Week 1 Blog


My first assignment at Jtwo was to create a short film about the other intern, Brian. Justin talked to us about doing something more than just a simple ‘about me’ type video that was unmemorable: “Hi, my name is Jake and I love it here at Jtwo! I got interested in TV and Film when I was-” *yawn*. The goal here was to take the subject, in my case Brian, and to find a story that people could connect with. Justin stressed that we should find an audience and reach out to them; this film needed to carry a message, and it needed to know who to deliver it to. So now, at the end of this process, I’m looking back at how the PSA “Relapse” came to be.

It all started with Brian and I sitting down and having a deep discussion about our lives. I wrote down everything we talked about and started piecing it together, connecting dots, drawing lines between different parts of his life (read: A Beautiful Mind) to find a story worth telling.

I originally focused on telling the story of Brian, the guy who made it to this point in his life because of a bunch of experiences that shaped him, including his history with drugs, getting a job in the entertainment industry, going to community college, meeting his girlfriend, and taking classes at Rowan that helped him decide he love documentary-making. I brought it to Justin. Scrap the idea. Rather, cut the fat – The story doesn’t have to be about why or how Brian got to Jtwo. Find a story that features Brian, but goes way deeper in meaning. So I trimmed down, cutting out anything that explained why he loves tv and film. I cut out school. The theme that hit harder and felt like something I could really work with was addiction.

I rewrote the script two more times until I had something good. I thought, “what if I could still incorporate his love for tv and documentaries?” He told me how as s child he loved watching National Geographic. So, the first shot in my film about Brian was just that – National Geographic. It served a purpose for the story, but using a NG clip felt like the right personal touch, something subliminal for me or Brian, but not for the audience.

Brian’s girlfriend let us shoot at her apartment. The whole shoot was done in one afternoon. I bought an old CRT TV from a thrift store (points for dedication). We blocked every window we could to get the room as dark as possible. I then placed one light right in front of the TV facing Brian. We used no other lights whatsoever for this shoot, which worked out really well (albeit unconventional, don’t try this at home kids). I had him do a bunch of different gestures and had him just sit staring into the (probably blinding) light for a while as I got different angles around him. We did a few shots of him grabbing the bottle and voila, I had my footage. We also did his voiceovers that same day and I brought it all back to Jtwo and loaded it into the computer.

I liked the concept of him reflecting on his life, while also literally reflecting back to the television. I had been gathering footage for a few days already from different online sources to use as the TV content. I wanted it to feel real, so I needed to have the TV be like a single camera shot I could cut to, meaning that at any time there needed to be something on the screen. I made a copy of my script and broke it down line by line, finding footage that matched each line so the TV would reflect what he was saying. I downloaded all the videos I found and started editing everything together.

I first lined up the voiceovers and the shots of Brian. I wanted him to match his VO. Once I had my radio edit (audio-focused edit) complete, I started adding in TV clips to line up. Once all the TV clips were ready, I exported them into After Effects to give them their realistic TV-look. I used a video I shot at Brian’s girlfriend’s of the TV turning on and off as reference for the TV monitor and made it look like these web videos were actually playing on the TV. I bought it back into Premiere when I was done and did work on the audio and sound design (the whooshes, muffled tv sounds, reverb when you hear his thoughts, etc.). I made a few more tweaks from there, but that was basically it.

I remember a few clips of Brian accidentally worked great, like one where I said something to him and he let out a small smile (first thought: ‘bad take, don’t use it’). It was perfect to match up with when he said that taking Vicodin made him, “feel… better.” The credits were also fun to make, since I already had the idea of showing the definition of the word relapse. I thought it would be a perfect name for the video, to I left the title up, going through the rest of the credits to show this wasn’t just a definition – but the name of the film.

This was a really fun and satisfying project to work on, and if this is just an inkling of a taste of what’s to come here at Jtwo, I can’t wait for what I get to work on next!

Until next time,

– Jake From State Farm

[TL:DR] I made a short film. I tell you how I did it.