As filmmakers it’s easy to identify those tumultuous, contentious or victorious moments in a person’s life which make for enthralling documentary fodder, but as we all know, day to day life isn’t like that. In fact, many of us will live out our time on this mortal coil and never become embroiled with an event that would be deemed as ‘cinema worthy’. That said, you’d be wrong to think such moments have nothing to add to our understanding of the human condition – in fact it could be argued that the universality of the typical is the very thing which makes it all the more relevant. Record Collection, “An ongoing series of micromentaries about the ordinary things people do”, from madeinhollywoodusa duo Jeff Consiglio and Alex Naufel (who previously geared us up for War), identifies the importance of the normal and presents it with the considered beauty and care it deserves.
We asked Jeff and Alex to share their thoughts on what makes the ordinary extraordinary and how the Record Collection series was born:
We wanted to focus our lenses on the personality and color of someone’s life rather than that one thing they do. When we spend time with friends, we exist together amidst the small things rather than the big ones, and that’s where we get to know each other best. Record Collection lives there in those small things.
We were developing a few documentary feature film ideas and struggling to figure out how to cram a full doc feature into our busy schedules, when all of a sudden the idea of “micromentaries” burst forth. So many people in our lives were interesting in so many small ways, we thought why not paint micro portraits that mimic the un-rushed, unstructured moments we share with people when we’re all just existing together?
All of our first ten Record Collection films were chosen based on the personalities and activities of our subjects. Alex played chess with Joe nearly every week for years and finally noticed how dirty his old chess pieces were just days before we came up with the idea of Record Collection. We settled on the idea of Joe Washes His Chessmen within the first few minutes of our first brainstorming session. We knew Priscilla was a great artist, so we thought what would happen if all she had to draw was a circle? And Marina, who both works at Swinger’s Diner and is a medical student, had an Instagram account full of a thousand pictures of her and her friends making faces. These ideas just grew naturally out of the lives of our subjects.
With Aja Dang, we tackled two ideas in one. Aja is a very popular model for Maxim and a spokesperson for Fox Sports who also happens to love to nap, so we shot a fashion film titled Catalina that featured her napping, and simultaneously shot a behind-the-scenes that became Aja Dang Takes A “Nap” for the Record Collection series.
We approached each film like a documentary – we’re both big fans of documentary film, Alex has shot documentaries around the world and Jeff edited two Academy Award Nominated docs, one of which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short in 2013. So for each shoot we worked with whatever existed in the environment we were in, often not knowing what that environment was going to be until we arrived to shoot. It was very informal, we gave them a starting point and then let them do what they do, while we just documented as it happened. Most of our shoots lasted a few hours and Jeff would get a cut together within a few days. We started shooting the films last summer, took lots of breaks for other work projects and then got the entire series together just before the end of the year.
All of the films were shot using the Red Epic, with a mixture of Kowa anamorphic lenses and Nikons. We shot everything at 5k, with the exception of some off-speed shots, and we finished the entire series in 4k. This was our first 4k finish and it went flawlessly – our colorist Edo Brizio at Digital Sandbox in Marina del Rey took our locked edits and r3d files, colored in Davinci Resolve then worked with Jeff on the final conforms. The fashion film Catalina was colored by Matt Conrad, also in Resolve, so Aja Dang Takes A “Nap” ended up having two colorists. All of the sound design and mix was done by our good friend and collaborator for many years, Marc Aramian.
One of the things that made this series possible was music. As everyone knows, licensing music is incredibly difficult in micro budget filmmaking, there’s never enough money to pay the artists what they deserve and need to keep making their own art. We were amazingly lucky to have our good friend Brienne Rose as our Music Supervisor (as well as the star of Brie Listens To Her Favorite Song.) Brie has great relationships with many artists through her licensing company Noise/Racket, and we were able to work out an arrangement with these wildly talented musicians that worked out for all. Really amazing talents like Adam Arcuragi, Vandaveer, Peasant, Conveyor, Big Black Delta. We couldn’t have made these films without their support.