In the ten years we’ve lived in Burbank, California, I must have passed ARC TV & Repair over one hundred times. The handful of art pieces in the front window always caught my attention, but I assumed the artist was a friend of the shop owner.
After Jen wrapped up her HOMEGROWN
photography project, showcasing small business owners in Burbank, she received a phone call from Bill Czappa, owner of ARC TV & Repair, asking if he could be included in her next round of photography. She returned to our office after shooting with him and urged me to meet him and consider shooting another [ahr-tuh-zen] project
installment on him.
I didn’t have lofty expectations for the end product when I made the commitment to shoot a short piece on him, mostly because I didn’t know how much time I would be able to commit. However, during my first b-roll shoot with Bill at his garage studio, we got to talking unofficially (I didn’t have location audio with me that day because I hadn’t intended to shoot interviews), and Bill mentioned that he’d always thought Van Gogh had it easy compared to some artists, including himself. With this passing comment it became very clear the direction and tone the documentary would take. I was hooked.
In the month that followed, I spent a few hours here and there with Bill. At his garage studio. At his repair shop/gallery. For one of Bill’s recounts about a gallery experience, I wanted to come up with a clever way to visually tell the story. His retelling was lengthy and required quite a bit of trimming to make it fit. Because I only shot his interview with one camera, I didn’t have the luxury of a second camera to cut away to. In addition, I felt like cutting to random b-roll during this story felt unmotivated. So I took a cue from Bill and decided to use a “different material” than video to tell the story. I decided to tackle stop-motion animation for the first time in years. With our awesome intern, Odessa, we cut characters and shapes out of construction paper and created a rudimentary animated sequence to accompany Bill’s humorous art gallery story.
There is nothing like watching an animated sequence come to life. The icing on the cake was hearing the sound design from my long-time collaborator, Durand Trench of Sasquatch Sound
. All of us were in his office laughing like children. I have a feeling it won’t be our last animation.
The next step was a crucial one and somewhat fortuitous. I had been editing the film with no music. It’s been an exercise of mine recently as I try to avoid temp love (the notion that some producers/directors/editors fall in love with their temporary score so much that they’re unable to appreciate the novelty of an original composition), and I wanted to provide the composer an opportunity to come at it with a fresh perspective. For this project, I asked Paul Bessenbacher
(PB) of Emoto Music
to consider scoring the film and gave him the first right of refusal.
Near the end of my picture edit, PB released a track from his then forth-coming solo piano album titled, Equilibrium
. On a whim, I played the track against a section of the film and was blow away. Everything worked. Timing. Tone. Moments. PB had independently and coincidentally created the perfect piece for a film he’d never seen. From there, PB provided some of his other existing tracks for me to place against my sequence to help him determine the tone I was going after. I was willing to forsake my exercise at the request of the composer, especially considering it was his
music. Eventually, he composed an original score that differed significantly from the temp music he’d provided earlier (save that initial piano track, Bloom, which we both felt was perfect for the film). I will admit I had a brief moment of temp love the first night, but it only required one more listen of the new score to appreciate the creative approach and cohesiveness it brought to the film. The musical collaborative process is one of my favorites in filmmaking, and I’m fortunate to work such talented composers like PB.
We went back to Bill’s garage studio to record some additional sound effects for the soundscape of the film, and from there Durand tackled the mix. This was his first mix for a theatrical setting, and he nailed it. Sidney Lumet wrote he hated the mix process. I’d have to disagree with him.
Passion projects can be a bit tricky. There is a balance you must strike between making something the best you can make it and respecting the time of your creative collaborators. At the end of the day, you want have something you all can be proud of. I think CZAPPA is a prime example of achieving that goal.