Posts tagged Commercial Video Production
A New Hope: Babies, Teammates, Casting Calls
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You may or may not have heard the news, but about a month ago my wife gave birth to our first son! And I know everyone says this, but he has already completely changed our lives! We’ve had late nights--or more accurately, endless nights--and so many new rhythms. One of the serval things I didn’t anticipate is how having a newborn forces you to live in the present. Already, we’re hanging on his every movement; noticing small changes; and just trying to survive from moment to moment. Having a son has really helped me put things in perspective.  For instance…I am proud of that boy and he does nothing but eat, sleep, scream, and defecate. If I love my son for just being alive and being mine, how can I question God’s love for me? This new perspective also hasn’t diminished my love of this job! Writing scripts and shooting commercials is not any less important--quite to the contrary. It reminds me that I can put everything I have into making the best films possible, knowing that I’ve got this new life supporting me and also to support! We’re infused with a new hope (Star Wars pun not intended), and I can already see him improving the way we tell stories here at His Grace Productions.

And, at the risk of a not-so-subtle transition, something else that has been pushing my creativity over the last couple of years and bringing hope to our team is Josh Barbur. Josh is another member of the His Grace Production crew that you really need to meet. (To meet the rest of our crew check out these blog posts.)


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Have you ever had a moment when God brings the right person across your path at just the right time? That’s been Josh for me. We met working production at our church where I heard he was a good shooter. The rest has been history in the making. Josh has grown with this company, and he is a huge asset to our team.  From camera op-ing to lighting design, there’s not much this guy can’t do. Speaking of which, he plays in at least four different bands and is about to go on tour this summer with “Night Traveler.” See, my guys are rock stars! Oh wow… Dad jokes already?

Josh is always on the move and always booked. Whether he’s working with me, filming something for the church, playing with Thinking Caps, or sitting in with another band that needs him, his schedule is jam-packed. He’s a servant, a man of God, and he’s the person you want in your corner when walking on set.

Sunrise on a high-rise. Josh and James grab a beautiful time-lapse while I chill out and take this pic.

Sunrise on a high-rise. Josh and James grab a beautiful time-lapse while I chill out and take this pic.

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For His Grace Productions, Josh does a little bit of everything. On some shoots he’s our DP (director of photography) and on some shoots he’s in charge of lighting. (Pro-tip: The best way to increase your production value before purchasing a $100k camera is to light your projects well! This can be economical but can also take a long time. Thankfully, Josh IS a rockstar and can take budgeting lemons and make lemonade.) Josh is also a certified Steadicam-op and brings a high level of skill to each shooting. Whether he’s focused on perfecting some important detail, capturing big-picture shots, or bringing new, creative ideas, Josh is a source of inspiration and hope on our team. If you haven’t met him already, I hope you get to soon! (For now, you can stream the Thinking Caps!)

Another source of excitement and hope is the short film we’re working on. (For more on the short film, check out our last blog post.) We’ve officially begun casting, and so far we’ve had more than 150 people respond to our call (thank you Texas Film Commission for helping us spread the word)! Call backs and auditions will be happening soon and not long after that we’ll begin to shoot. We’ve got a location scouted--Jake’s Texas Tea House, a great restaurant and perfect backdrop for our story--and have had good conversations with the owners. I’ve been working with Will to get the shot list, and it’s all coming together. Then, depending on how this first vignette turns out, we’ll work to secure funding and shoot a full episode to use as a pilot that we’ll then pitch with the hopes of shooting a full series or feature-length film. To keep with the theme of this post, I’m hopeful.  Not because of circumstances, because we all know how quickly those change, but because Jesus Christ is faithful. We have a living hope that is solid, unchanging, fixed (1Peter 1:3). May everyone who reads this have an extra dose of hope today and as always don’t hesitate to reach out. We love hearing from you all!

So how are you doing? How’s business going this year? If you haven’t quite found a way to articulate how amazing your company is, we’d love to help. Tell us what’s going on by clicking the “CONTACT” button below and we’ll set up a time to chat.

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They Don’t Care About the Perfect Soufflé: My Conversation with Author and Filmmaker Robert Fuller

Robert and crew on a recent commercial shoot in Waco, TX.

Robert and crew on a recent commercial shoot in Waco, TX.

So you’re plugging along, working hard to create that next amazing scene, then BOOM.  You look up and a massive brick wall is staring back at you.  Starting my own production company has been a wild ride and there are times when I feel beaten down and like I’m the only one struggling through a certain process. We are in the middle of writing the script for our next short film while tirelessly crafting commercials for our clients, and the high intensity pace of it all started to catch up with me. That’s when God pulled me aside and gave me the best pep-talk ever.  Enter, Robert Fuller. Robert is an amazing filmmaker, writer, and production company owner who reached out to grab coffee with me, and close to 3 hours later, reignited my resolve and passion for this line of work.  I’ve done my best to capture some of his inspiration in this post (how do you capture inspiration in one post?!). Robert offered advice on facing fear and the discipline of creating. I think it’ll leave you as motivated as I was. In fact, it went so well, I’m hoping to do this again, with other filmmakers! Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the others!

