A cross-country road trip. A beard-growing contest. A walking tour of post-September 11th downtown Manhattan. Those are the wildly different topics of three independent documentaries with one big thing in common: their filmmakers’ love for — and use of — the Mac.
Three wildly different events that resulted in three disparate documentaries: “The Journey,” “Growin’ a Beard,” and “Live From Shiva’s Dance Floor,” respectively. All three, however, were made with Macs by filmmakers who love the platform. (Acclaimed independent auteur Richard Linklater, director of “Live From Shiva’s Dance Floor,” was unavailable for an interview, but his love of Macs is well documented.) The Mac connection even extends to all three films’ release on DVD: the discs were distributed by well-known Mac games publisher
Aspyr Media, which is also branching out into music.
Eric Saperston began “The Journey” as a simple post-college road trip that was going to consist of nothing more than following The Grateful Dead in his Volkswagen bus with Jack, his golden retriever. Challenged by his mentor to make something out of the experience, he decided to call up powerful people and ask them for interviews about their philosophy for success in life.
Despite the fact that Saperston was staying at campgrounds and calling from payphones, he managed to set up meetings with former President Jimmy Carter, Ritz-Carlton CEO Horst Schulze, Texas governor Ann Richards, still in office at the time, and others.
Along the way, Saperston convinced various corporations to give him seed money for his trip, and eventually he and his team — consisting of two friends and a former director of photography for MTV’s Road Rules who they met by chance — secured a development deal for a TV show at Disney, which unfortunately led nowhere.
They filmed all of their experiences, of course, and turned their footage into a short film that they later expanded into a full-length feature. While those two projects were edited on an Avid (“A necessity because of the editor we used,” says Saperston), a 12-part “Reflections From the Road” series created for VW, which is on the DVD, was assembled in Final Cut Pro, and Saperston wrote the documentary on his PowerBook.
He’s also a big fan of the iPod “because music was such a big part of ‘The Journey.’ I used to travel with CDs and a Walkman, so to take 2,000 songs and put them on my iPod, that’s much easier.”
Today, he runs Journey Productions from the company’s offices in Atlanta, where they are in pre-production on another feature called “The Note,” which was adapted from an award-winning novel. He and his team put together a short film version of “The Note” with Final Cut Pro and they work with Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and other applications on a complement of Macs that include a few Blueberry iMacs.
“I gravitate toward things that make you feel more powerful than you are, like clothing that looks good,” said Saperston. “Hanging out with a Mac makes you feel like there are no limits to who you can be.”
While Saperston and crew were on their trip, Mike Woolf, director of “Growin’ a Beard,” had embarked on a journey that was closer to home. After moving to Austin, TX from Baltimore, he discovered a little town called Shamrock and its unique contest: Every year for the past several decades, the townspeople stage a competition to see who can grow the nicest Donegal, an Irish beard that features hair only on the jowls and chin.
Woolf decided to convince a friend named Scotty McAfee, dubbed “the hairy outsider,” to enter the contest. His documentary follows the progress of both McAfee and a colorful cast of townspeople from the competition’s beginning on New Year’s Day to the final judging on St. Patrick’s Day.
Unfortunately, his day job at an ad agency left him little free time to work on the film when the contest ended, but he plugged away at the footage with editor Seth Sherman on a Blue and White Power Mac G3. They started with Final Cut Pro 2 and had upgraded to the third edition by the time they finished a year ago.
“Two or three years ago, Final Cut Pro was the only inexpensive option,” Woolf said. “It was the only way we could have pulled this off.”
In 2000, he quit his agency job to become a freelance advertising writer and free up more time to make documentaries with his business partner, Andrew Yates, under the name Beef and Pie Productions. He used a Titanium PowerBook and Final Cut Pro 4 to edit footage from the film’s premiere in Austin, as well as a humorous short called “The 72 Ounce Steak,” for special features found on the DVD.
“Now we’re building an all-Mac editing suite,” he said. “We’re going to use Power Mac G5s, which are on order now.”
He’s currently finishing up a documentary for Shiner Beer, but Beef and Pie is using an outside Avid editing facility for that, at considerable expense. “That’s why we’re building this thing,” he commented. “We can do it a lot cheaper with a group of G5s and freelance editors.”