Finback Films is a small filmmaking collective with collaborators working from different parts of the Western United States. They recently completed “Open Road to Solitude,” a short film and Vimeo Staff Pick about 68-year-old Ed Zevely, a man who rides off into the Colorado wilderness to clear his head every couple months. The crew followed him on one such journey and what came out of it is an expansive portrait of wisdom and beauty. We asked the filmmakers to share some details about the making of this short, which they completed filming just as the now infamous “100-year storm” rolled through. Good art comes from struggle.
How did you come to know Ed Zevely?
Ed Zevely is my [Tyler Hughen of Finback Films] stepdad. He pretty much raised me from a young surfer in Encinitas through high school. Back in the early 90’s, we moved to Southwest Colorado. My co-director on this short, Kahlil Hudson moved to the same town at that time as well. Ed was always out exploring, and it rubbed off on everyone lucky enough to be near him.
When you begin thinking about telling a story like this, are there certain shots you know you want to get? Do you have a pretty solid vision before shooting?
Before we’re in the field, we talk a lot about shots we’d like to achieve, but talk more about the feel and style we want to maintain. We always try to shoot things in two ways, by grabbing the obvious shot real quick, and then trying to say the same thing with a more obscure frame, or a slight reveal. We’re lucky in that we have similar sensibilities and can work through a moment with out too much back-and-forth. When something is unfolding quickly, it’s usually understood who’s doing what.
How long did it take to shoot this?
We shot this piece in about four days. One day packing out, a couple days camping, and one day for interviews and B-roll. We had planned on staying in the high country for another couple nights, but got slammed by the now infamous “100-year storm” that turned our ride out into a pretty hairy day, as we had no choice but to get out of the mountains.
What kind of equipment did you use?
We shot on a Red Epic and a Black Magic Cinema Camera. We had an ultra-light jib that uses rocks as a counter weight, and a homemade slider made out of PVC pipe that broke down like a fishing rod. Conserving weight on the pack horse was mandatory, and we left a lot of gear at home. Keeping it simple forced us to work with limitations, but that can be a really good thing sometimes.
What’s different about working with a brand on a project like this as opposed to working on your own?
Filson was really cool with this piece — virtually hands off. We documented a very real person doing exactly what he does. Filson responded strongly to the idea, and is thrilled with the final product. The coincidence that it speaks so strongly to their brand is a testament to what they’re all about. The result is what can be seen as a short film, or a very honest commercial, so in this case it really wasn’t different than working independently.
So you guys at Finback Films are all spread out. What is your team structure like? How long have you been working together and in what capacities?
Finback started with a documentary called “Low and Clear” [available for download on iTunes here that premiered at SXSW in 2012. We ended up winning an audience award there for the film that follows two fly fisherman to B.C. and deals with the idea of old friends growing up and growing apart. Our team really came together on that project. The way we work from different towns can be a real challenge, but it works for us. When you have to collaborate, rather than work in isolation, it can sometimes be slow and tedious, but the end product is usually stronger. Sometimes it has to be painful before it can be good. Our team structure is also unique in that we rotate directing, shooting and editing based on the project and who’s strengths lie where.
What’s your favorite kind of story to tell?
We simply like to tell stories about passionate people doing what they love –what they have to do. It helps if they’re a little nuts. Or wise, like Ed.
For more from Finback Films, find them here:
twitter @finbackfilms https://twitter.com/finbackfilms