Behind the Scenes of Zero Gravity


The project came about when my friend Ben asked if I wanted to put together a dance video featuring the talents of my sister Willow, and my brother-in-law Kesh.  This came up after Willow and I had already been discussing the idea of doing a dance film out in the desert.  It also just so happened that Kesh was going to be in town the following week this conversation with Ben took place.  I turned around and messaged Kesh to see if he was interested.  He got back to me later that day and said he was, so Willow and I began to look for the perfect song they could choreograph to.

We knew from the outset that we wanted to juxtapose the two styles of dance (ballet and break dance), so we needed music that would work well for both.  After throwing some ideas around, I remembered a killer track I had heard several years ago from Tony Anderson called Zero Gravity.  We gave it a quick listen, and right away both Willow and I knew that it was going to be that track.

It worked out really well that the track has that lunar landing theme to it, as I knew from the get go that we would be shooting out on the Alvord desert in south eastern Oregon.  I had been out there several times with my dad on lizard and snake catching trips, so I knew the location would work for dancing as the ground is decently firm and really flat.  Once we had the lunar theme from the music, I knew I wanted the introductory shots to have that feel of other worldliness.  I also new that I wanted to grade the intro to look like 60's era archival footage.

So the timeline for pre-production looked something like this:  Asked Kesh if he was in on Thursday, he got back to me by Friday.  Willow and I figured out the song on Sunday.  I picked Kesh up from Corvallis Tuesday morning.  Dropped him off at my parents' house Tuesday night.  Willow, Kesh and I got to talk about the choreography and story for about a half an hour before I had to head back to Bend for class the next morning.  Woke up Wednesday. went to class, got home around noon.  Edited and uploaded that class, received a large package that contained the steadicam Ronin.  Unboxed said package and quickly figured out how to set it up and use it.   Then packed it and everything else into the car and left Bend with the entire crew around two o'clock in the afternoon.  

We got down near the Alvord that night around 7, pitched our campsite and had dinner.  Kesh and Willow finally got a chance to work on some of the choreography, and I was able set up a time-lapse of the Milky Way. 

The next day we woke up, made coffee, packed up camp and drove out onto the Alvord to shoot. We began shooting around 8:30 in the morning and shot continuously for 4 hours.

Kesh and Willow would take turns doing their separate parts of the dance.  Tayler was our on set music technician.  During each take she would follow just out of the shot with a boom box playing the song for Willow and Kesh to dance to.

Japser and I alternated operating the Steadicam Ronin.  About 80 percent of the time Jasper was holding it, and I was using the remote to control the camera movement.  We were using my 5dm3 just for simplicity as we had never used the Ronin before.  However this meant we had no monitor set up in an easy to see position.  Instead there was a lot of awkward crouching and and squeezing on my part to be able to hit record and make sure we had focus while Jasper held the rig.  Meanwhile Alex was capturing behind the scenes content.

There was one shot that we went 360 degrees around the dancers, so we had to have Alex drive the car off the desert altogether.  After we had bagged the shot, we were trying to get a hold of him on our radio to come pick us up, but there were was an ominous minute or two before we heard back from him.  We had begun to wonder if the car wouldn't start, and that we may need to start walking with the gear to get off the desert which was by now at a surface temperature of around 100 degrees.

Thankfully the Alex did come back, and we loaded up the car and headed to Fields station which is a small gas station food mart / restaurant in the middle of nowhere.  They do boast some of the best milkshakes you'll ever have, and we would tend to agree!

We spent about half the afternoon hanging out at Fields, charging batteries, drinking shakes, and playing cards, before heading out into one of the adjacent canyons to try to catch some lizards.  We were crunched for time as we had to get back out on the Alvord to grab a couple more shots, but in about a half hours time we managed to catch one collard lizard and one Leopard lizard.

We then headed out to bag the last couple of shots, as well as get some stock footage for another project that is in the works.  We captured what we needed by dark, wrapped production, and began the long drive back to Bend in the dark.  

It was an exhausted crew that rolled in to Bend at 3am that night/morning.  The next day we headed down to hangout with the family in Madras.  Everyone was pretty eager to see what the dance looked like, so I spend the day cranking out the rough cut.  It didn't take long after that to finish up the last touches and have a completed film.

I really want to thank my crew that made this trip and production such a wonderful experience.  They absolutely rocked it, even in the tough conditions.  Kesh started to get a bit delirious from heat stroke, Willow was in pointw shoes for 4 hours and sustained some pretty gnarly blisters.  Tayler, Jasper and Alex all worked their tails off to make things run smoothly!  It was a ton of fun to work with everyone and I can't wait to do it again!

Cheers guys! 

Nathan Gerhardt1 Comment