BEAUTY IS FREEDOM
With so much noise in the world, telling you how you should look and who you should be, We Are Hairy People believe in declaring imperfection. That your flaws make you unique and that true beauty comes from being free.
Music by Zachary David – ‘The Great Adventure’
- We Are Hairy People
- Brand, Doc, Promo
We Are Hairy People (WAHP) are a hand-painted clothing brand based in Bristol, UK. They’ve just launched a campaign called ‘Beauty is Freedom’ and wanted a film to tell their story.
The meaning behind the name of We Are Hairy People, and their core value, is that a person’s flaws make them unique and wonderful, that you’re perfect just the way you are, and that there is no need to conform to society’s version of “perfection”.
That pressure to conform can be most intense for young people, and with WAHP’s customers tending to be aged from teenage to the twenty-somethings, this is a story that we want to tell, but that we also believe needs to be told.
Obviously a film is a marketing tool that will direct people back to WAHP’s website, but our hope is that when people watch this, they don’t feel like we’re trying to sell them clothes. But rather that it really is a film about identity and declaring that true beauty comes from being yourself.
For more about the ‘Beauty is Freedom’ campaign – wearehairypeople.co.uk
& for a pretty hefty Behind-The-Scenes on how we made the film… read on!
The process started with hanging out and chatting with Sarah from WAHP, seeing where she was at and where WAHP was as a company. With lots of conversations over cups of White-Tea-with-Vanilla (Sarah’s favourite cuppa), we explored the heart behind what they wanted this film to be.
Sarah had booked a blogger/model for a day’s photoshoot, Zoe Suen, to come and be the face of a new collection and the film. As we chatted, we began to understand that this film was going to be as much about WAHP and what they believe, as much as it was about being free and having fun… so after a little persuasion, Sarah agreed to also be in the film.
From the very beginning we knew that we had our work cut out for us; we needed to film a short 3 minute film in a day, with 2 models (comfortable with being in front of camera, but not necessarily acting), working with a dog, and whilst also giving enough space for Sarah and Zoe to do a WAHP photoshoot.
With filmmaking it feels like time is always against you, so pre-production is absolutely key.
We collaborated closely with WAHP, sending ideas back and forth. We were jotting down key words, phrases and ideas as well as collecting photographs and films as reference. It doesn’t take too long of that before you have a good idea of the mood and feel of the film (and figure out how to realise it later).
As we explored our visual language, we knew that we wanted the camera movement to represent freedom. With handheld, you often get more of a raw, documentary and sometimes unstable feeling, so we opted for a Glidecam. The Glidecam is perfect for DSLRs, it’s not as polished as the fully-fledged stedicams, but it does give a smoothness and feeling of weightlessness that we wanted.
We wanted to combine subtle camera movements as well as the big, and had instincts to go for some high frame rate stuff (slow-motion can really isolate a moment, and draw out a feeling of being in the moment, of being present). We also wanted to include some slider shots so that viewer doesn’t become too desensitised to the effect of the Glidecam movement, whilst also maintaining that constantly moving camera.
With plenty of Terrence Malick in mind, we also scoured through Vimeo for more inspiration and came across this from Benjamin Dowie as a nice example of slo-motion and that free flowing steadicam we had in mind (it even has a dog!).
…and we also really loved this Thompson Holiday video from Bacon Production, for more of the fun and playful tone that we were aiming for (which is a huge part of WAHP branding):
As the concept developed we moved onto location scouting.
With next-to-no budget to work with, and all of the locations needing to be outdoors (representing a return to the natural) lighting set ups were out of the question. So when working with natural light, it’s worth taking the time to find the right locations and the perfect time of day to get the mood that you want.
We settled on 3 locations in and around Bristol, from sunrise to sunset, to move the story along and give our visual language a bit of a journey.
This is right on our doorstep with an incredible view of the city of Bristol. It worked on many levels for drawing out the story; the sunrise looks amazing (dawn is very evocative of a new day, a new awakening), walking away from the city (gives a little sense of getting away from all of the noise), and the location also presented us with a beautiful stone wall (with a gap to represent overcoming the pressure or the divide).
