We recently chatted with Stephen Schuster about his experiences working on his new film. Below we have attached both a brief synopsis as well as an excerpt of the interview.
“And I think that’s part of the obsession, is being able to contain it. Because if obsession is not contained, then it becomes erratic, scattered, negative, the positive energy can flip into the negative. I know all too well, ‘cause I spent a lot of time there. ”
The Balance of Dark and Light is a micro exploration into the life and work of Ron Pippin who for the last 30 years has made it his one goal – to create.
Kessler University (KU): Tell me a little more about yourself?
Stephen Schuster (SS): My name is Stephen Schuster. I am a director based out of Los Angeles, CA. Like many directors – trying to make things that I feel passionate about as I continue looking for that big break.
KU: Would love to know a little more about this film. The visual style / editing / sound design was very unique. What was the motivation behind this?
SS: I found Ron’s work when I first moved to Santa Monica at a small gallery called Obsolete Inc. on Main St. The whole store is amazing but it was Ron’s work that really drew me in and I would say that for the next 5-6 years I thought about the work. Last summer I decided that I would like to do a mini documentary on him and his work as I could find so little about him personally so I reached out to Obsolete and they put me in touch with him. I went in with no preconceived ideas but everyone says that it came out as “my style”. It all came together though through a very small but talented team’s group effort who are all friends of mine. I think a lot of us also wanted to do something SO different from what we were currently working on and just go for it.
KU: I like how you used movement / sound design to help tell your story. How did you come up with the idea to use motion / sound in this way?
SS: My friend Ben Lukas Boysen(HECQ) did all the audio in the beginning and then Kirk Smith who edited the piece really chopped things up and did some crazy sound design work on his part as well. Alot of the movement came out of how I wanted to showcase the work and Ron’s personality. We shot handheld to give a more exploratory feel, stop motion to give a more frenetic feel and then slider shots to have some nice transitions as well as very precisely controlled movements.
KU: I noticed you used Kessler Crane gear on this project but also noticed Guillermo Lecuona was the DP. What was it like using the gear?
SS: Guillermo Lecuona is an amazing dp/photographer and friend of mine and anything I can do to get him out of an office is a good time. We spoke about what I was hoping to get at the beginning in regards to lighting and tone and he really set the standard for the lighting at both the warehouse and Ron’s studio. Guillermo shot A camera and I ran B camera which was mainly the locked off and slider shots. I own all the Kessler gear and love it. We mainly shot with the Cineslider, Hercules Head and Oracle control module. I was running mainly a 50mm and the 100mm macro on a Canon 5Dii on the Cineslider with the Manfrotto magic arm for horizontal shots and then the Giottos MH7001 Ball Head for the vertical or angled shots. The Oracle control module with motors allows such a smooth movement and freed me up to focus on other aspects of the shot besides just the movement.
KU: What’s next? It seems like you have a distinct style. Can we expect something similar?
SS: Still trying to understand what “my style” is but other people see it. I love to capture beauty both bathed in light and hidden in the shadows and I think that is what shows. What’s next? Pre-Production on a film noir short I wrote that should be a lot of fun. Wrapped up some work in Scotland for Revolver and looking forward to sharing that. If things go as planned – “alot” is what’s next and I look forward to sharing it with you all soon.