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The Two-Man Production Team

August 28th, 2021

There’s something special about the early stages of starting a freelance career. You have limited gear, lack of resources, and you need to take on multiple responsibilities yourself to get the job done. Now these points make it more difficult to complete your creative vision. But the grind to produce something when odds are against you creates an experience that is both motivating and unforgettable.

A Music Video In A Wasteland

This past weekend I filmed a music video for local Seattle artist Acotu (Sam Sturtevant). Since our budget is low, we opted to find an outdoor location for the main setting. We decided on a sand dune in Eastern Washington, loaded up our gear, and drove three and a half hours to the trail head.

We had a 3 mile hike to the sand dune. With our garbage bag full of production items and my rather heavy camera bag, we started our journey to the dune. O yeah, and our gallon water jug because it was 97 degrees out. We ended up stopping multiple times along the trail to shoot parts of the film, dropping our heavy gear just to have to run back to pick it up after we finished. This stop and go technique luckily made the water jug lighter as our thirst was unquenchable.

Sam's outfit was not meant for 97 degree weather. Wearing a scarf, paintball mask, and jacket, he walked along a desert wasteland in the beating sun. Every time we finished a shot he would take his mask off and ask for water, sweat dripping from his forehead. I took up the responsibility as water boy, making sure we both drank enough water to avoid heat exhaustion.

As each shoot was made, our excitement and vision for the project grew exponentially. We had a good rhythm going where ideas lined up and Sam's performance for each shot was spot on. Our goal was to make it to the dune by sunset and we were making good time.

The Giant Dune

Arriving at the dune close to sunset was truly remarkable. But we only had 45 min before the last light, so we couldn't marvel at the dune’s grandiose stature for long. Filled with excitement we quickly laid out our creative ideas and made a plan. Ready, Set, GO!

With the sun on the horizon, the contrast between light and dark on the ripples of the sand was eye-catching. We moved through each shot with ease, like a synchronized dance. If the shot wasn't right, we ran it back quickly. We dug into our large garbage bag for props and set design items, tossing them to each other for placement and coordinating how we wanted them to look on the sand. We were efficient with the time constraint that was upon us.

Pyrotechnics, sorta?

So the jug of water had a second purpose, a purpose that involved something that scared me. We decided to bring roadside flares to experiment with a controlled flame. I had three rules with this:

  1. We must be a safe distance away from all plants/flammable material (so only on the dune)

  2. We need water to extinguish the flame

  3. We can't have it ignited for long

With the rules in place, I had Sam ignite the flare.

With a few hiccups, It all went to plan. There was a moment where we tried extinguishing the flare into the sand but it stayed lit! Leaving the camera to record our panicked reaction, I quickly grabbed the water jug and poured it over the flare. In the end, the footage looked incredible and I was able to let out a sigh of relief.

The Project Is Finished, Or Is It?

Once we finished all our perspective shots, we sat on top of the dune to watch the sun finally set. We were fully content with the work we had done that day. But that wasn't the end of the experience, as it quickly dawned on us that we still had a 3 mile hike out, with all of our stuff, in the pitch black...

With our phone lights illuminating our path, we traversed back to the car with the sounds of coyotes in the distance. With Sam’s external speaker playing music, we sang with smiles on our faces. I couldn't help but reflect on how much we accomplished as a two-man production team. It wasn't until we heard a loud rattle next to our feet, that we realized it was time to complete the hike back. Now at a slight jog, we followed the trail back to the car. I forgot that there are rattlesnakes here.

Final Thoughts

As we packed up the car and drove away, we encountered a deer, porcupine, and hawk on the dirt road back to the highway. Spirit animals we dubbed them. This realization led into a conversation about our own spirit animals. After some debating, we decided mine was a fox and Sam’s a black bear. Turning my attention back to the serene and peaceful road, I was able to reflect on my thoughts.

I came into this project with a lot of anxieties about how things would play out (not to mention using a flare). A lot of those negative feelings stem from the common misconception that a lack of gear/resources dictates your work. Obviously, having unlimited resources does help with production value and opens many more possibilities. But I realized it was an unrealistic worry to have, especially knowing where I was at in my career. Once I moved my focus from “what I wish I had” to “what I had”, I was able to excel in my craft. Anxieties left my body and I was content with the decisions we made with the resources we had. It even made the experience more enjoyable, knowing that we are both pushing ourselves to achieve the video we both envisioned. It is so easy to let your feelings/mind take control. But this time was different, and it'll be something I'll practice as I continue this career path.

We successfully completed a two man production. It's finishing projects like this one that really motivates me to work harder and what ultimately inspired me to share this story. If you asked me to carry heavy gear 6 miles in the beating sun while avoiding rattlesnakes, I’d do it again.

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