Check out the final video for Cris Cab’s “When We Were Young” Produced by Merge Studios & Directed by our own Julien Diaz.
Check out the final video for Cris Cab’s “When We Were Young” Produced by Merge Studios & Directed by our own Julien Diaz.
Last week, the Merge crew took to the open seas to film Cris Cab’s music video for his new unreleased track, ‘When We Were Young.’ We used the famed Stiltsville area as our set for what will be Cris’ most provocative vid yet.
See for yourself here in these behind-the-scenes photos, and stay tuned for the world premiere coming video soon.
We’re excited to announce an all-new experience for our couples in collaboration with our friends at Belvedere Stories. A whole new way to enjoy your wedding film instantly, surrounded by your closest family and friends.
Recently we were speaking with the team at Belvedere Stories about Same Day Edits, a challenging, yet intriguing concept. What is a Same Day Edit? Basically, as we’re covering the wedding day, we are simultaneously editing a film the day of that is set to play towards the end of the reception. This includes everything from the bride & groom’s getting ready, the ceremony, and the beginning of the reception. Most elements from the day are included in the film. What essentially comes from it is an incredible experience for not only the couple, but the wedding guests as well. Imagine seeing a 3-5 minute film of your wedding day played at your reception on a big screen with all your guests only a few hours after these events took place.
Ed & I have always been intrigued by this concept as we’ve both done them in the past. We started brainstorming of how we can take the concept a step further. We wanted not only to create a film but a much more engaging experience for the wedding guests. Something almost 3 dimensional for them. What if the couple & their guests could go home from the wedding and re-watch the film that just played that night instantly at their homes? What if party favors were handed out to accompany the film experience? What if the couple took home a custom package with their film THAT night!? All these questions were things that intrigued us and we wanted to make them a reality. We spent months developing this concept.
Here we are, months later, and beyond excited to share our new product. It’s a brand collaboration between Merge Social &Belvedere Stories, two of the most well respected, award-winning, destination wedding film companies teaming up to offer this special product.
This past Wednesday, we collaborated to create our first film. We are so gracious that Araceli & Ronnie allowed us to create this experience for them at their beautiful Vizcaya wedding. We met Ronnie through our good friends at Lourdes Milian Productions. Ronnie, a music producer who has worked with artist such as R.Kelly & Britney Spears, cared tremendously about creating a memorable experience for his future wife & wedding guests, many of which are well known musicians. Ronnie wanted to surprise Araceli and do something special when it came to their wedding film. So, he worked with us to make sure she was surprised twice: the first time is when we arrived at her bridal suite and her face lit up when she found out she was getting a film. The second time is when the MC announced a special presentation at their reception and we played their film for all of their guests to see. The film has actually been live for the couple and their guests to view since only a few hours after the reception ended.
The experience was priceless. Araceli was speechless as were her guests. Seeing a concept go from an idea to a reality was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever been through. The love poured in at the of the night & both, Ed & I realized we had developed something truly special. We even got props from a movie star that saw our film. I won’t let you know who it is. You’ll have to watch the film below to find out. ENJOY!
As many of you know, this past summer I shot and directed a CrossFit-inspired documentary film called Atlas Kin. Atlas Kin was in many ways a labor of love, and just like CrossFit, it was a challenge. I wanted to not only challenge myself, but also challenge my team to try something that is not commonly done. And we succeeded: I shot the entire documentary on a RED, a high-resolution digital film camera.
Now, let me break this down a bit just to educate non-filmmakers. Before videotape was invented, documentaries were primarily shot on 16mm film. As a filmmaker that grew up in the digital revolution, this is mindboggling! Seriously, it’s absolutely insane.
From the first day you arrive in film school, the allure of film hits you. The way it looks, the art of shooting on it, and mostly the overwhelming cost of actually shooting on it. A small roll of film for your 35mm film photography camera contains 24 frames, or pictures. And we film at 24 frames a second. So every second is a roll of film. One second, one full roll of film. We film full minutes in documentaries, and it takes hours upon hours because it’s not scripted. Then you have processing, syncing to audio, etc., making this not only a time-consuming process, but an expensive one at that. Very expensive.
This whole process is why film is such a complicated art form. It’s truly the blending of science and art. The RED is unique because it shoots in 4K. This is basically four times the resolution of 1080p and nearly the identical resolution of 35mm film. It can be shown on a movie screen at full resolution and looks stunning! As you can imagine, this requires an intense workflow similar to film and comes with many challenges—most notably, huge data and file sizes and a limited amount of media to shoot daily. Compared to digital video cameras where you can just keep popping in tapes and shoot as much as you want, we essentially had two hours worth of media daily to tell our story.
