PRACTICAL makes films and videos that are the culmination of cameras, research, travel, sketchbooks, sleep, screen time, and running wild. Based out of Traverse City and Grand Rapids Michigan, we love sharing our work and process with those around the world.

Grand Traverse Resort and Spa


Practical was given about a year to produce "Get Up and Go," the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa's 2015 Commercial Campaign. And while the first weeks and months were spent working on the concept and defining the scope of the project, production had to move quickly to capture the light of land in summer before the fall colors began to repaint the landscapes.

First we built our concept: The Grand Traverse Resort & Spa was a launching pad, a connection to all the activities and opportunities that Northern Michigan has to offer. To sell this idea, we wanted to sell something that was both real and believable. No fake laughing. No fake smiles. No perfect vacation or perfect weekend. We wanted to make sure that every moment was genuine, so instead of creating flawless scenes for our actors, we put them in the real environments and let them be themselves and lead their own interactions and experiences.  We went on real hikes, ate real food, drank real drinks, and messed up real hotel rooms. We hoped to capture the beautiful chaos of a what makes a genuinely good day. 

A majority of our July was spent chasing the light in Northern Michigan, waking up at 4 in the morning to be ready to film under the sunrise sky and then waking up AGAIN at 4 in the afternoon to be ready to work in the sunset light. Weather was everything for this shoot. Each time the weather report for the week changed, so did our shooting schedule (thank you, Katie Fox)! Our production and coordination team had to be prepared shoot in many locations at many hours OR to sit around and do nothing while we waited for the weather to improve. We owe a great debt to the commitment and flexibility of our crew and our cast. But even with the labor and the hard hours, this project was a blast to assemble.  We owe a big thanks to our cast: John Pomeroy, Tatiana Crespo, Dan & Robin Pearson, Levi Price, and of course to Tim and Jala Wharton and their kids.



High fives to Short's Brewing Co. for doing what they do and being who they are, always, and our other locations for the project, aside from the Resort and Short's included Bower's Harbor Vineyard, 2 Lads Winery, the Tallship Manitou, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

From a filmmaking perspective, this campaign was exciting for us because it was the largest project to date that we've been able to shoot in 4K Raw, which gave us the ability to craft the color and tone and achieve the quality of image that we wanted.  The look of whole commercial was based on the aesthetic of Kodak Portra, the film we used to shoot much of our photography. We used Portra 160 to shoot reference photographs for the color on this project, which made the color wonderfully accurate and heavily filmic.

Just as exciting though, is that this is the first project we've produced using real 35mm film grain we created ourselves. We use film grain for every project at this point, in varying amounts, but this is the first project where we used only our own grain created in our studio using 7K resolution film scans. We also created a new application process for the grain so the distribution would favor the darker parts of the image, like real grain naturally does, a process we had to develop for this project and hope to share in a tutorial soon.

Things like grain don't seem like they always make a big difference in the quality or presentation of a project, and the truth is that often they don't. Many times when viewed with Youtube or Vimeo's compression those details don't even remain present. But we love the details. I personally get nerdy about it, about grain and color! It's been said that how you do anything is how you do everything, and we make films because we love making films.  So even if we're the only ones who see the film in it's full resolution then at least we've made something that we can appreciate as a fully formed fruit or our (and our teams) labor. To us, the details feel as important as the big pieces, like location selection and music--

Music!  Grant Floering wrote the music. He wrote a lot of it while traveling through New Zealand so good on him for that.  The music was a great support for me as the editor and knowing how to set an appropriate energy for the edit and effects shots.

Grant is also from Traverse City originally, as is most of the cast and crew, which was one of the greatest parts about this project in particular was doing something that shows so much love for the area that means so much to those of us who are natives, and even those who aren't who just got to come and chill in the 'north lands for a few weeks and shoot with us.  It's been a fun process, the marketing team at the Resort made things really easy on us, and more than anything else we're really excited for our work and our stomping grounds to be seen by people around the country.  The rest of the Practical team for this project includes Matthew Bouwense, Katie Fox, Jake Burgess, Zac Carsten, Dan Mills, and vfx assistance from Robert Vanderstelt.

Thanks for reading!