Much of the industry is pondering what productions will look like moving forward. Almost a year ago, Jason Lindsey wanted to test production boundaries by embarking on a do-it-yourself project. It turns out; he had provided the answer back then to the questions so many are asking today; just what is possible in a COVID-19 production world? Read on to learn about this fascinating project.
You have said that much of your personal projects come from struggle. Armed with a homegrown mentality, you explored the possibilities of having a smaller crew for this project. What was the specific question you were looking to answer?
The two questions I wanted to answer were, can I achieve the production quality I expect with a tiny crew and how can I best do that.
You concepted, wrote, and shot stills and video for this project. Can you give us the lay of the land in terms of crew size, location, and timing?
I wrote the concept of this project from start to finish with the idea of a two-person crew in mind. I knew I needed to create a concept that was achievable with a two-person team. My assistant, Jake Campos, also pulled double duty as the talent. After coming up with the initial idea, I collaborated with Braulio Fonseca to write the voice over and then I made a very detailed shot list with many more shots than we would need or shoot. I wanted to have multiple options for each story element so that I would have flexibly on set. With a small crew, you have to do preproduction differently. You will not have all the bells and whistles and crew on set to make any shot happen. You have to have ideas pre-planned if conditions are different than expected and be prepared to take advantage of the happy accidents and amazing changing light on set. You have to do all of this while keeping the story and concept in mind and on track. My producer Talia helped with preproduction, and Jake helped with locations. We shot in Utah, and the entire production was two-and-a-half days for scouting and shooting. Having a flexible assistant with a vast skillset is key to a shoot like this.
Aside from knowing you could pull off a shoot with just two people, were there other surprise learnings that you took away from this project?
It was very freeing to work in this way and have the flexibility to take advantage of the conditions and locations to tell the best story. Creating a concept with creative flexibility is the single biggest key to making this style of shooting successful.
Talk to us about the production side of this shoot. In this age of COVID-19, the size of production crews, and accompanying equipment, may come into question. What equipment did you have at your disposal for this project? How were you able to edit the footage without involving others?
I shot the footage with a basic Red Gemini camera package with two lenses and an Inspire 2 Pro drone with four lenses. Being an FAA licensed drone pilot allowed me to do many shots that elevated the story. For the stills, I shot with a Canon 1Dx Mark II and a single backpack of lenses. I used Adobe Premiere to edit. I started my career as a Broadcast Designer doing intros and trailers for films, so I have a decent bit of experience editing.
Knowing that the limited crew might present barriers for this project, how did you build flexibility into this project?
The first thing I did was make sure I created a concept that was producible in this style. I knew I needed to have a storyline that could take some twists and turns. The idea of someone on a journey seeking and searching for the best photos was perfect because that process is full of surprises, so we knew we could make the story work with almost any conditions as long as we had an epic ending with a great scene and light. We prioritized that particular shot to make sure we got that. I had a very robust shot list with variations for each shot based on the conditions and locations we found. For example, I had ideas if it rained or ideas if we had a dust storm and ideas for overcast light, harsh light, or epic light. I kept the props and wardrobe simple so Jake could wear the same clothes every day and be ready to jump into a shot at any time.
What is something that people might not know about your production arsenal?
We are very vertically integrated and own all our cameras, lenses, and lighting for most scenarios for photoshoots. We own all our cameras, lenses, and audio equipment for Motion and TV shoots like this. We also have a drone package with interchangeable lenses.
How can you apply your lessons from the this project to future productions given our shelter in place for the unforeseeable future?
I think this production approach would work well for future productions because we have such a lightweight footprint that allows us to be very quick and nimble. The key to success is involvement in the concepting with our creative partners so that we can develop concepts we know will work. My background as a Creative Director indeed came in handy working in this style.
Follow Jason on Instagram for more imagery that is the result of doing whatever it takes to find that something extraordinary.