When I think about the production aspect of this shoot, I think it’s funny how the film and the sport came full circle. I was heavily involved in CrossFit before and during this production. Not only in documenting the subject matter, but working out daily as well. While these guys were going through their heats, I had a 25-pound camera on my shoulder for 15-20 minutes at a time. So in many ways, I felt their pain and struggle. The physical aspect of this shoot is what was most exhausting and complicated. If it hadn’t been for the fact I was working out and training daily, I’m not sure how well I would have faired physically during this production. It was 10-12 hour days in 90-degree Miami heat. In hindsight, what we were doing was borderline crazy.
At the screening recently, I was watching it and remembered how much of a physical struggle it was to shoot this film. Ironically, I never thought about this during editing. I had actually forgotten. But in the screening, it all came back to me. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes: “Pain is temporary, but film is forever.” Although I shot it digitally, in my mind it was as close to film as I could get. Now I have this film forever. Nobody can take that away from me. That’s why I love filmmaking.
Watch the trailer for Atlas Kin here.
For the last few years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what being at the inception of the digital creative revolution has meant for me. It has given me an incredible amount of opportunities I would not have had otherwise. But at the same time, it’s one of the worst things that ever happened to me.
I’m sure you’re wondering why the drastic viewpoints. Well, from the positive standpoint, it gave me almost instant gratification and all the tools I’ve ever wanted. That was amazing. When I started, $20k basically made me a production company, and I had all the tools I needed to create. Although I had what I feel was an exceptional education in film at UCF, I still skipped a very important step in the process: apprenticeship.
In my opinion, everyone should have this learning experience. It’s critical. Luckily for me, I have been blessed with a good work ethic, and exploration and studying is something I do constantly. In many respects, I continued to learn on my own even after my education at UCF. I still believe an apprenticeship would have been beneficial, but unfortunately that opportunity didn’t present itself.
What really frustrates me in this day and age is that young artists are skipping that critically important step. This ability to have access to all the tools instantly is somewhat detrimental. I think its great to explore and learn and put creative tools in the hands of young people, but I think getting a real education and learning from professionals is critical. You have to take the time to study your surroundings, the origins of the art form, and why things within that art form work the way they do. I’m not going to lie, it’s extremely complicated, but any great piece of art requires a ton of hard work. Nothing is ever easy.
What I’m ultimately getting at is that I wish people studied and respected the process more. I wish there was a rule where you had to study something for an extended period of time before you were allowed to start shooting or editing. The first year of my film school was all theory and it was the most frustrating year of my life. I wanted to create. In hindsight, it was the most important year of my creative development. I honestly never took the art form for granted after that, and I learned so much about storytelling through that process. So much more than if someone had just put a camera in my hand.
Thanks to all who came out to support Atlas Kin! The film, which follows three CrossFit athletes through their journey to the Summer Crush competition, premiered last night to an audience of fellow CrossFit friends. A special shout out to Alex Cento, Dennis Diaz and Fernie Alvarez, or Team REAL SoMi, for their participation. And a huge thanks to our incredible sponsor FormulX.
Online entertainment source Perez Hilton showed Merge some love this week when they picked up our video for Cris Cab’s Little Talks cover. Thanks for the shout!
Roughly a year ago, I started noticing the growing emergence of a little photo sharing app called Instagram. I saw more and more photos popping up on my Facebook Timeline, but they were distinctive from the usual pictures. They had lens flairs, burns, and the look and feel of old photography—the only difference was that they looked like shit.
This was one of those moments when you realize life as you once knew it changed as quickly as that filter improved your photo. Instagram was a very bold, very tangible example of new technology taking over our lives, and, in my case, my industry. Cue the Digital Revolution, a merciless regime of new media making things easier, harder, better, and worse all at once.
Case in point: these Instagram photos, which injected all the beautiful elements of old film into awkward mirror shots after workouts, pics of pets looking up at the camera, or the dreaded “Look what I’m eating!” shot. It was disheartening, to say the least. But as a naturally curious techie, I couldn’t help but check out what all the hype was about. So I caved and downloaded the app. After a few days, Instagram was #2 on my social media check.
(Side note: I have an order of social media checks. Don’t act like you don’t! Before Instagram, it was Facebook #1, Twitter #2, and Google+ #3. Yes, I have a Google+ account and no, I don’t use it anymore.)