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Robert Fuller’s journey to becoming a filmmaker followed a long and winding road. In fact, if you believe what he says, he never even wanted to be one. But I think at least his subconscious knew, because in between telling me how he wasn’t interested in being a professional filmmaker, he dropped in, “well, I did make cheesy horror flicks with my brothers as a kid, you know with ketchup and butter knives.”—spoken like a young James Cameron/Peter Jackson/Steven Spielberg

Even if Robert didn’t know he wanted to be a filmmaker, he’s always known that he’s a storyteller at heart. “I can remember writing stories when I was young, maybe six-years old,” he told me, “And I mean seriously writing, spending time and working hard on my stories. As I got older, I’d spend more time writing. Sometimes I’d stay up most of the night working on a story.”

His journey to shooting video has taken him down a lot of paths since his childhood writing. Robert’s been a missionary, a janitor, a worship pastor, and has produced musicals and plays—none of it with a camera in his hand, but the theme of storytelling always finding its way in there. Finally, the call to the camera won out.

“I’m addicted to real true stories, real human stories, fiction or nonfiction,” Robert explains, “and I got to a point where I knew God was leading me to focus on telling his stories—stories of salvation and healing.” So, he decided to start travelling, looking for and listening to stories and writing them down. 

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“Before I left, I was talking with my old youth pastor, he’s a writer, and I was telling him about my project and that it was mostly going to be written—he basically told me not to write the stories because video would have a greater impact. So, I got a camera.”

“I really didn’t know what I was doing,” he continues, “but I knew I was not going to wait to tell the stories until I learned how to do it—that decision transformed my creative process.”

“It’s easy to want to know how to do it, then start. I think a lot of creatives get stuck there. They wait until they know what they’re doing or have a great product before putting it out there for the world to see.” 

At this point, I knew Robert was the person I needed to be talking to. Then Robert dropped his advice on me. FILMMAKERS, HERE’S WHERE YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION: Robert’s advice—or maybe mandate—to beginning filmmakers: You have to be okay with failure.

He recognizes this is easier said than done. “I’ve literally written millions of words over my life. You wouldn’t believe how much content—unfinished work, even completed books—I have sitting on my hard drive! It’s taken me a long time to get a thick skin and conquer my fear of failure.”

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“Actually, what helped me get over it was a dream I had. In this dream, I was in a kitchen cooking, trying to make the perfect soufflé. I kept trying and starting over; never happy with the results. And then I looked out the kitchen window and saw there were so many starving people waiting for food! They were so hungry and didn’t care about the perfect soufflé—they just wanted to eat!” 

Once Robert woke up, he knew it was time to stop sitting on content, hoping it would eventually be perfect enough to release, and time to take the leap of faith to publish what he’d created. “I had to face my fear of failure and released my first book. It was tough to do. At every step of the process I kept thinking, ‘Are people going to think I’m a hack?’ or ‘I’ve always dreamed about this what if I fail?’” (…asked every visionary ever!)

“Perfect can be a killer sometimes. You have to just fall back on the truth that God has given gifts to everybody,” he’s says, “There’s no such thing as a magic wand; making good work happens through hard work.”

Robert’s other piece of advice (PAY ATTENTION HERE, it’s another golden nugget): Make your creative work—writing, filming, painting, etc.—a routine and a discipline.

“When I was younger, I’d write whenever I was inspired. I would go two weeks without writing, then an idea would hit me and I’d stay up all weekend writing,” he says with a slight laugh. “As I got older, I knew that needed to change.”

These days, he’s figured out a better structure. Every morning, he gets up before the rest of his family and writes for an hour, and to his surprise, his output increased significantly once he started this practice. “Writing became like muscle memory. I could sit down and my brain knew what to do and could move much more quickly. I’m finishing stories and books, and the writing momentum is like a train. Once it starts rolling, it’s hard to stop.”

Robert’s creative train seems to be moving full-speed ahead now. He owns a successful video production company, just released his first book (which is selling like hotcakes!), and is producing his first short film this summer. While his fear of failure is always lurking, it’s had to be pushed aside. “When I don’t write or create, I start to dry up a little and I feel off, which is always a good reminder. It’s not an option, I have to do it.”

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You can get his young adult fiction novel, In the Belly of the Earth, on Amazon and follow him on Instagram @fullerwriter to get updates on his short film and others projects.

This is just a small sample of what Robert and I talked about but it got me back on track to be disciplined in my trade and to not to let perfection keep me from moving forward in what God has called me to do. I hope this inspires you to keep pressing on, working WITH God on the amazing things He’s called you to.  We’re running this race together so when you’re in a rut and your soufflé is burning the kitchen to the ground, never forget to reach out.  You’re not alone and we’ve all destroyed plenty of kitchens before creating something really worthwhile.

