my mind. I wanted to explore that moment a little more in this piece.

I love films that incorporate the surreal into the real. So I wanted to create almost a documentary-level realness on the front end with a super strong contrast of surrealism towards the end. 

Practically speaking, I loved the production concept of incorporating malfunctioning practicals to add to the sense that something in the "real world" is changing. I had seen this Childish Gambino music video (watch at 02:54) with a similar effect and really wanted to try it on this piece. 

Below is the treatment I sent to Ish.

He gave it the thumbs up, and on the phone that day we discussed 2 additional thoughts: 
- The addition of a second location. 
- The potential of a female lead. 
So I got to work... 


// LOCATIONS //
The first location came easy. A couple months before, I had seen this laundromat in a little town called Roanoke, TX one day after doing lunch with a friend. I fell in love immediately but just snapped a couple photos and filed it away for later use. So this was the time to break it out! 

The second location wasn't too much of a challenge either thanks to the help of my friend and fellow filmmaker, Rob Martinez (amazing work - check him out).  He's got a loft that's a great combo of minimalist and eclectic that I felt would work great. 


// CASTING // 
For casting, I wanted someone who could feel a little "grungier" while still being nice to look at for 2.5 minutes. I also didn't really want to work with too much of an "actor" and was hoping to just direct some more candid feeling moments. The hope for the character was that she would feel like an artist not necessarily "struggling" anymore but definitely trying to hit a new creative level and tight on a tight timeline.  I had worked with Kati Fadlevich before, and It was an amazing experience. I had a feeling she would be able to play the part perfectly, so I gave her a call and we booked it!


// CONCEPT EXPANSION NOTE // 
A cool moment happened a couple weeks before the shoot when Jillian (my wife, creative director, and in this case prop buyer and production designer) began sending me pictures of props she was finding at various thrift stores around town... 
I realized that a ton of the props we had talked about were all either completely circular or had circular elements to them. Not a bad little subliminal thought to attach to the "Circles" conference... so we headed further this direction throughout the process.


// PRODUCTION //
Ok so cue production. 
I've been really lucky to make friends with some of the most incredibly talented hidden gems of the film industry - one of them being Ben Joyner - an incredible DP that I worked with for a year at Musicbed.  He did a really incredible job on set. And brought a poise and polish to the operation and the visuals that I never could have gotten elsewhere. He totally embraced the grungy, handheld vibe but took the lighting to the next level. 

We shot for 2 days - each about 7 hours. 
Day 1 we shot inserts and laundromat Day 2 we focused on the loft scene and tried to block out as much time for the practical effects as possible since that's something I had never really tried before. We had 1 flicker dimmer, but the rest of the lighting effects were just manual dimmer moves by all the guys who came out that night. Below are BTS iPhone shots from production (by Jefte Campos)

And for those interested in gear, we shot 4K on the Sony FS7  - almost entirely on the Sigma Art Series 18-35 f/1.8.

And below is a screenshot of my shot list for the night of the loft shoot. I wanted to be able to think sequentially and also get things out of the way as soon as I had shot them, so I used my favorite to-do list app, Wunderlist. I realize that this not at all a professional format for writing out a shot list, but it worked for me, and that's really all that matters. (Side note: If you've seen the final piece already, you'll notice that a few of these shots never made the cut - or we ended up going about them differently on set. But this was the plan I went in with.) 


// POST PRODUCTION //
So going into the edit,  I knew I wanted to be very intentional with the audio side of things. I'm so used to building edits around music - almost building my edits more like a music video. Which is great! But for this time around - especially with the thought of creating more of a hyper-real doc-style setup, I wanted to challenge myself to really create a world that existed without that. I wanted a really strong "dynamic range" so to speak... Very little action or sound or visual interest until the moment when everything clicks for our lead and the spark of inspiration finally hits. 
So to start, I just laid in all the clips in the correct sequence and threw as much stock placeholder sound underneath to help me get a feel for the pacing of the edit. Then came the finessing and tweaking... trying to find anything that was feeling forced and getting rid of it or covering it up somehow. And along the way, I began coordinating with my good friend, Jonathan Mendoza, who created all the animation / graphic moments in the piece. He really helped bring the vision to life on this, and the animation elements really helped build the concept of another world and a spark of inspiration. 

Music played a pretty minimal but fun part in the end. The funny thing is, we had shot this whole thing literally the night before "Stranger Things" arrived and blew all our minds. And to be honest, I was pissed... A couple episodes in, I started feeling insecure that maybe our practical effects would just be perceived as a ripoff since this piece would be playing in September. But I figured what the heck and just rolled with it. Something just felt right when that track laid in, and it stuck.


And of course none of this would have felt the same without the magical finishing touches from the guys who really polished this thing off.

John Carrington is one of my favorite guys to work with, and he totally crushed the grade on this as usual. Sound design was done by Ryan Monette. I sent the rough draft of the piece to my buddy Doug at one point and he said that Ryan could be the perfect fit for bringing the audio to life. And he really was. He completely understood what we were going for and brought a level of audience immersion to the piece that wouldn't have been possible otherwise. 

