Blog

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.

Just Getting By

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written by Paul Genzink  -  Project Release  -  October 31, 2017

 

 

It was my first week at Practical and found myself in the backseat on a 2.5 hour car ride. It was here that I listened to Joshua Davis’ song Just Getting By for the very first time. Immediately my head flooded with a variety of images; concepts began forming and my excitement level grew. The song, heavily influenced by memories of the past and of simpler times, transported me to my childhood, one filled with imagination, creativity, and play.

 

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In an early pitch, JohnPaul Morris showed me a photo of a young boy jumping on a bed. The content of the photo, the composition and the execution of the photographer created an emotional response for him and myself and it served as a north star for us as we pursued our options for each vignette we would film.

 

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One challenge that we faced with this piece was creating something simple but not something obvious. The narrative tone of Josh’s lyrics already communicate a beautiful story and we wanted to create a similar tone, visually, without being redundant. We entered into a balancing act of sorts, keeping in mind the emotional response we wanted to achieve while remaining close, but not too close, to the character of the song.

 

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We spent a few summer nights driving around, dragging friends along, and redecorating our own living rooms to capture the images that we needed for this piece.

 

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What made this process truly enjoyable for me was being given the opportunity to revisit my childhood creativity. To remember how I lived in a state of wonder and make believe and to be able to recreate those moments on camera is the very reason that I decided to get into filmmaking, and continues to remind this.

 

 

Odyssey

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written by JohnPaul Morris  -  Project Release  -  October 28, 2017

 
 

Creatively, we're always searching for a starting point. That's true with any project, but especially with a music video since the options initially seem endless. It's often helpful to first establish what can't be done. Like putting together a puzzle where you'd start with the edge pieces and build a frame to work within, we establish constraints that you can build inward from. It limits your options and narrows your focus.

Our biggest constraint with Odyssey was time. We were already in the middle of preproduction for our most ambitious project of 2017 and the band would be gone on a 70 day tour by the time it was done. It had to be pitched, planned, and filmed in a matter of weeks. It's easy to think about what made this project intimidating, but looking back, I'm more interested in what allowed it to be possible. We trusted each other's strengths.

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The Accidental's are a deep well of talent and resources. They should not be underestimated as musicians, as people, or as creatives. It became clear quickly that we could trust them, their label, and their managers. We had co-director's on Odyssey, Paul Genzink and myself. I normally wouldn't recommend it, but because the project was so performance based it allowed us both to be more hands on with set construction and cinematography. Katie Fox-Webb, who produced Odyssey, also did the majority of our art and production design. We played to our strengths and kept it simple.

The Accidental's are, possibly first and foremost, hard workers. The hours, effort, and ethic they put into their art was immediately apparent. I didn't realize how attached we'd become to everyone on the set over such a short production, but we did. The summer and fall have been exhausting for us as a team. Our boundaries and limitations have never been clearer to us. But within that, I'm really proud of how everyone played to their strengths, worked smart, worked hard, kept working, and at the end of it made a really cool vid. We were excited to see an in depth HuffPost Article on the project.

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The work didn't end with production. The editing process was left fairly open ended and Dustin Foster at Chop & Hue in Grand Rapids took over editing for us and worked late nights and early mornings to bring the final piece together. Without them, we wouldn't have been able to make Odyssey happen. That's the main reason Practical opened a second office in Grand Rapids this spring, to create the opportunity for more collaboration. So thank you to everyone involved, including the hundreds of extras who got rained on, waded out into lakes, survived the smoke, and helped us create spaces that didn't exist before.

 
 
 

The Original

 
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It's February, but looking back to November, the Practical team somehow found a way to make a few hours free in our busiest time of year to film a music video for our good friend Roo Panes -- in full faith that we could also find time to edit it. My favorite part of a project that is made with everyone's full agreement that "we really don't have time to do this" is that the perfect details, the bits of wonder, and all truly great moments that come to life, not from hours and days of brilliant planning and imagination, but simply from the skill and brilliance of everyone on set. It's the raw talent of everyone who had a hand in making things happen on around the camera that brought this film to life.

The obvious talent in this piece is Grace Boyles. Without time to lay out a full form for the piece or proper choreography, Grace's natural ability and instinct for the project was the element that made it clear to the whole team that she was going to do her part to bring the piece to life so all we had to do then, was ours. The truth is that this project had the potential to be great because Grace is great.

Behind the camera, Roo (working remotely with us from London) and the team and created a concept that was doable with our time constraints and flexible if we encountered limitations, but also very interesting. At many points I thought maybe it'd be too much or a bit odd, but now I wouldn't change a thing.

Knowing that this was going to be a full (or so we thought) black and white project, the most important thing was going to be light, the source of our shape, line, and craft between light and dark. We used everything type of light we had access to to get the look we wanted but ended up created so much spill that we had to use large canvases of cardboard to block light from hitting too much of our "dark" background. The background was actually a white wall, but because of the proximity and intensity of the light on Grace, the difference in exposure would render the whole rest of the room a smooth, perfect black.

We had the great pleasure of working with our new camera, the RED Epic X with the Dragon sensor (Hobbit Trilogy, used for Jurassic World and Star Wars: Force Awakens VFX) and our set of 8 Vintage Nikon Prime lenses. Most of the footage was captured from atop a shoulder, not a tripod, mostly as a way of trying to get our bits and pieces faster and more accurately with more flexibility in position and in fewer takes. The final edit went through a detailed color and tone grade and had Practical's real 35mm Film Grain applied over it to break up the overly smooth digital look and give it a more organic feel.

I'm so thankful to everyone who gave their time for this project and looking forward to releasing some of the other projects we've been working on together. Soon!

Thanks for reading.

JohnPaul

[Team: Matthew Bouwense, Jake Burgess, Alissa Levandoski]