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Finishing What You Start: 4 Editing Pitfalls to Learn From

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I just re-watched a cinematic classic, a tale of Machiavellian business practices and romantic uncertainty. It’s a movie called You’ve Got Mail. In this movie, Tom Hanks is charming (duh), and Meg Ryan is her usual beautiful but relatable self (also, duh). It’s a go-to, re-watchable film, but this last time I cozied up to it I noticed something. It’s a small moment that most people wouldn’t catch. But, in the scene where Tom Hanks’ character and his fictitious father are both on a boat together and Tom is mixing up martinis, I noticed a subtle discrepancy. Tom, as Joe Fox, shakes up the drinks and garnishes them with olives. The cameras then cut to his dad, who offers some lines about life, and then they cut back to Tom who ADDS OLIVES AGAIN!! One second Tom is putting olives in his martini, and the next the olives aren’t there and he has to put them in again. How could this happen?!

Now that I’ve gotten over the shock of this mistake, I’m able to see that it’s an editing error that even a Nora Ephron-written-Tom-Hanks-and-Meg-Ryan-starring-in-film can have, and more than ever I’m realizing the importance of post-production.

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I recently wrapped up filming my first short film in my First 15 project—Cry Wolf. Getting to immerse myself in the post-production editing process I was reminded of four pitfalls to avoid that will make your editing—and final product—so much better! 

Pitfall #1: Lack of Planning

You’re on location, ready to shoot, time to yell “Action!” and you realize…you don’t have power because you forgot to bring an extension cord. “That’ll never happen to me,” you say? It happens to everyone, and the way to avoid it is to plan every detail. Make sure you have food and water so your actors don’t run out of grace for the 30th take of the same line. Make sure you have all of your props built and on location for your shoot. Make sure you have batteries charged and ready (and spare batteries charged and ready) for every piece of equipment. Before you shoot, sit down and write out every scene and shot of your film/commercial/video. After that, breakdown each scene and make sure you know every piece of equipment that is needed and that it’s ready to go. If you plan, and back-up plan, for everything that could go wrong.  I know what you’re thinking, “Geez whiz Jake, this is awful specific” yeah… It’s because everything listed above is a mistake I personally made on this ONE shoot. 

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Pitfall #2: “I’ll fix it in editing.”

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Repeat after me: If it doesn’t look right when I’m filming it, it’s not going to look right when I’m editing it. Editing is magical and can smooth out a lot of rough edges, but you have to give yourself enough good raw material to work with. It may mean an extra 30 minutes to do two or three more takes, but getting the shot you’re really looking for will save you from beating your head against the computer later on. 

Pitfall #3: Not getting enough b-roll

Even with the most engaging, heart-felt customer testimonial, you’re still going to need visuals that your audience can see and engage with. Get as much on film as you can without completely destroying your time window. If you’re shooting a commercial where a customer is talking about how great your customer service is, make sure to get footage of you and a happy customer. If you’re making a video to show how great your lawn care business is, make sure to get more than enough footage of beautiful lawns and your hardworking team. You can’t have too much on film once you’re in the editing room.

Pitfall #4: Not taking “quiet on the set!” far enough

In the heat of a shoot, you may not notice your grip nervously tapping their foot because they haven’t peed for 6 hours, or the sound of your assistant chewing gum like a cow turned metronome but when you sit down and review all the brilliant dialogue it took 7 hours to capture, you’ll hear every out of place cricket chirp, neck scratch, and stomach growl. The microphone is going to pick up everything. A phone ringing, an air conditioner coming on, someone blowing their nose…it will all be there to greet you in post, and through editing, you may be able to eliminate some sounds (depending on the software), but you’ll never be able to completely fix poorly captured audio. So, when it’s time to yell action, make sure you’ve quieted every unwanted noise you can.

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When you’re shooting a commercial or making a movie, every detail makes a difference, and avoiding these pitfalls can be the difference in another day of shooting or having/not having a commercial that looks professional and tells the story of your business the way it deserves to be told. Don’t waste time or money, pay attention to the little things and make a great video!


The Hardest Part...Getting Started: 4 Tips for Finding—and Keeping—Good Actors

A lot of the inspiration for starting my First 15 project came from my friend, Austin Meek, who recently started hosting his own radio show on local public radio. I was surprised when I heard his voice in my car one day, so I called him to ask how he made it happen. He told me about having the idea to hear the inside scoop of Waco’s growth and, instead of showing up to the radio station with just a good idea, he wrote out 30 basic episodes of who he’d interview and what they’d talk about. The station was fully on board, and now you can hear Austin every Friday at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

His idea clicked with me.

I don’t want my own radio show, but what’s stopping me from writing and shooting my own films? And, one-by-one, I can build up a more narrative based portfolio and pitch it to a company. I got to work right away.

To start, I took down a few notes that looked something like this:

Faith is central to my story and the story I want to tell, but I really don’t want to do faith-based stuff the way it’s usually done. I want to do something that I actually want to make and that I’d like to watch.

I love and am influenced by action movies from the 80s and 90s—Jurassic Park, Terminator 2, Big Trouble in Little China, Blade Runner, Alien, Escape from New York (Man, HOW GOOD IS ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK?! I could write a blog post entirely about that). And the show Eerie, Indiana. (Does anyone remember that show?) So, I want to shoot something with fun action scenes and some sort of training montage and figure out how to pull it all off.

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