So as a final note, I thought it would be cool to share this...
Below is a before and after. The first video is the picture locked cut I sent to client with no grade and my rough sound design. 

And the second is the final product!


After all is said and done, this was an absolute blast to work on, and I hope I get to do more stuff like this in the future.
If you've made it this far, thanks for reading! Hope you've enjoyed.  And look out for this stuff available for licensing in December on Filmsupply! 

Ezra CohenComment
BTS - FINAL WORD LIVE MUSIC VIDEO

August last year, I got to produce and direct a live multi-cam music video for the incredible Mr. Cody Carnes' new project and his debut song, "The Cross Has the Final Word." 
Cody's been a friend of mine for quite some time and I love working with him. So I was thrilled to be able to capture such an awesome night and such a killer song. We had a pretty small budget, but I still wanted to be able to make it look like a million bucks. Hoping this offers a little insight to how we got there.

Before getting into gear talk, the only thing that can really bring a video like this to life properly is a good camera crew. And I happened to get the best of the best. The cam op team that showed up to volunteer on this was absolutely incredible - Paul and Kelsie Anderson, Jefte Campos, Paul Trimble, Jonathan Mendoza, Drew Pendleton, Cody Strout, and Chris Verner. These guys are not only some of my best friends, but each of them brought something really valuable to the final cut.

There were a couple other factors that really helped make this project shine on a budget. First, I can't say it hurt to be able to film in American Airlines Center - a nearly sold out 18k seat arena in Dallas during the summer leg of the Outcry tour. But second, the beauty of this project was that, while we thought we may only have one shot at capturing the song that night, we actually ended up having 4 shots - 3 takes in rehearsal and 1 take live. This allowed us to get on stage for some angles that would have been impossible during the show.  And then during the show, we got all the angles that would have been impossible during rehearsal (capturing the tight/wide crowd shots, wide dolly, dirty hero shot, etc)

 

GEAR \\

Ok back to gear. Here was the breakdown of what we worked with:

7x C100
Canon + Sigma Lenses with Black Pro-Mist 1/8
DJI Ronin
24' Doorway Dolly
3x Easyrig

I ended up selecting the C100 as our weapon of choice because I knew that I wanted to be able to capture as many angles as possible (especially with the potential of only getting 1 take). Being that it was also the easiest on the budget, I knew it would be a good choice financially. And, that said, it really is a really killer camera for setups like this. I knew that dynamic range wasn't quite as big of an issue because I like the relatively high-contrast look that concert lighting typically provides. Additionally, I wanted to be able to have the option of easy single-operator gimbal work. The autofocus feature of the updated C100 is perfect for this.

 

PRODUCTION \\

Below is a breakdown of how we went about the 4 takes (plus a bonus take with a smaller crew)



TAKE 1+2 - FINAL WORD REHEARSAL
1 - 70-200 Handheld - Cody
2 - 85 Handheld - Cody
3 - 18-35 on Ronin - Drums
4 - 70-200 Handheld - Keys
5 - 24-70 Handheld - Bass/Violin
6 - 70-200 on Doorway Dolly - Cody
7 - 18-35 - Electric Guitar

 



TAKE 3 - FINAL WORD REHEARSAL
1 - 70-200 Handheld - Cody
2 - 85 Handheld - Cody
3 - 18-35 on Ronin - Cody
4 - 70-200 Handheld - Keys
5 - 24-70 Handheld - Bass/Violin
6 - 70-200 on Doorway Dolly - Cody
7 - 18-35 - Electric Guitar


BONUS TAKE - AUDIENCE SHOTS

1 - 70-200 Handheld
2 - 70-200 Handheld
3 - 85 Handheld
 



TAKE 4 - FINAL WORD LIVE
1 - 70-200 Handheld - Cody
2 - 70-200 Handheld - Cody
3 - 18-35 - Behind Drums
4 - 70-200 Handheld - Behind Keys
5 - 24-70 Handheld - Behind Bass/Violin
6 - 35 - Mid-Room house left
7 - 18-35 - Wide back of the room


POST PRODUCTION \\

With 28 different angles between all the takes, I created proxies and edited in Premiere's multicam editor. Nothing too special here. 

But something good to note, I think some of my favorite moments are from shots that, out of context, feel ridiculously shaky or unstable - almost like reset moments between solid shots. I'm learning to not be afraid of those - especially during high energy musical moments. They seem to compliment each other nicely.

 

FINAL \\


All in all this was one of my favorite projects of 2016. Hope you enjoy the final product! 
Also, go buy this song on iTunes asap. 
 

Ezra CohenComment
"NO ONE HAS EVER BECOME POOR BY GIVING."

A quick note about the unseen value of underpaid work.
This is a touch subject for some people, so I apologize if I step on any toes.
But I've noticed recently that the only people who text me inquiring about extra work or talking about having a slow month are the people who are super stingy about their day rates and their "value." 

