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FILMS

 

 

Michael’s Story

Michael was like any other 21 year old, until one unfortunate moment changed the course of his life. But what could’ve been a devastating and isolating accident… wasn’t. And with the love and support of his friends and family, and the innovation of technology, Michael lives a full and happy life. This is his story.

Music by

Rooibos Doppelgänger – ‘Amongst Others’
Roary – ‘Threads’

Tobii Dynavox have a new product called the PCEye Plus with Eye R, and they approached us to make a video to go with the release.
But in classic Tobii style, they didn’t want just a branded commercial telling people how great the product is… they wanted a real story about a real person. They wanted to tell the heart behind why their technology exists, and like us, they believe that an emotional connection is way more powerful than any kind of slick advert.
For this project, they had young man in mind, who turned out to be the legend that is, Michael.

For more about Tobii Dynavox and the work they do – www.tobiidynavox.co.uk

PRE PRO

Tobii came to us with a blank slate, and tasked us with the entire concept, production and delivery, from start to finish.
This was an exciting new challenge for us! Tobii usually has much more of an idea of the kind of angle to take or a specific moment to capture, but in this case, the only guiding principal was that Michael was going to get the new updated device, and that we’d tell his story (whatever that was) with the tech in the backdrop.
So it began with a few phone calls with Michael, chatting things through, asking question after question, and trying to understand his life and his history.
The more we got into it and the more we chatted, we were blown away with what an amazing, down-to-earth guy, Michael is. We were inspired by his courage and grit, intrigued by the story of the accident, and wanted to show how empowered and able his life actually is.

As the key parts of Michael’s life started to take on some shape in our minds, we looked towards references and inspiration to match with the themes we were discovering. Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes; in the form of imagery, concepts, feelings, aesthetic qualities, timing and pacing, sound design, or sometimes structural.

Subaru Owner Stories “Joseph Batson” by Process Creative.

This is one example of what spoke to us. It’s very different in tone and content from our film, but we were inspired by it’s structure. It starts off very small, with one man talking about his hobby, and as the film goes on it opens up, expanding to his love for his daughter and the wider community/family. We thought this would work really nicely for Michael’s story, because it allows you to start with the small details and expand outwards, leaving a feeling of endless possibilities.

Understanding the structure of this film turned out to be the key for us. Once we knew where we’d be starting (Michael as a young boy), and where we’d finish (the support of family), we had a much stronger approach to production.

PRODUCTION

We had a small 3 person crew; Dan & Aaron, with the talented Isabelle Povey producing and doing photography (pretty much all the photos on this page are hers).
We worked with slightly less defined roles, like you tend to on such a small production. With both Aaron and Dan directing and shooting, both considering the cinematography and the sound… but then also pulling back and letting the other take the lead when necessary. This is probably only really possible because we’ve worked together for so long. We’d also normally take on all of the photography and producing ourselves, but we were very lucky to have Isabelle handling those aspects.
We were rocking all our standard equipment, as well as the DJI Ronin MX and the Rhino Slider. We filmed with the Sony A7sii (as our A Cam) and A6300 (as B Cam) and shot on SLOG 3 – and if you’re interested in more about that, CLICK HERE to see a test video we did, comparing and contrasting different picture profiles.

The 1st day was spent filming the interview, and joining Michael at work and then later at the gym.
Day 2 was down by the river filming the more abstract and reflective moments, before going to Michael’s home, joining him and his friends at a BBQ, then onto London South Bank for a romantic walk with his girlfriend, Franky.

Each day was jammed packed, with lots of creative decisions and problem-solving, as well as carting gear and ourselves all over London. It was a lot of hard work, but was great fun.

As we got to know Michael over those couple of days, we discovered that if he could, he’d love to go swimming, and that he actually hadn’t been back into any open water since his accident. And that’s where the idea for surfing came from.
We loved the idea of this extra filming day as it would provide the film with a more dynamic and epic ending. It also had the added benefit of allowing space for some more of the abstract underwater filming.
Luckily for us, Tobii were more than willing to fund the extra part of the filming. So day 3 was a trip to Mumbles, South Wales partnering with Surfability UK .
We brought along Ben Walton to provide extra underwater photography and drone footage, and our good friend Paul Davies as a runner, both of whom, we couldn’t have done without!
Despite a worryingly rainy start to the day, the clouds gave way and we actually had one of the best filming days of our lives! Filming in the sun, with fun underwater toys and a drone, grabbing some chips at the end of it all, it was brilliant!

Sometimes we can’t believe that we get to do this job!

POST

The post production was almost as much fun as the filming! But with loads of footage to work with, it certainly was a bit of a beast to tackle.
The biggest balancing act for the edit was bringing out the right amount of emotion. Because Michael is so matter-of-fact about everything, he never makes a big deal of things and can say a phrase like “I broke my neck and was instantly paralyzed” and then casually move on to talk about something else!
So it was important for us, to really draw out the danger and isolation of the accident, as well as the uplifting freedom and independence of his life, but all without making it feel melodramtic or as though we were milking it.
For us it was moments like the home footage that really ground the film in reality. Or when we see Michael for the 1st time being interviewed, where we strip back the music and sound, and we focus solely on him and that moment. Combining many of these little details, with Michael’s down-to-earth nature, we feel like the edit managed to feel authentic and emotive at the same time.

We used the whole Adobe family to put this project together, but we also used Da Vinci Resolve for the final colour. We consider and control the colour palette through the filming, so the grade was really about accentuating that. However, the opening accident scene (where we were shooting a kind of day for night) is where we really got to use Resolve to set a darker tone. Then adding in a splash of Film Convert Pro to for the finishing touches, and we’ve  got a look that we’re really happy with.

Here’s some examples of the colour grade:

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Here’s a few examples of some digital image re-touching we did; where we removed some background items (including Dan in the water), and did a complete background replacement for the interview.

Of which special thanks goes to our main man, Strophe.
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For us, ‘Michael’s Story’ has been a truly rewarding experience.
We’re really happy with how the film has turned out, and we’re proud of the journey of making it (from conception to completion). We love working with Tobii and appreciate their heart for making quality stories. And we’re honoured that we’ve had the pleasure of meeting Michael; and we can’t say enough great things about him, from his humour to his work ethic (we certainly worked him hard on those filming days), to his courage to take on life head on.
For us, one of our highlights from the whole project, was being a part of taking Michael surfing. Seeing how much he was buzzing from the whole thing was a real privilege.

So if you want to support us, and the film, further –

then please CLICK HERE to Tobii’s YouTube and feel free to add to the view count and give it a thumbs up.
And we appreciate any sharing and liking of this page and our Vimeo that you can do. Cheers!