A stroke of luck, John says, was buying a couple of Canon 5Ds. Having exchanged the RV for a Subaru Outback, which was new last year but has thus far logged some 50,000 miles travelling from their Catskill-area home to festivals and filming locations around the U.S., the 5Ds have been a blessing by allowing a stripped-down approach to filmmaking.
“We don’t have a lot of fancy equipment,” Toby says. “We almost always use natural lighting and often tend to shoot outside, incorporating the scenery as a major character into our films. We did a lot of shooting in Joshua Tree in the Mojave Desert for our third film, The Shoot. For two of our films, including Halfway to Zen, we shot around the Catskills in all these beautiful towns with their porches, flags and cracked sidewalks.”
Divide and Conquer
Trevor Crafts and Ellen Scherer Crafts are a dynamic power couple who produce under their company banner, Macrocosm. When they first met, it was purely a business relationship, producing corporate projects. She worked for HBO producing live boxing events for Bally’s and Caesar’s. He had started PGP Films, a company focused on branded entertainment and television production, as well as FullMind, an East Coast-based post-production company.
“We did corporate work, side by side, for many years and we worked really well together,” Ellen says. “We met again years later and started dating and then got married. Trevor always thought we should really work together again, but I wanted to work on the relationship first and make sure we were good and solid.”
“I knew what we could become if we joined forces on the business side,” Trevor adds. “It took about three years of convincing, but it was worth the wait.” Ellen hesitated to say yes because she was worried about it being “a 24/7 thing.”
“We had a daughter on the way when we started to work together, so he convinced me in a weak moment,” she laughs. “We’re parents; we’re partners in work and in life. Communication and boundaries are key to how we balance our lives. We also have complimentary skill sets. We’re both strong in certain areas and we let the other take over where the other is strongest, but we always use one another as a sounding board.”
“We spend a lot of time together,” says Trevor. “We talk about work, but we do it together. It’s our family business that reaches a wide audience.”
Is it any wonder then that a family-friendly element has crept into Macrocosm’s slate of projects? They recently made Street Gang, an origin story feature documentary based, in part, on the 2008 New York Times best-selling book by Michael Davis profiling the creation and history of Sesame Street.
“Ellen is involved in all the communication, going through archives with Sesame Workshop,” Trevor says. “I’m working on the financing side and with our director, Marilyn Agrelo.”
Prior to Street Gang, the two began working on Lantern City, which Trevor created with Matthew Daley as a graphic novel in 2011. They are now developing it into a television series. “It has more of an adult theme,” he says. “It’s a gritty, science-fiction, steampunk epic.”
“But the core of the comic book is about a man trying to get back to his family,” Ellen chimes in. “It’s about doing what’s right for people that you love, even if it means catastrophic change, both good and bad.”
Their other project, The Not-So-Secret Society, another comic book series from Boom Studios co-created by the Crafts, is about five adventurous 12-year olds who hang out together after school.
“We started working on that before we became parents,” says Trevor. “After, we decided to add in a lot of parent resources, working closely with educators to enhance the science and technology component and afford ways for parents to engage with their children.”
It’s clear that the relationships on family projects can become very intertwined. And there are definite advantages to having trustworthy collaborators on the set.
“I’m good at finding odd shots using the camera,” Zelda says of her role in the Adams’ productions. “I like to find shots that John and Toby don’t normally get. My sister Lulu and I are also the B.S. monitors. If the parents are doing something we don’t like, we just call it out, and keep it real.”
When asked about directing his dad in Stray Bullets, Jack laughs, “I’ve directed my dad since I was a very young child. I’ve always been bossy, but now, I’m considered directorial. My dad’s been in my short films for three or four years now, in front of and behind the camera. What’s funny is that I assume he knows what I want because we talk about it so much beforehand, so on set I may neglect to give him direction when I should, and that can result in him saying, ‘Well, I didn’t know what you wanted.’ But we’re usually on the same page.”
Like the Crafts working in many formats—graphic novels, documentaries, television—the Adamses also branch out, due to John Adams’ musical background and through music videos with their band, Kid Kalifornia (visit their site here).
If you’ve ever thought about diving into a film with your kin, but been afraid to, let these families provide a little inspiration. MM