Ben and I have been discussing the idea of him filming our iconic oil painting artist/hot rodder uncle Robert Williams for at least the past two years. What mainly prolonged the idea was the fact that Ben wanted to refine and hone his skill set before he mentioned it to Bob. This year has had more obstacles than ever before for everyone. Since Ben ended up having to do “at home college” this has allowed him more time to film and edit outside of his normal school schedule. Once our uncle “Bondo Bob” gave Ben the green light we quickly set up a time and day to do a “masked” social distanced production. We scouted locations and on a hot June day, we decided to knock out the driving shots and the interview in his garage and surrounding neighborhood. My main role is “camera car operator,” a second set of “art director eyes” and of course Ben’s assistant. The “masks” were an issue for communicating when we did the driving shots but we managed.
Ben had pre-written questions for the interview but uncle Bob made it a piece of cake for him as he has been interviewed so many times that he is a seasoned pro. In his very distinctive southern drawl, he rattled off all the answers in the way only he can tell a story.
While Ben completed the interview I wanted to get my aunt’s Von Dutch’ed Schwinn Stingray bike out of storage so we could use it in her Four Speed Films showcase Ben was planning in the very near future. Suzanne let me in their storage shed and I unpacked the neatly stored bike. We wrapped up the day by taking turns riding the Von Dutch’ed bike around their backyard while we all enjoyed iced coffee. We packed all our gear in the truck and discussed everything Ben would need to finish the project.
The next step was where the real work began for us. My task was to dig through all my old photos and find the vintage magazines we would need. I also gathered up my massive Robert Williams archive while Ben had to sort through all his raw footage. That turned out to be quite a task as I was not as organized as I had once been. We ended up buying a used scanner to digitize a bunch of images that would become overlays. Ben shot the rest of the ephemera to use as B-roll. It was a pretty lengthy and involved process going through my hoard of stuff, and also a great time to get more organized at the same time. Once all the B-roll was shot and the images scanned, Ben had about ninety percent of what he needed. Anything else would be handled as “holes” in the visual story became apparent. Over the next couple of weeks and 60 hours later Ben’s mini-documentary on his uncle's ’32 Ford roadster became much more elaborate than our initial intention.
Ben said he learned a bunch of new things about his uncle through the process of completing this mini-documentary. He also acquired some new skills in the way he handled filming the “archive” and objects for B-roll. One of the trickiest parts of this whole process was when it came time to actually showing uncle Bob the finished product due to the fact that he doesn’t own a computer. Consequently, Bob had to watch it on the small screen of an iPhone for the first time. I’m sure Ben would have preferred him to watch it on a TV or a big computer monitor. But in the end, the thing that was most important for Ben was getting a positive reaction from his uncle. After Bob viewed the film he called right away and told us how impressed and happy he was. Receiving uncle Bob’s approval was a very satisfying accomplishment for Ben.