Posts tagged #New York

Balancing Dreams And Reality: An interview with filmmaker, Camille de Galbert

Photo by  Erika Hokanson

Field Notes Interview #64: Camille de Galbert, Filmmaker

The new short film SIMON from French filmmaker, Camille de Galbert, blurs the line between waking and dreaming states -- and a lot of this has to do with her use of music.

We were absolutely floored by Galbert's recent film. It blends together classic film noir aesthetic with performance art and experimentation. Each scene is thoughtful and well crafted -- this includes the sound design and soundtrack. Part of what makes the film so captivating and immersive is how the music is as much a character as anything else. For Camille, who now lives in Brooklyn, her approach to finding the right soundtrack relies on using it as a vehicle to transport the imagery from one place to the next.

We chatted with Galbert about her upcoming film and how she's used a lifetime of being around art to inform her creative process.

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

CG: Back home, I grew up surrounded by art and culture. My father had a small contemporary art gallery, my mother was an actress, my grandfather collected classical instruments and all my siblings studied an instrument. I myself studied dance from a young age and spent my childhood in dance conservatory schools. I came to New York when I was 19 to study at the Merce Cunningham Studio, while also painting and drawing on the side. Then I had a knee surgery that stopped my career. It was tough physically and psychologically. I needed to express myself artistically and decided to orient myself toward film as it was the only medium that combined movement, visual, performance and music -- all these elements that surrounded my life. It was a relief and a renewal.

3. What's the most rewarding and frustrating part about being a filmmaker?

CG: Being able to work with a team that inspires and trust you in your creative decisions is extremely rewarding. The obvious frustration is the budgets that filmmaking requires. My work and creative thoughts call for a lot of dreamlike and oniric elements that require proper SFX and set design to work artistically. There is unfortunately no shortcut for these, and it’s impossible to self finance this type of cinema. It requires talent, time, and resources. I’m now working on MARIE, the next chapter for this film series, a feature which will have visual and narrative elements a la Terrence Malick and David Lynch. I know it will be a long road to get it financed and produced. But to me the most frustrating aspect is perhaps this continuous self doubt I can feel as an artist; it’s tough to wake up and realize that all the work you’ve done the past few months needs to be scrapped and redeveloped. It can be both rewarding and a curse.

M: What was the inspiration for SIMON?

CG: SIMON is a cross over between a narrative drama, a performance piece and an experimental film. I drew from my childhood but also from personal experience. I’m a mother of two young children and I started to write SIMON after the birth of my daughter. I was in a period of self doubt, and I think having children has led me to ask myself questions and reconsider what I was doing. When I started to write SIMON, I had the music of Alexander Balanescu in mind. He’s a composer from Romania, and is known in the contemporary art world for having worked with choreographers such as Pina Bausch, who also had a huge influence on me. That’s why I have a choreographic approach to film as I often start to transform images and visuals into a ballet form. My dreams are also a strong source of inspiration. I remember all my dreams very well and I draw a lot from these, both good and bad things. With SIMON, I wanted to show the passage between dream and reality, between interior and exterior, as well as the extreme solitude of the performer before entering the stage. Everything was based on personal experience, feeling, dreams and memories from my childhood.

I think it acted as a catharsis for me and seems to act the same way on other people too, as this film resonates strongly with the audience. Having people connect with it and express strong feelings about it is by far the most humbling and rewarding part of having made this first film.

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

CG: Music in film needs to be controlled properly. It needs to reinforce the visual storytelling aspect of film, and the message or story being told. It has to be properly balanced to be effective. You don’t want to notice it, but you also want to make sure you are not missing it. For SIMON, the soundtrack reinforces the sadness and loneliness aspect of the film

M: What was the process in finding the right soundtrack for SIMON?

CG: I think I have all the albums from Balanescu and I knew from the start I wanted to use his music. I was looking for emotional violins with a touch of eastern European influences, and his music was the perfect match. We also picked a prelude for piano by Alexander Scriabin which I admire very much too. We also contacted the team at Marmoset, who hand picked several tracks for a specific scene, and we went with "One and Only" by Ramova, which revealed to be perfect.

