Everyday Humans - A Look at How We Filmed Matt Liggins

We had a busy 2016, and have no plans of slowing down this year – kicking off 2017 the right way with a film project that we’re excited to share with you.

You may have seen the short film competition we jumped on board with, Everyday Humans – we’ve made some episodes before (like this one with Isaac Katzoff) but once we started seeing the entries roll in we knew we had to get out and start filming again. Luckily our friend and photographer Joe Michael knew of a guy with some pretty big plans and a great idea for an art installation. A few weeks, many flat whites and chats later we were out shooting Matt Liggins and The Real Pyramid Schemer.

Matt’s a genuine guy with a big heart and an endlessly optimistic take on life to match. He’s an architect too, and an artist. His latest venture, the Real Pyramid Schemer, aimed to bring a little piece of happiness to people who may feel like they’re at the bottom of the heap by giving out good vibes and hand drawn thought bubbles.

Finding Our Feet with the Concept

While seemingly simple, as those of you who have dabbled in filmmaking know, showing-not-telling a concept can have its challenges. With Matt, we wanted to introduce everyone to the concept of the pyramid as if they’d seen it themselves, talked to Matt and received their own personalised thought bubble.

It took a few shoots and interviews to come to this conclusion. Seeing him in action during Auckland’s Artweek – you can see some of the shots from this in the second half of the episode – drove home what Matt wanted to get across to the public. Matt was interacting with people and we saw him working as part of the pyramid, and everyone was loving it. It took us seeing it in this environment to finally click on to the episode’s final direction.

Because the art piece is quite conceptual, we had to get creative with how we showed that, moving away from the more traditional documentary approach Everyday Humans episodes usually have. We also got our hands on some new gear – namely a DJI Ronin and Atomos Shogun flame – which meant we could shoot in raw and get creative with smooth motion video, a sentence which possibly made the filmmakers reading this salivate.

A Trip to Rural New Zealand

Armed with a more creative concept, and our shiny new filmmaking gear, we hit the road. The idea was to head to rural New Zealand where Matt spent most of his childhood, and take the pyramid through a bit of a journey. While we did initially script some things for Matt to say – mostly things he’d already said to us, it was important not to put words into his mouth – he represents the concept so well in his personality that we ended up scrapping it for the more natural recordings we took on the road. The artwork is comedic, but has some serious undertones and comes across in a genuine way which is why it’s been so successful, and it reflects Matt’s personality – we just had to capture it.

The opening shot was an important one, and set the tone for the rest of the short film. It was demonstrating the idea of someone picking up a thought someone else had left behind, planting a seed so that in the end it gives the viewer a more well-rounded idea of the concept.

Following on from the first shot, the beach scene where Matt made his morning coffee and dropped some serious pearls of wisdom puts a face to the name and immediately shows you who Matt is. The quick cuts reflect his quips, the bright colourful scene represents his personality.

Taking the pyramid, and Matt, on the road gave us the opportunity to set up scenes like this that were then mixed with more natural moments to get the final edit. Finding the natural moments were the easiest – the woman walking along the gravel road was doing just that when we came across her. Turns out she was basically walking her way around the planet and like every other person we met along the way, Matt couldn’t resist stopping to chat, learning her story and dishing out a thought bubble in return.

This happened constantly, and was a highlight of the trip – and meant plenty of material for us. The hardest part was choosing what made the final edit!

Revisiting an Old Human

While we were out and about we paid a visit to one of our humans from a past episode, Eden Worsfold. Eden’s farm was the perfect place to create some dream-like scenes that reflect Matt’s childhood memories. Matt told us that his interest in scale was developed as a kid driving his toy cars around some broccoli in his parent’s vege patch, as did his curiosity of how structures interact with nature. We knew we had to find an epic garden for some macro shots and Eden delivered.

We went to town using the Genie and Genie Mini for various panning shots, especially during these shots. It’s a trippy effect, particularly in macro, and amplifies the feeling of a dream-like memory. It was also an opportunity to put our gear through its paces and use it in new ways.

The Hard Stuff

Taking large amounts of gear on the road always presents challenges. 4am starts, setting up shots we’d never tried before in places we’d never seen, and taking the Slingshot to new heights were amongst these but ultimately it was worth it.

Creating the right feel with the music had its own challenges. The music for each of our videos is made specifically for us by another past Human, Dave Tomlinson. Dave lives in Amsterdam, making our Wipster subscription vital. We wanted the music to build with Matt’s story, not just repeat throughout, so sharing drafts and having open discussions was paramount. If you haven’t heard about Wipster yet, we recommend that you head over to their website and give it a look. Like most film projects, there’s always back and forth between different stakeholders and Wipster is a way that everyone can have their input on specific sections of the edit without needing to be in the same room. We don’t know what we’d do without it these days!

There’s the usual filmmaking challenges to overcome too – small budgets, having to think on our feet and change tact at a moment’s notice. 

It all worked out in the end though and we’re pretty happy with our final product. It really is a summary of Matt in under 4 minutes and we hope you enjoy watching as much as we did making it.

Feb 22, 2017