Update on The White Spruce: Our Short Film Production in NJ
With Christmas approaching, we’re taking a look back at our short comedic holiday film, The White Spruce, a Grey Sky Films short comedy film production from NJ that debuted last Christmas season…
Creating “The White Spruce”
Every year, Grey Sky Films creates holiday videos to share with their clients, friends and family. It’s a tradition here at Grey Sky! So, in the late summer of 2014 we started thinking about what we really had to offer our professional community…
We we’re inspired by the idea of utilizing every one of our creative assets and video production chops as well as our diverse and unbelievably adept network of creatives, partners, technicians and specialists.
We would develop, write, cast, produce, direct, film and edit our very own short film, The White Spruce!
It’s All In The Planning
Pre-production for The White Spruce took about a month. We had to have all of our ducks in a row and be ready for the 3-day filming schedule, and there was a lot to be done:
Scripting: We needed to write the script, then re-write it, and re-write it again. It had to be trimmed to an ideal length, while interweaving the scenes to keep the audience, and our main character, on their toes!
Casting: We had to cast the perfect actors, ones who would bring each character to life. They had to BE a “Chainsaw Enthusiast”, a “Creepy Little Girl” or a “Mrs. Jingle”. And a quartet of real Carolers? Why not!
Location: We looked to a beautiful Christmas Tree farm in nearby Long Valley, New Jersey as the setting of our story. The location was scouted, and numerous locations throughout the property were so perfect they fit right into our existing script!
Planning: We had a mere 3-day filming schedule in the month of November. Shots needed had to be broken up and filmed out of order so that we could have the right daylight at the right time in the finished film.
Team Prep: When you’re racing the sun, and losing daylight you have to be prepared to move, set up props and equipment and have the actors ready to roll! Our team met up, discussed the locations that would be used, and created visual plans of how to efficiently set and re-set from one shot to the next.
Production Day: The Coldest Days of the Year
The 3-day production was in late November in New Jersey, coincidentally on the three coldest days of that year. Wind chills brought temperatures way below freezing, and high winds added insult to injury! We would contend with this weather on each of the three 16-18 hour production days.
On Set: Our Producers made sure every little detail was taken care of. A heated tent was provided with food and hot drinks, so that crew and talent could warm up between takes. A heated trailer was also utilized for wardrobe, hair and makeup. Talent could relax and rehearse in the tent, then be ushered from the tent to the trailer for styling and finally brought to set in a warm vehicle.
Direction: Our director Mark Serao has won a couple of awards for Best Director of a Comedy Short for this film. Directing is not an easy task. The director needs to know all strategic goals for each shot: what needs to be captured, the best way (or ways) to capture it and how much time there is to do it. The director keeps the crew and talent focused and working like a well-oiled machine.
Racing Daylight: When you watch The White Spruce, you’ll see the scene where the character known as the “Chainsaw Enthusiast” arrives. This was to be the last scene of all of the daytime scenes and all takes had to be captured at the point of sunset.
This gave us a limited window of time to have the actor deliver multiple takes of this scene, and as you can see, he did a fantastic job with that character. The beauty of the sunset sets this scene off as we know a crazy night is about to come for our protagonist, Guy.
After The Shoot: Post Production
Post-production is truly where the magic happens. Our editors and producers sat down with three days and multiple cameras worth of footage to dig through. Post-production took roughly 2 months, and could honestly have gone on much longer!
The editing of footage is a monstrous task all its own, our team also committed significant effort to selecting the best sounds and just the right musical scores to accompany the footage and help set the tone for each scene.
In addition to this, our colorist added a rich and distinctive color scheme to the footage, FRAME BY FRAME! To the average person, color grading can be understood as applying a filter to the image. Much like you would do in a photo app (like instagram or VSCO) when using a filter to enhance the image. However, in this case every touch on color, contrast and other alterations to look are done individually, ‘by hand’, on each frame throughout the film.
Rooting for “The Spruce”
January of 2015 we debuted The White Spruce for a select group of clients, family and friends at the Morris Museum in New Jersey. We wanted to kick off the New Year with a fun event. To us, this meant not only treating our guests to a fun night, but wanted to inspire everyone to take every asset at their disposal and make something great happen! For us, this is what The White Spruce production was all about.
We continued to submit The White Spruce to film festivals throughout the year. Along the way we’ve had a great time connecting with other artists and professionals in the film production industry, as well as promoting the film and the fun events it has screened at. We’ve appreciated all of you who have come out to “Root for ‘The Spruce’”!!
After being an official selection for:
- The Rhode Island Comic Con Film Festival
- The Audience Awards
- The Direct Short Online Film Festival
- The Holiday Spirits Festival
- The Brightside Tavern Film Festival
- The Frozen Film Festival, and more…
The White Spruce has picked up several awards for: Best Comedy Short Film, Best Director of a Comedy, and Best Ensemble Cast.
Stay In The Know!
The White Spruce is still going strong! To learn more about the film and the film production check out the following links:
Behind the Scenes: The Making of The White Spruce