The Importance of Pre-Production In Your Projects

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Field Notes Interview #29: Preston Kanak, Filmmaker

Spontaneity doesn't always mean not having a plan. Sometimes planning ahead can give more room for unintended and adventitious moments in any project you're working on. Filmmaker, Preston Kanak drives this point home in his recent film Embargo.

While filming in Cuba and telling the story of "home," Preston and his filmmaking partner Brent Foster captured the unique landscape through visual storytelling. He used the track "Anchor" by Glass Wands as a driving force in conveying the mood of such a complex and beautiful setting of Havana and its rural outskirts. This is a strong and powerful piece, and a lot of it has to do with approaching the project with pre-planning. 

We chatted with Preston Kanak about his process of filming and how music plays a role in his projects. Read on.

M: When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

PK: The desire to be a filmmaker came late for me. I started my education wanting to be an optometrist but never felt passionate with the schooling. I switched gears and enrolled in a media production and studies degree program. It was here where I started to learn more about filmmaking. In my third year with the program, I started a film a day project and it was during this project that I became hooked.

M: What's your favorite moment of the filmmaking process?

PK: My favorite part of the process is in meeting all the people along the way. Each person has such a unique story to tell and it excites me to see others passionate about what they do.

M: How did this Embargo come into form? What's the story behind this project?

PK: Last January, Brent Foster and I headed to Cuba to tell the story of home. We wanted to try showcase that unique feeling that comes with this idea. For ‘Embargo', I wanted to reinvestigate this story but through visual storytelling rather than rely on a voice-over to drive the story.

M: What do you think defines a filmmakers' "voice"?

PK: That is a tough question. For me, that voice is what wakes you up every morning and keeps driving you forward. It is the passion that drives and connects to the world around you. This voice may or may not be attached to a specific style of storytelling. Everyone has a unique story to tell based on their life experiences and this voice is what shares it with the world.

M: Do you always have a clear vision in mind when filming?

PK: Through my film a day project, I have definitely developed systems and processes with the work I produce. Regarding the clear vision, this is visible through the pre-production I do with every project. For me, a clear vision up front is critical to ensure the success of a project. I know that projects evolve through each step of the creative process but by having a plan up front, it is much easier to gauge whether or not I want to work on a project as well as how I want to approach it if it is a project I indeed want to work on.

M: Were there any happy accidents when filming?

PK: Happy accidents happen all the time when you are prepared from the start. If you are not scrambling to make things happen, happy accidents are inevitable.

M: What role do you feel music has in film?

PK: Music plays an integral role in any project. Much like the other audio elements, it can affect the way in which people interpret your message. 

M: When do you know that you have something ready to show the world?

PK: My work is never 100% complete. I use deadlines for releasing content to the world. Because I am a perfectionist, I have to do this or nothing would ever get released. I think that by producing the film a day project, I was able to let go of the fact that nothing will ever be perfect. I focus more on the idea of ensuring that my last project is always my best and I am able to do this as I am always pushing myself to learn something new.

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

PK: Music is misused when it is used as a crutch. If the film changes the intended purpose of your film, it shouldn’t be used.

M: What's coming up?

PK: My next 6 months is pretty crazy. With my business, Cinescapes Collective, we have just opened up an office locally and have some commercial work taking us across Canada. Beyond this, we are committed to shooting a personal short a month spanning many genres to continue to push our creative side. The next of the series is slated to fire up the end of March in NYC with others being filmed in such places as Canyonlands and Peru.


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