How To Connect With Your Audience: An interview with filmmaker, Rusty Grim

Field Notes Interview #63: Rusty Grim, Filmmaker

When it comes to sharing your work, there can long path between your intention and how it's received.  Our interview with Filmmaker, Rusty Grim helps draw a map.

Grim is part of a rad campaign and creative agency, Owen Jones & Partners, based in both Portland and Hood River, Oregon. His films present compelling stories of the human experience in different contexts. His ability to draw you into a completely new experience and leave you with a visceral emotional impact is an art. By pairing compelling imagery with the perfect soundtrack, each film gives a lasting impression to all who bear witness.

We caught up with Rusty and talked about his experience using sight and sound to connect with his intended audiences.


M: Who are you and what do you do in the world?

RG: Owen Jones & Partners is a brand and campaign creative agency with offices in Portland and Hood River, Oregon.

M: Why film? What compelled you to be a filmmaker?

RG: Our branding and campaign work always begins with language and story. We decided a few years ago that not only is film one of the best ways to express narrative – it was a natural extension of the work we already doing for brands.

M: What's the most rewarding and frustrating part about being a filmmaker?

RG: Like everything we create, we love it most when we get reactions to our films that align with our intentions for the work. We are as happy when people well-up with tears as we are when they see something that gets them stoked. Of course, there are tons of variables in filmmaking that need to add up to pulling that off. You can’t control them all, and that can be really frustrating.

M: How do you feel music has a role in film?

RG: Sight and sound are the only two senses we currently have access to when we use film for stories. Sound is every bit as important as picture. When we think of music for film we start by searching for a piece that aligns with the sonic tone we believe adds to the feel of the picture, subject matter, and, of course, narrative. In some cases, a certain song can be the dominant sound that drives the story, and in others it’s more like the spice that builds the right flavor. And sometimes it’s everything.

M: How do you feel music is misused in film?

RG: Anytime music is used as a crutch, or a cliché, it’s a bummer. In 2000, Nissan used Baba O’Riley for a Pathfinder ad and it sucked. The previous year (1999) Spike Lee used the same song in “Summer of Sam” and it worked. That isn’t just commentary on using popular music in ads – it’s wanting all filmmakers to use music well.

M: What do you hope your audience will take away when they watch your films?

RG: Whether you start a film project with a specific communication intent – or you reveal, through the filmmaking process, something that you believe should be communicated – you always want your work to be transportive enough to get people there.

M: What's the most recent album you've listened to?

RG: It’s a tie between “Live at the Music Hall” by Phosphorescent and “The River” by Bruce Springsteen. Listened to both yesterday. Today, it’s Brother Ali.

M: How do you know when you're finished with a project?

RG: When the deadline arrives. You can really never be done.

M: What makes a good story?

RG: Truth, depth, context. Timing, curiosity, and magic-hour light.

M: What's coming up on the horizon in your life?

RG: We are currently working on a bunch of brand evolution projects for various clients. We are also currently engaged with The Nature Conservancy, helping to develop their 2016 fundraising campaign. And we really hope film is a part of that.