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

CG: Love Songs for Robots by Patrick Watson (2015). I’m a huge fan of his work and would love to collaborate with or even direct a music video for him!

M: When did you know you were finished with the film?

CG: Music and sound was key from the start so the film truly came to life after the sound mix. We worked with Kevin Peters and Steven Tollen from Gigantic Studios in New York who were extremely supportive from the start. They understood exactly what I was trying to achieve and really brought this to another level. I also think it was fun for them as we really experimented and tried to create something unique with the soundtrack and sound design.

M: What makes a good story?

CG: To me a good story is a story that resonates with the audience, triggers some emotions or reactions and brings a new perspective on a subject.

M: What's coming up on the horizon for you?

CG: I’m working on the next chapter of this Aria Series, which is a feature titled MARIE. It tells the story of a woman who is run over by a car in the streets of New York. A strange man accompanies her.  While we follow her journey between life and death, we learn through a series of flashbacks about this man, as well as her complex relationships with her grandmother, and mother.  It will be much more narrative but will still feature surrealist and dreamlike elements a la David Lynch.


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Have a recent short film you finished? Share it with us at and we'll feature our favorites on the journal next week. Featured filmmakers will get our new Listening Guide and other sweet swag.


Classrooms Without Walls: Google's New Expeditions App Helps Students Explore The World


We paired up with Google to present a new educational tool that helps students travel to places where school buses can’t through their new Exploration app.

With this technological development, any given classroom can now scour Mt. Fuji or marvel at the Great Wall of China through cardboard viewers with screens that can show the far reaches of the world from where each student sits. Through a series of photos stitched together from Google Street View and images from a 16 camera set up from GoPro, students can get 360 degree views with 3D images in their virtual-reality excursions. Now, 45 million students and teachers around the world use Google’s educational apps and we were more than thrilled to collaborate and participate in such an amazing technological advancement.

Working with Producer, Sara Leimbach from B-Reel, our Producer and Audio Engineer, Tim Shrout led the project on our end. We used the Keen Collective track “Bright Futures” that perfectly captured the inspiring, thoughtful and with highlights of playfulness and curiosity.


How Music Can Help Capture The Essence Of Travel

Field Notes Interview #38: Florent & Amberly (Of Two Lands), Filmmakers

Clear communication is key to any successful partnership. Whether it's a professional collaboration or a personal relationship, getting on the same page is absolutely critical. The filmmaking duo—and French/Australian couple—that make up Of Two Lands handle this balance between the two worlds with ease in their beautiful travel films.

Over the past week, we collaborated with Florent and Amberly on a series of films on our Instagram. Each 15-second film documented their travels to New Zealand and the interesting characters and scenery they interacted with. Each soundtrack provided a sense of wonder and awe within the vignettes and captured the spirit of travel. 

We got a chance to chat with both Florent and Amberly about how they use music as a driving character in their compelling travel films.

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

F: I knew that I wanted to be involved in the film-making process in one form or another, since I was 12 years old when I first saw The Lord of The Rings. This is the first time that I wanted to know more about what happened behind the camera to bring the stories to life.

A: I always had an interest in films as well as photography, and meeting Florent fueled that interest further, so much so, that we decided to create films and stills together as a way of furthering our enjoyment of these mediums.

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

F: Finding a suitable location, and all aspects of shooting, from camera & lens choice, to angles and lighting.

A: Getting to know the subject (if it is a person, getting to know the character, and if it is purely landscape, getting to notice the finer details of the surroundings) Learning as I go, from mistakes as well as successes.

When we make a film together, we both have our strengths and weaknesses, and we learn a lot from each other during the process.

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

OTL: Their choice of subject matter and the way in which it is portrayed, such as shooting style / editing / music, all play a big part in defining the voice of a filmmaker. The way in which the film-maker tells their story and conveys their message, and if they can get that message across clearly and move their audience even in some small way. A filmmakers background, lifestyle and past experiences can often shape their work and style, which makes for a nice variety as everyone is different and feels differently about a given subject.

M: Tell us more about your project?

