Is it wise to rest on your laurels? Perhaps - but only for a brief nap.
The Chagrin Documentary Film Festival has selected the Apollo Road / Maude Andrade short film to be included in this year's film festival.
Much to my surprise and appreciation.
How did this shoot-from-the-hip short film make it into an actual film festival and earn a set of laurels?
Frankly, I think a combination of luck, timing, and a sprinkle of skill are the primary reasons. Keep reading if you want to get the full story.
I recorded a podcast a few years ago with Maude because she's an established artist. I wanted to learn from a veteran.
I then asked her about producing some short video content. I had an inkling of what it could look like but no storyboard or legitimate structure planned.
When I pitched her the idea, I had limited technical knowledge of audio/visual production. I had an iPhone 11 Pro Max (the one with three cameras, which I no longer view as gimmicky). I didn't have a lavalier microphone (the belt pack interview style with the wire running up your shirt). I didn't have any lighting gear.
Fortunately, Maude's studio is lavishly lit with natural sun rays. I found a very inviting and comfortable studio when I arrived on an overcast Saturday morning to start filming B-roll (secondary video clips).
I shot for about 4-6 hours. I was a fly on the wall. I observed Maude doing her thing. She had some paintings in various stages of completion and some smaller pieces she started while I was filming.
The following day I brainstormed 15 questions (give or take) and sat down with Maude to do an abbreviated interview. It transpired like a podcast without any banter. I went through the list of questions and checked them off after each answer. I expanded on an answer if she gave a good one and followed a few threads here and there. It probably took an hour and 90 minutes to record the series of questions.
After that production weekend, I had generated two pools of media. All that was left was to find the thread and edit.
So far, you're probably seeing this approach as quite amateur. Literally, anyone who watches documentaries and has an iPhone could get as far as I had. Everyone's a cinephile these days.
That night I assembled the B-roll clips into a LumaFusion project file on my 11" iPad Pro. I did not have any formal editing training. I just cut it in a way that felt right.
I probably watched every clip 3-5 times before I culled the pool of clips.
After a few months of editing, sitting on it, and revisiting for more editing, I completed the final video and uploaded it to Vimeo (as I have little tolerance for ads these days). I pushed it to my social feeds and Maude did the same.
How many introverts does it take to promote a polished piece?
Trick question - it only takes a decent bottle of whiskey. I'll explain.
After Maude and I posted the final product to our respective digital social circles, I felt profoundly lacking. I pushed many of my skills to the limit and spent more than a few late nights getting this project done. Where was the reward? It did generate some buzz for Maude's work, but her paintings didn't fly off the wall as I dreamed (it was the year of lockdowns after all, and my goal was to help artists as best I could).
I stewed in the wake of my first 'professional' video project. Yes, I had pushed myself and learned some cinematography, editing, publishing, and communication skills. But it was just one iteration. In life, it takes hundreds and thousands of iterations before a successful one.
I felt like I could force the action - so I signed up for a FilmFreeway account. After a few shots of Wild Turkey 101 and some Lone Stars, I mischievously submitted my project to 5 film festivals around the globe. It was impulsive. I knew that at the time but the whiskey said "fuck it."
It remained a dumb, impulsive decision for about a year.
Yet, when I did receive an acceptance email from one of those film festivals, I couldn't help but grin. Life is quite sly sometimes.
And the film festival: Chagrin Falls of all places.
This romantic little Ohio town (most famously known as the hometown of the comic strip 'Calvin and Hobbes' and its author, Bill Watterson) has carved a scar in my heart - ever since I made the Calvin and Hobbes pilgrimage back in 2018.
Perhaps that's a story for another time.
In summary, I am surprised that a legitimate film festival selected my iPhone-shot, iPad-produced short video. As modest as I may be, I still suspect it was covid timing and a small applicant pool. The rational part of me will accept that the film quality was at least competent enough at conveying Maude's brilliant artistry in a digital format.
Therefore I will keep pursuing this craft, in the service of the artists.
Official press release below: