Today I get to debut a very special film on Shane and Lydia. An untold story that has been 5 years in the making. It’s not everyday you get to create a film on an ASC cinematographer, so let me share the backstory on how the heck I got the opportunity to make this film.
I’m sure I knew who Shane Hurlbut, ASC was way before he knew who I was. I’d seen him at different conferences, I’d heard him speak. But the first time I really met Shane was at Sundance.
That’s where it all began.
I’d been flown out by Canon to speak as his opening act; we were both going to have an hour to talk to a group of filmmakers. I was going to talk about storytelling with DSLR’s as it related to our weddings and first documentary. Shane was going to be showing Act of Valor and, you know, his mega budget Hollywood films. I knew he had a really powerful presentation style that could draw a big crowd and really pull people in. I knew the presence and the energy that would be following me. And I was scared shitless.
It wasn’t just the prospect of presenting at Sundance— though that was certainly part of it. I also felt this enormous pressure to not let him down, to not bore the crowd, and to get them in a good place for his talk. My biggest fear was that Shane would walk out after me and go ‘dude, they all left!’
I survived…even though I don’t really remember much about my talk. But then Shane got up and did his thing: rolling around on the floor, showing camera moves. He has this incredible charisma that had people laughing, learning, and wanting to do more.
At that point, I’d hoped that maybe we’d get a chance to hang out and talk a little bit. I mean, we were presenting together, so it seemed within the realm of possibility. Then he invited me to dinner with him and his wife, Lydia, and the nerves kicked back in.
We spent a couple hours just talking about how we’d gotten to where we were, and I remember feeling really moved by their connection, and by how open and transparent Shane was about his journey. It felt so genuine and real: him, there at the table, sharing his story and not trying to be something he wasn’t. He was just a dude that really gave a shit about pushing the boundaries every single time.
That stuck with me.
That was the moment when I thought: Oh man, it would be so great to make a film on his story.
Because we were the documentary people, it made sense that we could create a short one on Shane and Lydia. But there was no way I had the guts to ask them right then. There was no way I could make the move on our first date.
I knew that we had to get to know them better. We had to demonstrate to them something that would give them a reason to say yes.
Our first opportunity came when Shane was going on tour and we had the chance to do a blog post on him. It was something we wanted to do exceptionally well as a way of showing his team what we could do. For us, that meant doing everything we could to create a genuine connection and an amazing experience. It meant delivering a story that made him feel heard on a different level.
So we did an hour-long interview, spent a lot of time building up the structure of the story, and coming up with four key life lessons that had taken Shane from farm boy to Hollywood DP.
The response to the post was great, with nearly 700 shares, but more than that, it was the email we got from Shane and Lydia saying how touched they were, and how moved they were by the experience.
It was a story that felt so much bigger than a blog post. And I didn’t just want to tell it– I felt that we needed to.
In interviewing Shane, what became abundantly clear was his incredible sense of adventure. Hearing about the places he’d been and the situations he’d found himself in, Shane has experienced so many things, and hearing him talk about the way he made films, about his lifestyle and the opportunities he’s had… I knew that this needed to be a short film.
And so we finally popped the question. We told them that we have this original series we are developing–The Remarkable Ones–and that we wanted to do an episode on Shane.
Each episode of our series follows the personal journey, in an intimate and authentic way, of one of the most remarkable people from around the world.
We sent them links to some of our pilot episodes; stories like Dave Jacka, a quadriplegic man who spent 9 years modifying an aircraft so he could fly across Australia all by himself, among others.
Shane and Lydia said yes. They were both pumped to have their story told, and the relationship we’d built made them feel comfortable that we’d bring the same passion and intensity to tell their story as they demonstrate in everything they do at Hurlbut Visuals.
We took them through the Muse Storytelling process: spending time researching and listening to develop the story, presenting them with story key words, and then moving onto storyboards.
The actual shoot was an amazing experience. To have local people in LA come out and help, to be in Shane and Lydia’s home– to have Shane cook his famous tater tots for us for lunch, and then going up into his movie theater and seeing the walls lined with movie posters that we’ve all seen in theaters, and seeing them all signed by so many incredible stars… it all had a very special opportunity and responsibility to it.
And so today, I couldn’t be more excited to debut our short film on Shane and Lydia’s personal journey from farm boy to Hollywood cinematographer, and what they’ve learned along the way.