OTL: At the moment there isn't one project in general, but we are currently editing footage from a recent trip to New York and Canada. Our focus at the moment is travel, as it is what we love to do, however we have recently made more personal ‘portrait’ style videos which we really loved and want to pursue more of in the future as well.

Of Two Lands was created as an outlet for us to share and to push us to tell more stories and discover more places and characters.

Our Marmoset project consists of 7 mini films (15 seconds each) and aims at providing short glimpses of different areas of one of our favourite countries in the world, New Zealand. The breathtaking scenery of ‘Middle Earth’ is unsurpassed by any other one place, and we instantly fell in love with the awesome mountains, glassy lakes and cascading waterfalls. We are hoping to make this beautiful place our home at some point in the future. Being able to be close to mountains, forests and landscapes that we love would be our ultimate dream.

M: Are there ever any happy accidents when filming?

OTL: Of course, we are constantly surprised by things we either hadn't noticed, or else hadn't anticipated. Even small moments we can learn from happen in all projects. Leaving the camera going for example (an old trick) can lead to some happy insights to a character being interviewed. If the weather isn’t quite how we’d hoped, but we get a different vibe and experience as a result. or even if we can’t quite shoot a subject in the way we had expected, but we have to adapt to a situation, it can lead to new angles and ways which we hadn't thought of shooting.

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

OTL: Music and audio in general is as important as the other elements which make up a film (visuals, story, characters etc). It can set the mood and tone, make you cry, make you happy / sad / scared, feel empathy for the characters in the story. Some of today’s best filmmakers such as Tarantino, Guy Ritchie, & Spielberg etc rely heavily, in different ways, on music to set the mood and tone of their movies, and are famous for it. It’s difficult to imagine Star Wars, Jaws, or Jurassic Park for example, without their classic theme tunes!

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

OTL: When we are watching it over and we don’t feel that we can add anything else that will further enhance the piece, or that we have reached the maximum impact we can (or when we are sick of looking at it ;). We try to imagine our films seen by other people or made by someone else and whether we would like to watch it ourselves, and view it all the way to the end. There is always room to improve, we are never 100% satisfied, but we try to get as close as possible to feeling content with what we have created.

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

OTL: Over-use of music in our view is a problem (i.e the same song in many different films). We often see videos which have what we feel is the wrong song, and can take away the quality of the cinematography and editing. 


When we select music, we try to find a song / songs which suit the pace and atmosphere of the footage, and what we are trying to convey. We often see songs used purely because they are ‘on-trend’ rather than because they suit the video, and this can take you out of the viewing experience, and can remind you of work which you have viewed previously.

M: What's coming up?

OTL: For our next trip, we plan on setting off on another adventure, this time to the Arctic (Iceland / greenland); where we will (as always) document our adventures and try to do justice to the beauty and culture of these two unique places. Crossing the arctic circle has always been a dream, and we can’t wait to be able to make this dream a reality!

Field Notes: An interview with Marmoset Producers Rob Dennler & Tim Shrout

Communication is everything.  Especially when it comes to locking in the right soundtrack to film. Marmoset producers Rob Dennler (pictured left) & Tim Shrout (pictured right) make this point clear.

We got the filmmakers perspective in our interview with Trun Pence from Instrument. He gave insight into his vision when working on the recent Levi's Commuter video series. Finding the perfect vibe in the soundtrack was essential for him—enter Rob and Tim. 

Now, getting the production perspective, we chatted with Dennler and Shrout about how they orchestrated the perfect score through clear communication and collaboration with Pence.

M: What was the general direction/vibe you were working with? 

RB: Well, the overall direction for music on this project was a kind of retro soul/funk revival sort of sound. We talked a lot with Truen and the team about music. They provided us with a ton of inspirational references to chew on initially. 

TS: We were working with a refined, energetic aesthetic, and a classic/vintage feel — These pieces were calls to action.

M: What was the revision process like?

RB: Everything moved pretty fast, and the notes were usually very specific. We would typically receive feedback from the team within a few ours of our deliveries, and then jump on a call to further discuss everyone's thoughts. The quick turnaround and open dialogue was really helpful for us in maintain a clear focus on our objectives and really allowed us to stay in the zone. 

