It’s great to watch videos made by photographers as you can witness photographs literally come to life. Today we’d like to share with you a story behind a short film “I Soar”, inspired and based on a poem by Diane Ward. “I Soar” is a collaborative art project by photographer Steven Dempsey and composer Glenn Scott Lacey. Their collaboration resulted in a masterfully assembled creation — from words to sound to visual medium.
In Steven Dempsey’s words... About a year ago, Glenn Scott Lacey and I pulled our talents and experience together and created Americonic Films. Since then we have shot commercials, documentaries and are currently finishing up a music video. All of these endeavors were shot using a DSLR. Technology today enables filmmakers like us to create moving images of extraordinary quality with traditional still cameras.
Although everything we do together is creative, we wanted to do something that was purely artistic. We stumbled upon Diane Ward's beautiful poem "I Soar" quite by accident on YouTube. We were struck not only by the words, but also by the honesty of the poet's reading and immediately wanted to create a short interpretive film. We had found our art project! Glenn contacted Diane in Liverpool and she was very receptive to the idea.
How it all began
Glenn, a professional film composer, wrote and produced music to the poem keeping Diane's original reading intact. Chris Stewart, whom Glenn worked with on a feature film, performed the violin solo part to Glenn's prerecorded orchestral tracks in his studio as we watched via a Skype session.
It was a wonderful creative challenge for me to shoot the images to fit the already produced and timed audio track. I worked with Glenn to plan a framework and list of moments that would honor both the sweeping and intimate imagery of the poem.
We cast actress Britt Harris as the young woman. I knew from working with her in an Americonic Films commercial project earlier in the year, that she had a timeless quality and the depth to convey the emotions of the work. She is also a trooper, Glenn and I like to work by talking through and setting up the situation of the shot and then letting everyone's creativity get to the reality of the moment. So improvisation and trust are key to the way we work.
We scouted locations and the area in Oregon where we shot. We loaded up the truck with gear and headed out at 4am, just the three of us, Glenn, myself and Britt. For the way we work it's important to keep the crew to the absolute minimum. We try to strip away all the artifice and pretense of movie making and it allows us to be fluid and open.
Several of the shots were changed to locations that we happened upon that day. We passed a barn that felt perfect for the father's collapse. So we pulled up to the house and Glenn knocked on the door and asked the owner if we might shoot a short scene on their property.
From the truck I spotted the location of the shot with Britt sketching the singular tree. They had cut the hay into long sweeping rows and the sky was perfect for the mood we were after. We pulled the truck over to the side of the road and Glenn and I lugged the equipment and dolly out into the field while Britt changed her dress in the truck; no fancy dressing rooms. We all were very excited about the location and what it meant for the film. Two hours later when we passed by the same field, tractors were almost done picking up the rows of hay and the beautiful cloud cover had dissipated. Again, keeping the production small and being open allowed us to capture a beautiful moment that we couldn't have otherwise planned.
The young girl, Evie, was cast through a friend of a friend from a Facebook post. We needed a certain age that could play the young version of Britt. Though the little girl didn't have previous acting experience she came from a very creative and talented family. Glenn prefers working with child actors that have absolutely no acting experience. We have cast young actors in several commercials and films that aren't tainted with acting lessons. As is the case in this film, the girl isn't acting, she is playing with her real father who we smartly cast to be the father in the film.
Glenn never instructed her on how to act, the performance all came out of the real interactions with her dad. Evie enjoyed the experience and told her parents that she wants to be an actress, she has since been going on auditions for other parts. One interesting thing to look for in the shot where the dad lifts the little girl is the shadow of the action on the tree. The shadow represents the scene as a memory.
After all the footage was shot Glenn did an edit to which we made small adjustments and collaborated on the final picture. The decision to make the film black and white was again to impart a timeless feel. Everything was shot in natural light to the same end. What's so interesting to us is that we received more than one comment on how people liked the colors in the piece. It may be that the black and white allows them to see a color pallet that they imagine based on their memories of an earlier time.
The project was very fulfilling, and we find it important to take the time from commercial work to make films that have personal meaning for us. It was also rewarding that Diane had such a positive reaction to the film and felt we did her beautiful poem justice.
This entire short film was shot with Canon 5D mark II camera. Thanks to Steven Dempsey for sharing this beautiful story and video with us. You can add Steve to friends, follow his photographs and get in touch by visiting his 500px page.
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