In the face of economic and creative adversities, this crazy year has wrought upon the industry, some filmmakers (and their production partners and vendors) are finding ways to thrive and flourish. One such pair of filmmakers is the dynamic environmental filmmaking duo of Josh and Rebecca Tickell.
The Sundance-winning, Cannes Festival premiering duo have fourteen films in the environmental space. Their most recent venture is “Kiss the Ground,” a Woody Harrelson-narrated documentary about the power of regenerative farming. This inspirational film illustrates practical ways farmers can recycle CO2 back into the soil and create systems that yield cleaner air, richer soil, healthier farm animals, and more nutrient-dense foods. In an often dim and depressing world, this is a film that is guaranteed to fill you with hope and inspiration.
Perhaps as amazing and inspiring as the topic of the film is the story behind the film’s amazing journey to Netflix.
Josh was recently on a Zoom panel with Other World Computing CEO Larry O’Connor and We Make Movies CEO Sam Mestman talking about the process of delivering an indie film to the world’s most coveted streamer. “Netflix sets the standard for all the OTT delivery requirements,” Josh shared. “And we delivered a 4K indie film in 444 shot on RED Epic’s and Mysterium cameras.”
The start of their post-production process was less than ideal for editing over 300 hours of 4K footage. “When we started post on this film, we were using Mac ‘cheese graters’ and eSATA drives.” (He’s referring to the old Mac G5 towers, the front of which look like cheese graters).
But eventually, Josh’s team hit some serious post-production snags. “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of speed and throughput when editing and color grading 4K 444 footage. At one point in the process, it looked like we were going to be dead in the water.”
That is around the point when OWC stepped up to the plate. “We had already been using OWC hardware and RAM for years. So when Larry approached us about getting involved, the time couldn’t have been more perfect.”
OWC has been a leader in providing hardware and RAM that breathes second, third, and even fourth “lives” into old Mac hardware. The environmental and soil regenerative message of “Kiss the Ground” was right in line with how the OWC brand approaches technology and business. Larry comments. “We’ve always believed in maximizing resources. It started with how we engage technology and helping people get more from the technology they already had. And that absolutely applied to how we run our business. From our LEED Platinum-certified building to the products we produce to help filmmakers like Josh and Rebecca do the most with the least funds.”
OWC supplied their 10GB Jupiter Callisto systems, and it made a world of difference. “Very few drives are able to do true 4K 444 footage at the speed you need. Sometimes you believe in a higher force, even if you’re a tech guy. Larry and OWC came at the right movement.”
Josh’s post-production team included three full-time editors cutting on Avid Media Composer, a full-time colorist on Resolve, and a pro sound engineer using Pro Tools. “The ecosystem of Resolve, Avid, and ProTools is a happy triangle. Going outside that can be a pain. But within that, so long as you know where to put things, it’s great.”
Despite the popularity of HDR (high dynamic range), he advises against it. “Unless you’re a tremendously massive film, it’s just way too cost and time prohibitive. To properly calibrate an HDR film for Netflix, you need to do it on a screen, and I think just the screen alone costs $30,000. Never mind all the gear you need to work on that screen. And grading in HDR was going to add $100,000 and two months of time. For what? So the six people who have the correct set up at home can watch it? 4K, on the other hand, will make a real difference in the viewing experience. And the user won’t have to do anything special. It’ll just show up for them.”
Other tidbits of information he gives:
- Netflix uses its third-party intermediaries to do captioning and creating the IMF files needed for final delivery. (Photochem did the work on “Kiss the Ground.”)
- Netflix does all the language translations themselves, and they are very good at it. Josh and his team actually purchased the languages back from Netflix.
- If you get into a delivery negotiation with Netflix, get clear on what your delivery format is. Budget accordingly if you’re planning for a 4K delivery. If you’re an acquisition by Netflix, they don’t pay you any additional money for 4K. It’s not required. If you do it, it’s more a point of pride.
The response to the film has been very positive. They are currently developing two very special distribution programs. In one, they are partnering with the National Science Association to put the film in 100,000 schools for free. The second program is what they affectionately call the “Film on the Farm” series. “We’re working with Interfaith Power and Light to get it out. We have gone from dreams of theaters to dreams of houses of worship, schools, and barns. These wonderful organizations have become our new AMC and our new Regals.”
Josh has no hesitation in proclaiming that this film would not have been completed without the hardware and customer service contributions of OWC. “We’ve always created technology to support this kind of workflow,” says O’Connor. “What independent filmmakers can do today is absolutely, unbelievably incredible. You have the opportunity to be creative and go after other avenues. That’s where all the energy should go. Being creative in your actual art and how you share your art. We’re glad to have the right solutions to be a part of that.”
You can watch the full hour+ long panel below: