Isolation. This word likely means something different to all of us. For me, this was a tough idea to wrap my head around while working on a recent project, ‘In Search of Mr.Riel’. For this project, Brent Foster, Pawel Dwulit and I headed to Chile to try understand the root of this idea by visiting one of the most remote regions of Patagonia to talk with one of the most isolated Gauchos alive today.
Coming into this trip, my goal was to produce a feature length documentary while also assisting Brent as he produced a short portrait and BTS video for DJI. Although I was coming as support for the project, my main goal was to capture the journey in and look at how this trip’s obstacles impacted the people involved.
Currently, the feature documentary, In Search of Mr.Riel is in post production with a target early festival cut for August 2016 and a release date targeted for summer 2017.
In the meantime, below is Brent’s film that was produced on the trip featuring Mr.Riel.
About the Portrait Film
In today’s digital world, it’s rare to meet a person who’s truly off the grid. This is a story about reflection, isolation, and an appreciation and knowledge of the environment that surrounds us. Through unique visuals of a man in one of the world’s most beautiful locations, we aim to take viewers on a journey into the humble life of one of the last gauchos (cowboys) remaining in Patagonia. From sweeping aerials to establish the environment, to pulling focus for close ups showcasing the wrinkles and details on our character’s face, this film will be highly cinematic and story driven.
How it Came About
Earlier this year, Brent reached out to me about a potential project in Patagonia. For me, I was excited and up for the challenge. The project in question had been in the works for awhile and when it was green lit, it came at a time where I was looking for change. The corporate grind was getting to me and I wanted to expand my skill-set by trying something new. My goal was to document the adventure and produce my first feature length adventure documentary. Although the main objective for the client was to produce a portrait and short product-based promo video, neither of those projects pushed creative boundaries for me so I looked elsewhere for that creative fulfillment. We packed our bags and were on our way!
My Approach for the trip
From this unique adventure, I hoped to create work with purpose, intent with the ultimate goal of inspiring others to do the same. Somewhat lost in the corporate / commercial grind, I really hoped to rediscover what it truly means to live a creatively fulfilled life. Beyond this, I hoped that his work will motivate others.
”The best work comes when you push the little things – then go back and push even more”.
It doesn’t matter the format. It doesn’t matter the length. It doesn’t matter the subject. The key is to help someone understand that passion and intent surpass societies expectations and understanding of success. We need to break through these preconceptions using emotional relevance and honesty. It makes for a difficult process but a much more rewarding result. Coming into the trip, there were three key messages / plot points that I wanted to investigate.
1. THE HUMAN PSYCHE
Although there are many ways to approach the subject, this project would aim to focus on the basic needs and their impact on the psyche. All humans strive to create an environment that they feel safe and are able to take risks. This environment also fosters growth. The drive to belong comes from our desire to expand ones network and the desire to create a network of like minded people who are driving toward the same objectives. Truly successful networks leave ego’s at the door. Lastly, the idea of ‘mattering’ ranges depending on interpretation. In most cases, this is ones desire to leave a lasting legacy.
2. THE AUTOTELIC APPROACH
Going into any experience, whether consciously or subconsciously, we create expectations or set goals for ourselves and if not met, there is an assumed level of disappointment. For this film, the goal is to show that, no matter how prepared you are, obstacles may get in the way of what you set out to achieve at the onset of a project. We will show that through adventure, it is the unknown that dictates the level of success and that unexpected lessons are what truly resonate. Further to this, we hoped to show that this journey is one driven through a sense of purpose and curiosity.
3. PERSONAL GROWTH
Becoming complacent is a huge fear for many driving to grow as an artist. Being able to look at the big picture is essential. Once you are able to look at the big picture, you are then able to analyze how you approach the human interaction and start looking at purpose and intent behind the decisions you make.
Coming into the trip, these were my goals and what I hoped to set out to investigate. Ironically, after returning from the trip and having a chance to look back on these themes, they could not have resonated so loudly in our experiences.
This journey was a huge challenge for me – from gear to virtually every aspect of production. There were obstacles and natural tension that surfaced through the journey itself. From missed flights to many unforeseen challenges, there were times we thought the trip wouldn’t happen. There was no question that I learned about myself – both personal barriers and / or personal realizations.
