Mara is a storytelling experiment.
Can we tell a compelling story on film and not have the process dominate our lives? I love directing and telling stories but making films can be an extremely time consuming and expensive. I’d love to spend all my time doing it but I have a real job and a real family that I love. It takes most of my time and all of my money.  But I, and a lot of the people I know, love the process/results enough to spend SOME time. Can we keep it simple AND entertain? Let the experiment begin!

Here are our rules

  • Rule 1: Be worth watching.
  • Rule 2: No cost. If I don’t own it and can’t borrow it, I don’t use it.
  • Rule 3: Low pain. Filming episodes can’t take more than a couple hours.
  • Rule 4: No planning. No storyboards. No script beforehand. Only what we make up that day. (Except for overall storyline)
  • Rule 5: Only crew or cast who think this is fun as a hobby and don’t have to make sacrifices to participate. Even if it’s just me.
  • Rule 6: Have fun.

Mara: Chapter 1

Directed by: Adam Lubanski
Starring: Madison Lubanski and Jennifer Lubanski
Story:  Adam, Jennifer, and Madison
Crew: Editing, Color, Camera, Lighting, Sound: Adam
Music: “A Delicate Situation” from
Filming Dates: June 5, 2016 & June 20, 2016
Location:  Bellevue, WA
Camera: Sony A7S II
Lenses: Nikon 24mm f/2.8, Zeiss 85mm f1.4
Video Monitor: Ikan VK7i
Lights: Lowell Omni. Rosco LightPad, LightDisc reflector
Audio: Sennheiser ME66. Sony A7SII in-camera recorder.
ADR: iPhone 6Plus. Rode Video Mic.
Software: Premiere Pro, After Effects, Magic Bullet Looks, Neat Video Reduce Noise.

We are making it up as we go along. We don’t spend time on script and storyboards. However, between episodes, we (Madi, Jen and I) put a lot of thought and discussion into where the story is going and what the overall themes/conflicts/surprises are. The biggest risks are in being boring or painting ourselves into an undesirable logical or storytelling corner from which there is no plausible escape. This is certainly part of the experiment.

For Chapter 1, we thought a lot about what Mara finds and how it fits into the overall story. We do know where it’s going. Mostly.

I’m fortunate that my family will be a part of this. Madison and Jennifers enthusiasm make it easy to film on a whim. If we feel up to it and have a good idea for the next episode, we film. Also, they’re surprisingly good at acting and taking direction. As you will see in the next couple episodes, some other people got involved and spent a couple hours having fun with this.

I really like the track I used (“A Delicate Situation” from I paid $52.95 for the rights to use this track on social media and my website. So, I broke the no cost element of my rules. I probably need to amend this rule for music. It’s also worth noting that even though I paid for the right to use this track, when I posted the video on YouTube, I was informed that The author, Ferenc Hegedus has claimed a copyright that lets him get royalties if YouTube puts ads on my video. This is really annoying. Please don’t blame me for the ads that interrupt my very short video.

FILMING TECH/ART NOTES: The Sony A7sII camera is amazing in low light. I wanted to see how far I could stretch it and still be happy. I had recently replaced my GH4 so wasn’t totally familiar with what the Sony could do in near darkness.

My first outdoor experiment did not work well. We filmed the whole first scene but upon review at my computer,  the picture was too dark and too noisy. The camera is a miracle but it needs SOME light to work with. ISO 25000 works but it’s too noisy. I also realized I wasn’t happy with the look.

SLOG NOTES: (For the camera geeks) On the A7SII Profiles 7&8 provide SLOG settings. Those profiles may flatten everything nicely, but it emphasizes the noise in low light. I had to color correct the image quite a bit to get rid of the undesirable effects. After correcting to a point I could create an appealing look, I realized it looked pretty close to how Profile 6 [Cine2] looked straight out of the camera. I re-filmed the outdoor scenes using Profile 6.

The bigger stylistic discovery is that I had kidded myself into thinking I’d be okay with whatever light the night provided. I was wrong.

I can’t see the point of creating a serious movie and not ensuring it looks good.

I re-filmed the outdoor scenes using as little support lighting as I could get away with and still feel good about the look.

I wanted to re-film the indoor shots and film a scene of Mara climbing into the window of her bedroom.

Also, I went way beyond my rules of keeping it quick and painless. Probably 6 hours to film (and re-film)  and another 20 to edit.

I decided I’d learned enough to do better on the next chapter.

I’m really happy with how this first chapter turned out from both a story and artistic standpoint. It took much longer than I hoped.  Can I meet the goals of my experiment on the next episode? What is next in Maras story? Chapter 2 is coming soon.


Mara: Chapter 2 Preview Images

Filmed on June 28, 2016
Lake Kachess Campground, WA