In theory, I totally get it. No one wants to be taken advantage of or feel undervalued.
(I will also add that I think this may be totally fair game with large corporate commercial clients).

But I have to say that some of my best, most fulfilling work recently has come from jobs where I went way above and beyond what was expected of me / what the client had to offer me in return. I have recently put my own money INTO projects recently to make sure they're the best they can possibly be. And 10/10 times, it's led to not only a full recovery of funds on the NEXT job but a ridiculously strong word of mouth reputation leading to new work on the back end.

So remember that we are working with people.
Remember that respect, trust, and our next jobs are to be earned - both by the work you do on set and the person you choose to be before and after.
Know your value, and stand by it. But remember that quality of life is not only found in the amount of money you have (sometimes great projects with great people are far more valuable than perfect pay).

If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword. 
And if you live by the nickels and dimes, you'll die by them too.

"No one has ever become poor by giving." - Anne Frank

Ezra Cohen
SAN FRAN

Early July this year, I shot for a weekend in San Francisco for a project with Ps. Jason Laird. 
Still working on the edit, but figured I'd share some of my favorite frames so far in the mean time. 
All ungraded stills from Sony FS7 + Sigma 18-35 / Canon 70-200 + 1/8 Black ProMist.

Ezra Cohen
INDIE PRODUCER PROBLEMS + SOLUTIONS

Before getting started, I'd love to share the 2 goals I have for this blog.

1. I've been producing short films and commercials for almost 7 years now (both as a one-man-band type filmmaker and as a designated producer on a team). More recently, I've even had a chance to produce a feature-length documentary. And while that all sounds fancy and grand, the reality is that I've helped kick out some great work on some really tiny budgets.  But I'm a strong believer in the fact that creativity is not just limited to directors and cinematographers. Producing is one of the most creatively challenging roles because it often requires you to figure out how to achieve huge production value with limited resources. And that's what I love doing. So I'm here to share some of the problems I've encountered along the way with some solutions I've found to be helpful for me.

2. I would really love for this to open a conversation around some of the not so glamorous practicalities of making films. Maybe I'm wrong (and I'd love to be corrected if so), but I feel that there are very few resources celebrating and educating the role of producer. Hope this helps add to a dialogue we can all share. I'm in no way an expert. In fact, I feel like I'm ghetto rigging things together more often than not. Maybe you feel the same. Let's talk :)

 

Problem: Client (startup, non-profit, etc) can't afford what you've quoted for a project.
Solution: If the project is right, try offering them a sizable discount in exchange for allowing you to retain ownership of the footage. Then get that stuff onto stock sites and make the money back over time. Residual income is a filmmaker's best friend for funding gear purchases and passion projects.


Problem: Trying to cut interviews down is a long time-consuming process that turns your brain (or your editor's) to mush. 
Solution: Start with transcripts instead. You can read through and pull selects from an hour long interview in about 10 minutes instead of having to listen to it realtime (or even double time in Premiere).  I personally use a service called Rev.com. Highly affordable solution that's very worth the money (especially on long form projects with multiple subjects)
 

Problem: Lots to do on set. Not enough budget to hire pro grips.
Solution:  Become friends with the young filmmakers in your area. Lots of guys are hungry to be on set and experience a behind the scenes look at a higher production value project than what they've been doing on their own. Buy them lunch and teach them as much as you can as you continue to lead the shoot.


Problem: You're headed to an unfamiliar city with limited access to good locations.
Solution: Consider staying in an AirBnB that you can use as a shoot location as well, or (if you're lucky enough to have them in your city already) check out Breather.


Problem: You want to rent gear from local rental houses or individuals that can't / won't deliver.
Solution: Get connected to a local courier service. Most of the time, it's not worth the energy or the money you could make actually working that same hour (or 2). 


Problem: Renting a bunch of gear from multiple sources gets super confusing post-shoot.
Solution: Label each item with garage sale stickers color-coded by rental source.


Problem: Filming computer screens or phone screens never looks as good as you (or your DP) thinks it will.
Solution: Try shoot with the app, VFX Screens and replace it in post.


Problem: The potential of getting stopped by security while on a guerilla style film op can be nerve racking.
Solution: The trick is really to look as unprofessional as possible. Keep your rig as small as you can. Invest in screw on filters so you don't have to use a matte box. And lose the boom mic. 


Problem: You're traveling with a ton of gear and keep getting slammed with overweight baggage fees at the airport. 
Solution: Use an official media badge, or create your own. There are a few airlines (including Southwest) that allow free overweight bags for video crew members. 


Problem: Filming a multi-cam live event (concert, etc) Need to re-sync 4 cameras between takes without disrupting or pulling attention from audience. 
Solution: Purchase large LED clock. All cameras point towards clock between takes. In post, sync all the cameras to the first frame of a new second.


Problem: 4K files can kill your computer's speed
Solution: Try working with "offline" 720p proxy files. Still haven't found a tutorial that I love, but this one should get the idea going. I personally prefer conforming the clips with Davinci Resolve. But the concept is the same across the board. 


 

 

Ezra CohenComment