What makes any experience unique is the journey. This does not necessarily mean many km’s were traveled, rather it is the lessons learned along the way. For this trip however, we have set up a rather extensive itinerary to start the learning process early. To get to our subject we wanted to work with, we needed to take 16 hours of flights, 22 hours in a car and 3 days on horseback. Once we landed in Balmaceda after a quick stop-over in Santiago, our trip by car can be seen below.
What I Learned
My biggest takeaway from this project was the importance of clear communication from the onset of the project. For expedition based trips such as this, without clear communication and a strong plan, there is no way things will go smoothly. Strong plans ensure you are able to adapt to almost any obstacle that comes forward.
For any new project that comes my way, here are a few simple tips I will keep in mind when developing the pre-production plan.
Why Clear Communication Is Important
Communication is the root of any relationship. The obvious advantage of clear communications is that people will easily understand your message. Your customers want to know how you can help them, but they don’t want to have to spend hours figuring out what you’re trying to tell them. Apart from the actual message your words are communicating, you tell a lot about you and your business by how you present your business in writing. Good communications build your reputation, your credibility and your relationship with customers, and all of these build your business. When it comes to trips like this, clear communication sets expectations, creates a stronger team and it improves morale.
For this production, our biggest issue was having to coordinate from a different country in a different language. We put our faith in our fixer to translate and to get us to our subject and unfortunately we did run into some issues during the process. Looking back, we likely would have spent a bit more time breaking down roles and responsibilities.
It Creates a Stronger Team
Effective communication empowers teammates and enables to establishment of highly efficient teams. By establishing trust, you are about to reduce unnecessary competition which allows people to work together harmoniously. The result of a team that works together is that the team can work to support everyone in their personal journey’s and inevitably make a stronger project as a whole. One of my pet peeves is when someone has an issue and doesn’t voice it. They simply distance themselves and let their frustrations foster. It is key you create an environment where people feel comfortable to talk about how they are feeling to ensure what they are getting what they need out of every project. A few close collaborators are amazing at doing this and I admire that.
It Improves Morale
When collaborators are satisfied with their jobs, they are able to efficiently perform their duties with a positive attitude. Failing to communicate effectively leads to frustration and confusion among collaborators. However, it is easy to alleviate such problems by keeping the lines of communication open.
How To Ensure Things Go Smoothly
1. Establish Roles & Responsibilities
By establishing this line of communication, you are able to establish roles and responsibilities and ensure everyone knows who needs to do what and what they will get out of the production. Beyond this, talk about credits and without question, ensure a deal memo is in place. I have recently adopted this as a standard because of some issues I have had in the past.
2. Set Expectations
By being clear upfront of the expectations for the trip, it helps avoid disappointment when terms aren’t set up ahead of time. At the same time, there are times when these terms change and it is important that you revisit things with your team to find a new plan of action. By being transparent and honest, it is much easier to avoid obstacles down the road. Its fascinating to see, especially when working in a collective-based work environment how when you don’t establish these boundaries that people will not last in the long term.
3. Develop a Clear Creative
Having a clear plan upfront helps when decisions need to be made on the ground. This has been something that has been very important to me from the onset. By ensuring you know the goals of the project and how you plan to execute, you are able to effectively execute on your plan.
4. Provide a Project Blueprint
With not only creative but logistics, by having a blueprint, you are able to have a means of measure for the projects you work on. For me, I have a basic project rollout I use for every project and make sure to spend the time to have each step carefully considered.
5. Provide a Logistics Plan in Advance
Every trip requires a strong logistics plan. Heading into every project, ensure you know the who, what, where, why and when for the production. Everything connected to the production itself needs to be considered in this plan – from parking to washrooms. making this experience as positive for the crew as possible will improve the experience for all.
A Preview of What’s To Come
Although the feature documentary is a few months away, I wanted to start to talk the conversation as the process continues. My goal is to share as much from the experience and process as possible and show our approach to story structure. If there is anything specific you want to see from this process, please comment below.