I almost felt guilty, because for the last few years, digital filmmakers have worked so hard to create looks that paid homage to the style of old films and film stocks. Personally, I was always fascinated by old documentaries that were shot on film, and the thought of shooting the entire thing on film completely blew my mind. Now, the old-fashioned effect is just a tap away.
For me, dealing with the digital revolution over the past few years has had its ups and downs. What I’ve learned is that things are going to change. This is the new future and I just have to find a healthy middle ground. For me personally, it’s about finding a space where I can embrace this new culture but still pay respect to the process and storytelling foundation that came before me.
With that being said, my focus on Instagram is about sharing my experiences in the world in the most creative way possible. Now my order is #1 Instagram, #2 Twitter and #3 Facebook. Yeah, Instagram is my favorite. I think it just has to do with the connection I have with the visual world. I recently found a website that prints out your Instagram photos on a poster as, like, a 50-photo grid in chronological order. I love my poster because it’s a bunch of beautifully composed small photos that tell the story of my life last year. And as a filmmaker, it’s great to be able to tell stories in another medium.
This past Friday I went to see Cirque du Soleil’s Totem, a colorful tale of evolution, to say the least. I’m no newbie to the scene—I’ve been to six Cirque shows and they’ve all been mind blowing.
And funny side story, my mom had to drag me to my first show when I was 12 years old because I thought it would be boring, saying, “I’m 12 and you’re taking me to the circus!” The joke was on me—I was blown away that night. Fast forward 16 years and I’ve never missed a show when Cirque is in Miami. But this time it was very different.
Having evolved further as a filmmaker this time around, I noticed so many fascinating things throughout Totem. For instance, let’s say hypothetically that the producers find some sort of crazy juggling act (as these people’s talents are so rare they’re not trained—they’re discovered). I imagine that a show in which they merely walk on stage and perform would wow the audience. But what takes Cirque du Soleil to another level is the emotional aspect of how curated the entire show is; it’s storytelling. Nothing is implemented unless it’s part of the narrative thread, so if the juggling act doesn’t fit the plot, it doesn’t make the cut. Like a story, there is a beginning, middle, and end to Totem. As a filmmaker, it was so fascinating to watch as the tale of man and evolution came to life.
One of the main recurring characters of Totem was Charles Darwin, and towards the end of the show he came out and did an incredible juggling act. It’s just cool that they care to take it that far because it is so important to tell the story. Instead of doing a standard act, the aerialists strengthened their routine with this intense sexual tension between them. It was 100 percent designed and planned to fit into the story. In my opinion, it made what they were doing ten thousand times more fascinating. It engaged the viewer, and it was literally theater.
When you look at companies like Disney or Apple or Pixar, you see brands that do so much more than they need to. Cirque would be incredible and fascinating without the stories; they don’t even need them. But by implementing a narrative, the show is taken to a level that is, quite frankly, untouchable. They’re in a league all their own. You see the same dedication to storytelling in Disney. For instance, when you go to Six Flags and get on a roller coaster, there’s no backstory, no narrative—it’s just a quick thrill. At Disney, everything is embellished. The ride Thunder Mountain in itself has its own story to tell, and that’s part of what makes the ride memorable for visitors. People connect to the attention to detail and enjoy a heightened version of what would otherwise be a standard experience.
At first, I thought it would be so exciting to document how Cirque du Soleil shows are crafted, from the origins of the storylines to the handpicked movements that deliver so much more than they would outside a narrative. How exciting would it be to follow the characters around, watching them become their roles and execute their astonishing crafts? And before my thought was complete, I thought, no way! The makings of every Cirque show need to stay original, unique and mysterious. Nobody should know the secrets or the special (and undoubtedly painstaking) process. I wouldn’t want to see the behind-the-scenes because I feel like it would take the magic away from the experience.
I did get to take a piece of the show home with me, though. I checked into Totem on Instagram when I arrived. After the show, the main actor started to follow me, and I discovered that he basically finds all the people that check in and follows them after. It was amazing! This actor is just connecting with his fans on another level, providing an extension to the experience. I have to admit that it threw me off to see him in daily life tasks sans-makeup, though, which goes with my point that Cirque needs to stay mysterious and weird. That’s what helps you disconnect from your everyday life and connect with the incredible, delusional, weird, and entertaining world they’ve created.
It gives me great pleasure to share our most recent collaboration with Cris Cab & Alex Mijares. They’re both extremely passionate about their art forms and it was incredibly fun just watching them do their things. I’ll let the video do the rest of the talking. ENJOY!