PDN Video Pick: A Year-Long Documentary Project for Stella Artois

Dustin Cohen’s “Made in Brooklyn” project is a character-driven video series about Brooklyn artisans, and after it went viral last year, Cohen started landing assignments. One was a year-long project for beer brand Stella Artois that is just coming to fruition in the form of a 26-minute documentary called “The Chalice Symphony.” It is about the design and construction of four one-of a kind instruments that use Stella Artois chalices to make musical sounds in different ways. At the center of the story is artist/engineer Andy Cavatorta, the instrument builder, and rock band Cold War Kids, which composed a symphony for performance on Cavatorta’s beer chalice creations.

The full video will be released during the next few weeks, but in the meantime, Cohen and Stella Artois have released a series of short, stand-alone excerpts, including the one shown here.

Cohen told us about the project in a brief interview:

PDN: What was the assignment from Stella Artois and the ad agency?
Dustin Cohen: It was to document Andy Cavatorta and his team building four instruments. It’s a process video, but character driven, from inception to completion of the instruments.

PDN: Did you storyboard it in any way at the outset?
DC: It’s documentary in nature, but knowing we had many months of filming in front of us, we had a brief outline of points we wanted to hit–the process of Andy making these instruments, the problem solving, working with his team, the band composing the song–but we didn’t draw out storyboard per se.

PDN: Did you expect it to take a year?
DC: It took longer to complete them than we had planned. There were a lot of elements that had to come together, and it went at its own pace.

PDN: Was your approach to shooting any different from the Made in Brooklyn videos?
DC: Visually speaking, it’s not different. But the scope of this was huge, so there were many more people involved–art directors and creative directors from the agency, and people at Stella Artois.

PDN: That sounds like a lot of bosses. Was that a problem?
DC: I wouldn’t call it a problem. For Made in Brooklyn, I had only myself to answer to. But when you sign up for a project like this, and money is on line, the opinions of other people matter, and some are people with a lot of weight. There were times when it was harder than others, but I’m super proud of the documentary we made.

PDN: What kind of crew did you have? Were you the DP as well as the director?
DC: It depended on the day, but most days, the crew was four or five people: two cameras, a sound person and a DIT (data tech/producer). I directed all the videos, and I grabbed a camera and shot a good amount of it. On a few days, the crew was triple that, when we needed beauty shots or had really important interviews where we needed lighting. We had three cameras, an art department, and grips.

PDN: What advice would you give someone else about to take on a big project like this?
DC: Surround yourself with people that care–production company and crew. There are so many things that change, and you’re going to want to put in so many more things than the budget allows. Having a project we were pumped on made the extra days and hours totally worth it. You’re going to work a lot harder and longer than you think. Be ready, be excited, and surround yourself with other people who are willing to do the same.

Related:
Personal Work That Lands Assignments: Dustin Cohen’s Made in Brooklyn Project (for PDN subscribers)

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