HELP! There's a green screen in my living room!

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

On March 9, 2020, I was riding high. I had just wrapped up a busy job with a major financial company and my 1st quarter was turning out to be the best period for my 4-year-old business yet. It seemed like my young production company was turning toward a bright and busy future and as the weekend came I was planning on celebrating with my friends. I was also turning 34. As the week rolled on and the Coronavirus was coming into view in the Bay Area, upcoming clients began canceling one by one, starting with a live streaming conference the following week. It surprised me at first how quickly all my work was evaporating but by the end of the week with the economy closing down and shelter in place beginning it seemed inevitable that everything on the books would be canceled. 

Fast forward to fall and those first few weeks seem like a lifetime ago. As time has rolled on the whole world has learned to adapt to our current reality. My business and I have adapted as well. Before the pandemic, I was preparing to offer more live stream services along with my usual shooting and editing. As life during COVID has evolved I’ve leaned more heavily into live streaming as a way to keep my business afloat. I began offering live streaming with more of my event work and offering individualized consultation to clients trying to up their live stream game. One of my favorite recent live streaming jobs was the POWER SHIFT dance performances by Hope Mohr Dance. It’s been interesting adapting to filming in this new way but it’s felt so good to get back out there on set.

One thing the pandemic brought along with all the closures was extra time. That grinding halt gave me the flexibility to pursue some personal creative projects that had been marinating for some time. In late March I started work on a COVID-inspired short film for a small current affairs media company, Other Hand, that I'm a member of. As a group, we had been preparing to do a live stage show with some mixed media videos in the early summer but as with all things during COVID this to had to be re-thought and we had to get creative with how we wanted to put ourselves out there for our first event. At that time in the pandemic working with anyone else including actors wasn’t possible so I wrote, shot, edited, acted, and even did my own makeup to make this thing happen. I shot the whole short in my 1 bedroom apartment in Oakland. I had no idea how challenging this was going to be. I had an ambitious shot list with lots of vfx shots. I had to act in front of a green screen and since I was playing all the parts I had to really work out how I’d act as if the other character was in the scene with me. In reality, it was just me looking at a mark and talking to no one. My partner had just started working from home in our living room so a lot of the time we were sharing the same small space.  The green screen ruled our lives for a week or two.  Sometimes I would be so in character delivering a line that she would burst out laughing in the background which made me crack up laughing, ruining my take.  

Lighting for the short film was also a huge challenge. I have my own kit of LED lights and this mostly worked when I was filming in the kitchen. The green screen was a different beast.  In addition to it taking up our living room, now also serving as my partner’s office, I had to use all of my LED’s to light myself and rig up my tungstens to make sure the screen was lit evenly. With all these lights running my little apartment was reaching a scorching 95 degrees Fahrenheit. I’d be sweating in full makeup with only an hour to nail all of my lines because my partner had to get on a zoom call. It was something.

On May 28th, Other Hand launched our 1st episode as a group, “Soap and Mirrors”, a COVID-inspired web event on YouTube. Soap and Mirrors featured my short film along with other short pieces, all inspired by the pandemic. In the end, I’m super proud of the work that my group put together and grateful that I could create and include my short film. This project gave me a lot of experience and showed me that going forward I’d love to work on more narrative projects.

During the summer of protest in response to the police killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others I was honored to be asked by a group of local Public Defenders to film their protest supporting Black Lives Matter and reform of the criminal justice system. I filmed on the ground, documenting the protest during this very important time. In the past, I’ve worked with non-profit groups that assist local disenfranchised children, documentary films dealing with discrimination in the corporate workplace and the need for a comprehensive child care system.  This work is meaningful to me, so I was grateful that I could not only engage with the movement but also volunteer my professional skills during this time.

All in all the challenges of this year have taught me a lot. It’s reminded me of all the things that I love working on in production and given me time to reflect on myself and where I want to take my business going forward.

Learn more about Maze Productions

Check out Maze Productions on Vimeo and YouTube
 
 

Dad Is Mad - The Beginning | What's Next? Submission Cut from Jason Maze on Vimeo.

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About the Author

Jason Maze
Jason Maze
Jason Maze is a lifelong Californian with over 8 years of video production experience. He lives in Oakland California and works under the DBA Maze Productions. Jason has worked on numerous projects ranging from corporate, non-profit, documentary, event, and educational work. Whether Jason is working as a director, producer, or editor, he is focused on telling engaging stories that help people communicate. When he’s not editing or working behind the camera, he’s either creating electronic music with his synths and samplers or cooking tasty food at home.

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