We feel like we got 3 for the price of 1 on this location! As you move through the woods you find different areas with different character and colours; moving from yellow and oranges, through to reds, greens and teals. With plenty of fences, walls and paths to move through, as well as the Avon gorge to yell down. We planned to spend the majority of the day there where Sarah and Zoe could also do their photoshoot.
This was the last location we found, and was perfect for finishing our film. We saw it as a nice spot for building ourselves a fire, and we loved the blues of the sea and the orange and greys of the rocks. We felt that the sea gives a nice sense of endless possibilities, of a hopeful future, and whilst the film is about overcoming the pressures of societies and fashion, we wanted the focus of the film to be one of hope and freedom.
Another important part of our preparation was storyboarding and testing. In this case, the 2 went hand in hand; where our storyboard ideas helped us find some specific locations, and some locations that we’d stumble upon helped us form some more storyboards.
All in all, we ended up with the entire days shoot storyboarded, and even made ourselves a Mood Video (starring our very own Aaron), which was really useful for finding the shots again at the shoot, but also helped us to keep our priorities locked onto the story of the piece.
ON TO PRODUCTION
We picked up a Panasonic GH4 and really enjoyed capturing some lovely 4K footage and 1080p at 96fps (which means some pretty sweet slo-motion). We also used the 5D MkII as a B-Cam, which meant that, as a team, we could move very quickly (especially important at sunrise where the light is constantly changing).
Every decision made in the Pre-Production is there to serve the story. So when it came to the actual shoot day, knowing that story inside out and sticking to it is what really helped us to get all the shots we needed in the little time we had. Funnily enough, that extensive planning actually made us feel more free to improvise.
We started a 6.30am to catch the sunrise, and shot the opening in about 45 minutes… pretty simple really.
Then off to the woods, where we were met by an extended crew of Stefan, and Lily the dog (including their owners of course). We had a little bit more equipment to carry the extra help was much appreciated. We walked, set up, shot, then walked some more, and because of the changing forest; pretty much the edit you see, is the chronology of the day.
We said goodbye to our extended crew and popped off to the beach. We we’re lucky to make good time, and got our shots well before the sunset. And after having worn out Sarah and Zoe, it was helpful to have a more relaxed part of the film to shoot; having fun and warming by the fire.
We had always intended to use the interview as a Voice Over with no visual of it, but as a safety net (incase we needed it in post) we we’re going to film it anyway.
It’s much easier to take away things in post, rather than add them later.
However, in this case, having Sarah as relaxed as possible was key for drawing out the story, and despite Dan’s calming presence (being Sarah’s husband and all!), as soon as the camera was switched on Sarah felt uncomfortable. So we’d like to say that we committed to our original creative decisions, but in this case, the scenario presented us with 1 option… and we only recorded the sound.
We set ourselves an hour, and actually chatted with Sarah for about an hour and a half. The subject of true inner beauty coming from a place of freedom and identity is something that she’s very passionate about, so it was a joy to explore various avenues within that.
For the technical amongst you: we recorded the whole thing using a Tascam with Sennheiser lapel mics, and a Rode VideoMic Pro as a back up.
With such extensive pre-production, it makes post that much easier. The edit of the visuals went really quite smoothly, with a few little surprises thrown in for good measure.
Editing the interview of Sarah was a little bit trickier, with a lot of great stuff to draw on. With so much of the narrative being driven by her voice, it really was a significant part of the edit. But once we had it where we wanted, it only took a few tweaks here and there, a little bit of work in Adobe Audition, and we were golden.
We filmed using the GH4’s 4K about 20% of the time, and really noticed the difference when colour grading. Having all that detail in the 4K footage, you really do feel like you can play with the colours! We wanted to take the natural palette that we found in each location and really show a journey using that colour. For the most part, we didn’t manipulate the colours too much, but just used it to accentuate the already stunning colour that nature provided us.
Here’s an example of some colour correction to match the sunrise in the opening of the film:
Here at Vanilla Bear Films, we really love the Music Bed, not only for the amazing service they provide, but also the way they market themselves. (Well, there’s the advert out of the way!) We discovered a fantastic artist named Zachary David, and after a bit of experimentation we found the perfect track called ‘The Great Adventure’. We really love how upbeat and driving this track is, with a real nice emotion to it.
And after a little bit of tinkering with the edit and tying all the pieces together; ‘Beauty is Freedom’ is here!