My Process

Plan your shoot, shoot your plan.

– A Wise Filmmaker
My Personal

PROCESS

The following is a personal journey into my process. It’s not always easy to get to know someone on the internet, especially someone you may be interested in working with. There are plenty of questions that often times only a phone call or a coffee meet-up can adequately answer. However, this is my attempt to help you understand more about me and how I get the professional results I do when directing projects.

This process is geared toward short-form branded/unbranded documentary films but much of it is universal and I use it on commercial or other projects. Either way, there is always an end client, whether an agency, producer or sometimes just the audience directly. This process helps me keep my focus in the right place throughout the sometimes wild and crazy process of filmmaking.

PRE-PRODUCTION

Listen First

I love to start off every project by listening. Usually before I am even booked to direct, I am listening to the client’s needs and desires. I believe a successful project is guided by clear objectives. So, I want to nail those down right away. However, not every project is blessed with “clear” objectives. In those instances it’s important to ask more questions, try to infer what the goals may be and regularly check in to see if objectives are changing or adjusting as the project moves along.

Writing The Treatment

Armed with project goals, I create a treatment. Depending on the project I may create a visual document, like a mood board or look book during the bid process that encapsulates my take on a project based on the client brief. This high level document gets refined once I am booked on the job. Once I get a download from the client or producer, I set out to create this more refined treatment. To do this I conduct pre-interviews with the potential subjects and start piecing together the story components. This helps me to create the story outline. From there I will drill down on music, motion graphics and other references to help communicate with the team.

On more story heavy projects, I get transcripts of my pre-interviews and cut and paste together a script based on the treatment outline. This helps producers, clients and other collaborators wrap their head around where the story is headed.

Crewing Up

At this point I recommend collaborators like Field Producer, Cinematographer, Editor, Production Designer, etc. These recommendations are based off the needs of the story and the relationships I have formed with talented individuals over the last ten plus years of working in this field.

PRODUCTION

Pre-Roll

Before I arrive on set, I already have refined my list of interview questions. I write them out and share them with the producer and client but rarely will I share those with the interview subject. I often have these memorized and use my time during the interview to connect with the subject rather than fiddle with papers and notes. I will also be armed with a shot list I have created in collaboration with my DP and a detailed schedule I worked closely with the producing team to create.

Picture's Up

First thing I do is a walk through of the location with my DP and other crew. We identify locations for the various setups, b-roll and interviews. This confirms what was decided on the scout as well as informs the other crew. But on a shoot where there was no location scout, this walk through becomes critically important.

I like to start with interviews. This allows me to work with the subject right away and continue to build rapport. It also helps inform the b-roll shot list in case we learn something new and want to add or adjust the b-roll shots. I don’t go over the questions with the subject much before shooting but I do create a space to cultivate the rapport I already started building through the pre-interviews. 

I shoot b-roll in a narrative style. I create scenes and shoot the scenes methodically in either slow motion or standard speed. This allows me to capture more useable shots for the editor and gives the subject playable action which leads to better performances.

Set Life

After a day of shooting, I love to find somewhere local to eat…no chains!! Chef’s Table is one of my favorite documentary series and it has inspired me to find interesting and exciting places to eat…food with a story. So, when I travel I enjoy the opportunity to learn more about a location through food. I look forward to a good sip of bourbon from time to time but I like to get back to my hotel and recharge for the next day. Unlike many in my field, I’m not much of a partier. I like to have fun but I realize I am on a mission to create the best work for the client. That always comes first..and I aim to choose collaborators who feel the same.

POST-PRODUCTION

Editor Download

As I head into post, ideally the editor has been part of the conversation already, but I like to have a call or meet up to download. I expect the editor to take notes during this meeting in an effort to understand what happened on set and what to expect with the footage. I like to give general direction and my thoughts but I leave the door wide open for the editor to bring their own ideas and take to the story. I don’t want them to rewrite it, but I want their style and taste to be infused.

A Collaborative Process

Collaboration is key to great work. No single person can have all the ideas. That’s why I love to work with extremely talented people and let them do their thing. In post, it is exciting when all the pieces come together from the editor, motion graphics artist, colorist, and sound designer to create something greater than what was imagined at the beginning.

Wrapping up

When everyone is allowed to do great work, the result is incredible. Everyone walks away happy, fulfilled and knowing the objectives set at the beginning were met in a way that inspires and challenges us as artists and crafts people. It makes the long hours and hard work worth every second.

BONUS: The Invisible "E"

What's In A Name?

With a last name like Fridg, you are bound to get curious looks. And I have…many. And many nicknames. I’ve heard Fridg-ey, Frigidaire, Refrigerator, and the list goes on. For a while, people used to think I was related to William “The Fridge” Perry. But, alas, Fridge was his nickname, so no…not related. But the most common question I hear is, “How do you spell that?” And usually no one gets it correct. Why? Because there is no “e” at the end. It’s FRIDG, not FRIDGE. Once I opened a bank account and had my debit card reissued 3 times before the name was spelled properly. It caused so much trouble that one branch of the family tree gave in and legally added and “e” at the end to stave off further confusion and spare their ancestors a life of misspellings. But I am sentenced to a future of correcting people, “F-R-I-D-G, no E.” One way I have found to cope is by telling people the “e” is invisible. Somehow people can grasp that better than the fact that it doesn’t exist. But why is this even an issue? The spelling seems like a no brainer, right…Bridge, Smidge, Ridge, Fridg. Well, I’ll tell you.

The Legend

It was a hot and muggy August morning back in the early days of the last century. The Fridg ancestors arrived by boat from Germany and waited in line at Ellis Island. As the hours wore on, the clerk processing the eager immigrants at the front of the line grew warmer and warmer. He began sweating in the mid-day heat, dreaming of a cool glass of lemonade to quench his thirst. It all came to a head when my ancestors came to the front of the line. He called them up and asked for their last name. When they answered a barely understandable German word, the clerk became confused. He could not understand. It could be the heat was finally getting to him, heatstroke maybe. Was the clerk delirious? He thought it strange that their last name sounded like a refrigerator, a device used to cool things down. Or was it just that his feverish feeling and longing for a cool drink was impairing his faculties? As he began to write down his interpretation of my ancestor’s last name he wrote, F-R-I-D-G…and just then his supervisor stopped over. He informed the clerk that it was break time. Faster than a shattering ice cube, the clerk handed my great, great, great grandfather his immigration form and rushed out of the room to find a way to relieve his overbearing thirst…leaving my family with a truncated last name. So, from that day on we have worn the Fridg name proudly, invisible “e” and all. And we will for generations to come.

Ready to speak about your next project?