So Cal Plumbers, A Film

For most of my career I’ve been the quintessential one-man band, doing everything required of a project, above and below the line. I contract with the occasional assistant or two, but it’s usually just me. It’s the course I sail, no complaints. After completing a video documentary in 2017, (Read about it here) I wanted to become a film producer, specifically industrial video productions. I’ve coveted this role for quite some time but I had zero practical experience. I marketed to existing and new contacts, worked on becoming proficient in all aspects of producing and when luck and opportunity arrived, I was ready!

Or was I?

After signing the contract and SOW, I was happy to pivot towards my new role as a film/video producer. But then it hit me, I thought I’d really stepped in it this time. (Self-employed creatives step in a lot of stuff) I’d need a team to help me, something I’d always wanted to do but never found myself in the right set of circumstances.

The panic phase was brief, maybe a day or two as I mulled over my options. Outline in hand, I began reaching out to the folks I wanted on my team: script writer, storyboard artist, art director, cinematographer, production assistant, graphics department, drone pilot, voice over artist and recording studio. Two were former students, one a former client, one a former teaching colleague, two I’d worked with already and one was brand-new. After securing my choices and getting a handle on production costs it was off to the races. A producer’s book kept me on track and helped make this film a joy to produce and experience. No divas or devos surfaced, we had good communication and everyone on my team performed exceptionally well. Hard work but manageable. And thanks to my client for recruiting stellar on-camera talent who had fun and took direction well, the vibe of this short film is positive and engaging.

I have a sense of humor and I’m going to use it!
Explaining what we’re going to attempt and what the camera is seeing.
The producer’s book kept me smiling!
Discussions throughout with my script writer/art director were many.

Production took two partial and one full day: drone footage, principal photography and testimonials. Seven set-ups were scheduled for the principal day but because of our efficiencies on set, we knocked out ten. The extra footage was used for a montage sequence inserted to fill out the timing of the VO and for future uses. Editing was like assembling a finely cut jigsaw puzzle, all I had to do was put them in the right order.

Casting the voice over talent was the biggest challenge for me. I’ve little experience with this aspect of film production and listening to the many demos was fraught with thoughts of how will this person sound for my project? Will I be able to direct them to the target persona? I really didn’t know until we were in the recording studio and I heard her voice working with the rough cut. Yay!

Everyone on set, in front of and behind the camera were vaccinated. This was my requirement so we could film without masks, thereby extending the shelf life of the video.

I am grateful.

Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoy this video.


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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