From the moment I heard the song “Feel Again” by OneRepublic, I wanted to create a film with it. The song demands smiles and movement, and I wanted to bring that visually to life.
What I didn’t expect was that it would take 6 months to complete the project.
The first and most obvious challenge was attaining the rights to the song. A project like this requires both the sync rights (by the song owners allowing us to put images to the song), and the master rights (by the record label that released that specific album).
After some research on BMI.com, I was able to track down the appropriate agencies for both. This took several weeks, going back and forth between large record label companies, waiting a week for an email that reads “We do not handle this song anymore. Try this person at this company.”
I almost gave up at this stage, but thankfully I kept trying, and eventually found the right combination of people.
The development of story was a tricky process. I had to have some sort of story overview when requesting the Sync and Master rights, but I didn’t want to put in a ton of development time just to be told “we don’t do licensing for that kind of project” (which I’ve been told before by The Civil Wars and The Lumineers).
So after tossing around a few ideas, I settled on the idea that it would involve a “lifeless senior center brought to life by interaction.” This provided enough of the story to complete the applications, but left us a lot of room to figure out the details.
Once the licensing looked promising (I had to pinch myself), I was able to spend serious time working through the story of the project. For this process, I enlisted a few trusted friends and film students. I wanted to allow the story to develop, and out of this several-weeks-long process came the story of a ‘numb’ teenager who has to sit at the senior center his mom works at every day after school.
Location scouting is never easy, especially when you need a full facility and as many extras as you can get. We planned a day of visiting retirement homes, noting the size, layout, and residents. Our first searches were for assisted living facilities (older residents), but quickly realized those gentle folks would not be able to get up out of their wheelchairs to dance (which the story required).
We decided to go with a 55+ Golfing community. We live in Florida so there are plenty to choose from. Amazingly, we had a connection with the manager of one place, but on first visit we were afraid the room was too big. Really, I was scared that either we couldn’t get enough people to help out, or that if we got enough, I wouldn’t know how to ‘handle’ that many extras.
We put out the word, visited one of their weekly bingo nights, and hoped we would get 30 people to show up. We had 55 actually show up! We were blown away.
The shoot took 4 hours, and for the first 2 hours the seniors enjoyed a free lunch and bingo games. Then it was time for the dancing! I didn’t realize until afterwards that I accidentally forced these great people to dance for 20 minutes straight, and they were very tired. Some of them tried to escape at one point, and we had to reassure them that we were almost finished.
One of my favorite moments of the project was the Viewing Party we threw at the senior center. We provided cupcakes and punch, set up a big screen, and enjoyed the film together. They loved it, and demanded a second showing. It was great to be with them as they watched themselves, laughing at each other and enjoying the moment.
I don’t know if “With You (I Feel Again)” will be a hit or not. What I do know is that it speaks a message that is close to my heart: all we are asked to do is to love the unloved. They are all around us, isolated, lonely, and shut off from life. If you see an opportunity, take it. Show interest. Love as Christ has loved us. And in doing so, even the most lifeless can feel again.
In my next post, I’ll write about my experience with two new pieces of equipment I used for shooting “With You”: The Canon C100 and the Defy G5.