TS: There were lots of revisions for NYC in particular.  Timing was very important as the cut was changing as we were working.  The sonic palette was really important for this one, so we added live drums on a vintage kit and added real horns rather than relying on samples.  It needed to sound like it was a band in a room. Getting to that point took a lot of back and forth.

M: How do you feel the music compliments this piece?

RB: Each of the artists in the series have very different backgrounds, live in different cities, and each has his own unique approach to life and how they make art. Taking all of that into consideration, we sought out match the tone, style, and energy of the music to their individual personas and environments, so that the music was truly a soundtrack, reflective of who they are and where the come from. 

TS: The NYC vignette has a classic, urban grit and soul to it.  A little dingy to complement the subway shots and the old furniture, but also driving to support the outdoor/riding scenes. As for the London vignette, it’s fun — showcases the character’s sheer enjoyment of life.

M: What were some possible ways that this might not have worked?

RB: Really, I think it just came down to us having such clear communication with Truen and the team from the very beginning. So, I suppose if we were to remove that aspect of the project, the open forum we had with them, and replace it with a more rigid or ambiguous structure, I would guess that our results would have been far less successful. 

TS: We could have gone too dark or serious with both of them.  More modern sounds might have made it feel too much like an ad. 

M: What value do you find in custom music in projects like this? 

RB: I find value in collaborating with filmmakers to develop a musical identity for their project. It is rewarding knowing that we help to fulfill their creative vision, while giving musicians an opportunity to craft truly memorable and evocative compositions they can be proud of.  

TS: There's value in the ability to tie in the music with the project’s overall aesthetic. We were involved before they even started shooting.  Truen and the rest of the team had a vision that we were clued in on from the start. So they were able to make decisions while shooting and editing with full confidence that the music would support the piece.  And we had a stronger connection to the project because we felt fully responsible for the music.  We were given responsibility and plenty of creative freedom.

Music + Picture // How "From Bean to Brew" shares our intense love of coffee

There are three things that you should know about us - We love music. We love Oregon. We love coffee. And if there's a chance to combine any of these things, whether scoring projects like A Film About Coffee or sharing great films like this one from Division41, we couldn't be any happier.

As coffee and foodie culture has become more widespread, so has the need to know where our food and drink come from. Director, Francois Vaxelaire presents a beautiful journey that starts in the tropical highlands of Peru, showing step by step how the harvesting process leads to your morning cappuccino in New York.

This film is filled with sweeping landscapes, there is a lulling and an organic soundtrack that flows along with the scenic imagery. There is a nice harmony between the lush nature shots and the acoustic, folk-driven composition "And What Remains" by Josh Garrels.

As the film progresses, the score makes a great transition into the electro-pop realm of "Golden Hills" by Fremont. As the beans depart to the urban setting of Washington, DC, the music travels and adapts to the vibe of the scene.

Enjoy the short film below while we run and get our fifth cup of the day.

Levi's Commuter series hits the streets of Oakland

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Over the last few weeks, Levi's has been unveiling their new Commuter film series, riding along with different movers and shakers in the different parts of the world. We've had an amazing time collaborating with our good friends at Instrument on this project.

First, they took you to New York with Kyle Garner of Sit and Read Furniture, then sped you through the bustling streets of London with Poet/Musician James Massiah. Now, with the final installment in tow, you now land in Oakland following along Tyrone Stevenson Jr, who does amazing work with the Scraper Bike Movement.

In this beautiful portrait, you get a glimpse of the impactful service that Stevenson Jr provides to the youth and community through bicycle maintenance. There are so many striking scenes in slow motion, including one of him leading a literal parade of flamboyant, colorful bikes down the sunny streets of Oakland.

One of the common threads throughout the entire film series is the vintage, yet timeless vibe in the soundtrack. We went with a groovy, retro direction that payed homage to the urban landscape and gave space to the chill narrative of each piece.

For this particular vignette, we worked with gorgeously sparse soulful track "More (Blues)" by ARP. It was the perfect track that feels almost like a lullaby with the coolest horns, drifting along with the serene mood of this film.