Matt Beardsley recently produced a piece using the KC Complete, K-Pod and Shuttle Pod. We had a chance to catch up with Matt and ask him a few questions.
Kessler University (KU): Tell me a little about yourself.
Matt Beardsley (MB): I’m a photographer and journalist from North Carolina. I lived and worked for a faith-based non-profit in Chile for several years and came to California to get my masters degree. I run a multimedia studio with a particular emphasis on non-profit work, portraiture, and short documentary-style films. Having lived in Oakland, CA for five or six years now, I’m still surprised by the depth and diversity of culture and history here. This project about the town’s historic train station is one great example – what an amazing history!
KU: Tell me a little about the film.
MB: Oakland’s 16th Street train station was home to the country’s first black labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. It was also the end of the Trans Continental Railroad. The building and its surroundings are abandoned now and in need of a good deal of restoration and seismic repair. Though Amtrak and BART (the San Francisco area’s light-rail system) have set up shop elsewhere in the city, the building is as beautiful as ever and is at the center of a growing movement to revitalize and re-populate a neighborhood at the very heart of the San Francisco metro area. (Just take a look at “Oakland CA Central Station” on Google Maps and zoom out, it’s an impressive spot!)
The film was commissioned by the non-profit group that is caring for the station and exploring options to repair it. It is intended to be an integral part of the campaign to save the 16th Street Station.
KU: I love how you assembled this film. How did you decide to approach the project?
MB: Good question. It’s probably a familiar assignment for most small studios these days: a 3-5 minute piece for a social media campaign. I wanted to approach it, though, like a very short documentary film, to really dig into the story of the place, both in present form and past glory.
To make it work as a campaign video, and to communicate complex emotions via the Internet in 5 minutes, it had to be well-crafted. For me, and considering the emphasis on optimism, that meant no hand-held cameras, no noisy audio, and no shot without a clear addition to the final product. It was a tricky balance to tap into some of the intricate history of the place and also to actively participate in the heroic effort to save it. I love this kind of project!
KU: Would love to know more about the construction of the film. You did a great job integrating all the elements.
MB: Thank you! I like how the piece came together. We had a lot of great interview material because the subject of the film is a very interesting place. It has a rich history with strong ties to the Civil Rights Movement and to the Great Migration, interesting national correlations to find out here in California.
The movie had to be a certain length, short enough to function as an element of the non-profit group’s social media campaign, and yet communicate a lot of information and emotion. Music selection was fundamental. Louis Jordan’s two songs, “Let the Good Times Roll” and “Choo Choo Ch Boogie” were perfect for lyric content and for the strident mood both tunes clearly communicate. His work is from exactly the right historic period, also, a time when Oakland was itself a major West Coast hub for Jump, Boogie-Woogie, and Swing.
With a hard drive full of quality assets, it’s a game of cutting anything that doesn’t add and holding enough space for the target emotions to develop.
KU: Noticed that you used some Kessler gear. How did you use it to help tell your story?
MB: Kessler gear was an important part of this production. It’s tough gear that travels well, and has enough beefiness to deliver consistently smooth shots on location. We used a Kessler Crane 12, Kessler K-Pod, and Kessler Shuttle Pod. I wanted to use a few specific moves to create energy in our static shots of the abandoned building and also to create an engaging transition to the volunteer crew sequence.
The most complex move was a sequence of slides that emulates the view from a train passing through the station (it starts at about 1:08 in the Vimeo cut). We shot that by setting the Kessler Crane on saw horses and mounting a camera to the Shuttle Pod using a Kessler Low Profile Ball Head for leveling and Manfrotto 502 to compose the shot. The Pod takes a little practice to master, but it worked really well for us. It’s awesome that two guys can pack in and put together a sequence like that in under an hour.
It’s especially nice that the Kessler Crane can work as a track and a crane. It makes for a small amount of gear to haul onto location for the variety of effective moves that are possible. Even though most of our work these days is shot on DSLR, the extra beefiness of the 2-rail, cable-reinforced crane makes shots wiggle-free, and I have the freedom to mount chunky accessories like heavy lenses and full-size fluid heads. Also, it’s nice to have the option to run heavier cameras on a familiar rig. Because it packs down to something so compact, the 12-foot Kessler Crane takes a few minutes to set up, but 12 feet is a lot of crane and it’s very stable. And the K Pod is a beast, It’s liberating to have an invincible tripod.
KU: What can we expect next from you?
MB: I’m happy to have several interesting projects in the works; it looks like the coming months will be an interesting time for my studio. I have a 30-minute documentary film shot in the same neighborhood as the 16th Street Train Station piece that is in the final stages of editing; I’ve partnered with a prominent Napa-valley winery and the inspiring NGO, Wine to Water, for another social media campaign; and have shot a series of videos for Silicon Valley’s SLAC National Accelerator Lab that are being released at regular intervals.
I am always on the look out for new collaborations, especially when humanitarian and social justice issues are being addressed. My ultimate goal in the coming months is to grow as an artist and humanitarian with every new project.
BTS shots by Chris Bjuland