03 Oct Greg & The Blanket Dolly
Make stuff with what you have.
The great Brené Brown says that “We are born makers. We move what we’re learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands.” I love that. I strive to do that every day in my life, and to help others do it, too. Constantly, I search for practical ways to get stuff out of our imaginations and into the world.
To start this practice of making stuff, you gotta begin where you are.
We’ve almost completed our feature film, Twice, but we didn’t start out making such a huge project. We started small. Greg Emetaz, my brother-from-another-mother and long-time collaborator, lives in New York City. I, Sarah Arlen (HI!), live in Paris, France. Despite the 3,625 miles between our homes, Greg and I have made lots of stuff together because every time we see each other, we commit to make a something of indeterminate size.
Because we’re both filmmakers, we make movies. We began making short films with whatever we could find. Some of our shorts are really epic, because even though they’re brief in length, they’re HUGE in scale. But we haven’t (to date) had a big (or hardly any, and sometimes no) budget. The epic stories we’ve told have always been made out of us having big ideas and then figuring out how to make them real with whatever we have in our arsenals.
Now, I get that you might have heard a line like this before: “We made our project out of what we had.” Yeah, Sarah, you have a 4K camera, gurl. That’s a big thing to have lying around. I hear you, but we didn’t always have a cinema-worthy camera. We used to make short films with a camera that costs less than an iPhone. If we’d had today’s iPhone back then, we might have used that instead.
Think about that and go make something with your iPhone now, please.
So now we need a concrete example, right? How about Twice? We shot the entire film on a camera that fits in the palm of your hand (for my fellow nerds: it’s a Panasonic GH4). And we wanted to be able to make the camera move elegantly. So we did a little research, a little experimenting and decided to make a Blanket Dolly.
Dollies are usually big pieces of equipment with wheels and tracks and all sorts of moving parts. Our Blanket Dolly is made out of our camera on a tripod and, well, a blanket. We DIYed the cuss out of our desire for camera movement. Check it out in the 2 minute video below.
Of course, our creation has its limits. You have to run it over a smooth surface. It works best if there’s a fixed distance between the camera’s path and the subject to keep the focal length the same (which just means it need to run alongside the thing the camera’s pointing at to keep that thing in focus).
We had major time limits as well as Blanket Limits. The first filming phase of Twice, which ended up being used for a third of the final footage, was shot over three weeks with no budget and limited prep because Greg was visiting our family in Paris for Thanksgiving. It gave us a deadline to get things done.
And because of the small amount of time we had to film an ambitious ton of footage, the Blanket Dolly, which takes approximately 4 minutes to set up, helped us not only move our camera around, but get beautiful shots fast enough to get more stuff done than if we had a big fancy dolly.
What can you make right now by taking stock of what you have & coming up with a story that fits your arsenal?
Because I bet that you have more resources than you think (are you holding a smart phone right now? Serious, make stuff with it.), and once you start asking yourself not WHETHER you can make something, but HOW you can make something, that will lead to you asking yourself one of the most delightful questions of all…
What do you WANT to make today?