One fully restored Faux Bois tree at the Huntington

Faux Bois Tree Huntington Gardens
A beauty shot of the final Faux Bois tree rebuilt by Terence Eagan.

I’ve specialized in 3-5 minute construction time-lapse films for about 8 years. In 2018 I produced my first construction documentary film. It’s 26 minutes long and includes music specifically written for the film.

What It Is

Faux Bois At The Huntington is the story of taking something beautiful and broken and making it whole again. This film features the work of Terence Eagan, a sculptor who restored and improved the original 100 Faux Bois trees dating to 1915. Faux Bois is the French Decorative Art, dating to 1860, of making imitation wood structures out of iron rods, wire mesh, barrel bands and concrete. In 2010, Terry began repairing a century of damage to the trees that replaced the Victorian Rustic Movement native oak log and timber arbors that Henry Huntington loved but frequently needed attention. Not so with concrete trees.

Getting Educated

Incorporating hours of video and time-lapse footage, location sound recording, purchasing original music and mixing sound effects was me punching above my weight class. Exhausting. Fun. But exhausting. I brought in several experts throughout but knowing when to do so and vetting the folks I hired was a new experience for me too. Love the life-long learning stuff when you’re self-employed!

The Pivot

So, how did this pivot into documentaries from time-lapse begin?

I like watching documentaries because of their inherent educational aspects. I’ve also been wanting to try my hand at directing since I was in my 30’s.

My collaboration with the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens began in 2011. Since then, I’ve directed and produced eleven time-lapse films for them.

Terry and I met at a mutual friends New Years Eve party in 2011. We’re both self-employed artist contractors so it was an easy acquaintance. We talked about shooting time-lapses of his work. Terry wanted a video. I shied away from this idea because the expertise necessary to properly record and edit sound did not appeal to me. Plus the time required to review all the video. Just not into that at all. Didn’t have the experience nor did I care to try my. I demurred. Hell, it scared me a bit.

In 2015 I began having informal chats with Jim Folsom, the director of the botanical side at the Huntington to explore his interest and available budget for such an undertaking. Jim and I have worked together for several years and trust each other 100%. It took 2 years to get the go-ahead, which was OK as I was waiting for Terry to get to the end of a particular path to facilitate camera placement and light quality. Why struggle if you don’t have to? They’ll be plenty of times when you will. :()

The Work

So we prepared for a 6 week shoot and a 4 week edit. And it was time-lapse only. Awesome.

On the second day of filming, Jim stopped by to give us a good send off and to inquire if I was going to get video footage of the sculpting process because that footage would be well-suited for his needs.

Surprised by the request, I said, “Sure, no problem!” The timeline blew up at that point.

Now, due to the need to shoot video and time-lapse to develop the story, the 10 week schedule was not going to hold. To his credit, Jim agreed to revise our budget.

6 weeks of filming turned into 7 months. 243 hours of labor.

4 weeks of editing tuned into 11 months. 489 hours of labor.

But we got a way cool film out of it!

What a ride that was!

Hope you can spare 26 minutes to watch. Grab a cup of joe and take it all in.

Thanks for reading.


Michael Stern

My work depicts, appreciates and honors the people who build. Their specialized equipment and stunning challenges are marvels I behold and get paid to interpret. Hope you enjoy this site.

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