Salvia On Salvia: An Insightful Blog Post
In film school you’re doing one of two things: making movies or not making movies. Don’t get me wrong, the writing course I took this semester was fantastic and I was able to apply what I learned to my production class. That’s kind of the point. But the point of this post is to share one of my movies. Or “an autobiography” as I put it in the title. From concept to completion this is the only film from class that was done without the help of classmates. Below is the autobiography. Below that you can read about the processes I went through to create, execute, and produce this short little film.
Salvia On Salvia: The Autobiography
The rules for making this film included (1) You must appear on camera in your current form, (2) You get to choose exactly what you share in your autobiography, (3) Total running time should be around 5 minutes. Right away I knew the look and style for the film- a run and gun documentary with a sit down interview anchoring the narrative. This doubled as practice for my final project, a documentary. My astrological birth sign is Gemini, the Twins. I thought it would be interesting to interview myself and employ my editing skills to make some movie magic happen. Special FX incoming! The interview would detail where I went to school. It was also essential to include footage of musicians performing at radio station WRNR FM. That was my first full time job out of college and the filming I did there is what inspired me to apply to film school in the first place. I wanted to include never before seen footage of Andrew Bird’s performance at RNR’s inauguration party for Barack Obama. That way I could use the live recording of one of Bird’s songs from the set as my soundtrack. Andrew thought that WRNR was, “…well curated.” That’s what Andrew said to me when I drove him around my car for a couple of days before and after his RNR gig. But that’s another blog post.
I needed b-roll. It was simple enough to drive around Annapolis and shoot the grade schools I attended. The interview took place at a pet store – I have a theory that puppies make everything better – the owner of which I worked for back in the day and he helped me with the shoot. I purposefully did not write a script for the interview. I wanted to make it as loose and off the cuff as possible. This was another way of practicing for the interviews I would conduct in my documentary… and/or I’m lazy. The audio in the interview was recorded with a wireless lav mic. The footage I shot of WRNR performances comprised b-roll for the second half of the film.
In the era of non-linear video editors, it’s in the edit room that your film gets told. Its the most important skill to learn as an up and coming filmmaker. My interview with myself served as the spine of the story. My story was brought to life through b-roll. For sound I added the live WRNR version of Andrew Bird’s “Fitz and the Dizzy Spells” as my soundtrack. Audio was made to peak around -12 dB. My professor Larry Engel says that making a film is like conducting music. It’s all about rhythm, tonality, and melody. Cutting to music in the edit room is where I got my start and it seemed like the logical way to go with my autobiography. The result is at least what I was going for, which is all you can ever hope for as a filmmaker.