THSC: SMALL MOMENTS

CASE STUDY

Texas Homeschool Coalition defends the rights of thousands of families across Texas and also provides support to families on their homeschooling journey.

THE PROBLEM

Early in 2020 THSC came to us with an idea for a narrative commercial celebrating the impact of homeschool moms in the lives of their children. As we talked, we discussed their branding for the campaign and the core audience for the video. A lot of THSC’s efforts involve legal advocacy for homeschool families, but they wanted this video to focus more on the support and encouragement side of what they offer.

John-Clay began brainstorming ideas and looking at films for references, and developed a story outline that would focus on the beauty of homeschooling amidst the messiness of motherhood. In a follow-up meeting with THSC, we shared the story outline along with the music we were considering for the film. They were as excited as we were!

Enter COVID-19. After getting everything scheduled, we sadly had to put the project on hold. We put the notebooks and planning in a folder for a later time.

As we neared the THSC Annual Gala in the fall of 2020, they decided to resurrect the “homeschooling mom” project! It was a little tighter schedule this time but we were ecstatic and agreed to make it work!

During the meeting, they shared that the theme for their 2020 Gala was “Undaunted” and how, because homeschooling had grown through COVID-19, they wanted to emphasize their heart for supporting new homeschool families on the journey.

We went back to our folders that had been safely tucked away and began preparing to film!

THE PROCESS

We wanted to cast a mom who could represent homeschool mothers, with a strong/dedicated spirit but also a motherly love. Our friend Stephanie Parker was a perfect fit, and she brought her two children to also act in the project. Her 11-year-old daughter would play the role of a studious yet joyful oldest daughter, while her 6-year-old son would play the carefree with a big heart middle child, while our 4-year-old son played the smiley and troublesome youngest child.

For the location, we rented an Airbnb in Dallas that had the rooms and general color theme that matched our artistic direction for the film. The bunkbeds, a welcoming living room, a large dining area that doubled for a school room, and a spacious kitchen gave us a framework for creating a family home that felt lived in. We had looked at multiple homes and were grateful to find an excited host that agreed to allow us to film!

 We then moved into designing the art elements for the scenes focusing on the complimentary colors of blue and yellow. One of the ways we helped focus the story on the central character of the mom was to choose a beautiful mustard yellow sweater for her to wear, which would stand out from the children’s blue outfits. For the daughter we chose a simple blue dress and a yellow flower in her hair to show her femininity and her girl-ish spirit. We had blue shirts and shorts for the boys.

For decor in the house, we used the existing blue/yellow elements, but added additional art pieces to help the home feel more “lived in.” To achieve this we loaded up boxes of books from our personal library, and borrowed school books from friends. These were used to fill the cabinets and counters to complete the “homeschool” and bedroom sets. Yellow pillows for the couches, blue bedspreads for the bunk beds, a blue mug for the mom, and yellow flowers for the table all added consistent pops of color. For the kitchen (which had a blue backsplash), we added wood and brown tones through the utensils and ingredients for baking cookies.

The themes of the rooms were crafted around the characters and their personalities. The dinosaur theme for the boys room spoke to their active, adventurous spirit. The girl’s bedroom with the pink tones were a hat-tip to her femininity, juxtaposed to the brothers. The kitchen with wood and glass displaying baking ingredients to show the mother’s heart to nourish her family, not just with food, but with words and life. For the homeschool scenes, we emphasized the diverse medley of school choices by covering the table with books in a variety of colors.

THE PROject

After several days of packing props and gear, we loaded up and headed to Dallas! We wanted to move quickly during filming the next day so we spent that evening doing camera tests, lighting preparations, and decorating the seven sets. After working late our team hit the sack eager for the big day.

“Heartbeats only happen, one at a time, one at a time.
You can’t rush a moment so don’t even try, don’t even try.”
Song Lyrics

One of the key additions to our team for this project was Hunter Starnes, who worked as the gaffer assisting with cinematography and lighting. We wanted the lighting to feel natural and warm. Using the windows as motivation, we placed lights outside the house to create the look of sunlight streaming in. The warmth spoke to the mom’s heart and desire for her home, and how safe and secure her children felt there. 

We also had Zack Meile and Benjamin Burnett on the team helping with lighting and dressing the sets, and their hard work made a big difference!

We did some simple stunts, including dropping the bowl of cookie dough, and spilling the cup juice on the planner. Actually breaking a glass bowl wasn’t the best idea in a rented AirBnB, so we took great care to make sure it was all done safely. These “disasters” in the story are part of emphasizing that amidst any of our best intentions and hard work none of us are able to hold everything together completely.

Even with professional actors, we like to create realistic situations that will allow them to be as comfortable as possible. 

As a director, John-Clay engaged the actors in conversation about what a typical day would look like for them at breakfast in the morning, doing school, and baking cookies. We then chose tasks and actions for each of the characters in each of these scenarios. 

The actors did a great job and their natural performances resulted in authentic moments. We’re especially grateful for Stephanie’s willingness to fully feel her role, showing a range of emotions to portray what a mom feels like on a day when things “just aren’t going right.”

On a technical side, we filmed with the Black Magic Pocket 4k with anamorphic lenses. We chose these tools to help the film feel comparable to other high-end commercials that are aimed at a similar demographic. These lenses created gorgeous images but also had some imperfections around the edges of the image, and we didn’t keep everything in perfectly crisp focus. Imperfections like this in the visuals spoke to the messy beauty in the home. 

After a challenging 2020, it was rewarding to work on such a beautiful project, with a team who poured their heart into every step of the process. We cleaned and packed and then headed home for some much needed sleep and cleaning the gear!

In post-production, we ended up rethinking our original plan for the music track and ultimately found a wonderful song by JJ Heller “Big Love, Small Moments” that was a perfect fit. In the editing we unfortunately couldn’t keep all the great moments we filmed and had to cut a few to make sure each scene was focused on creating a strong ending. Color grading and subtle sound design (if you listen closely) helped tie it all together into a finished piece…that the client loved!

Response

We were so grateful for the opportunity to work with THSC and there’s nothing that makes us happier than happy clients.

“Wow. Wow. Wow. I love this so much! Thank you John-Clay, Sarah, and team for all that you put into this. Really excited to share this at Gala! :)” – Haley, Marketing Associate

“This is truly beautiful. We love it. All of y’all’s moving decor and acting and directing paid off.
Well done.” – Stephanie, Executive Director

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2019 Year In Review

2019 Year In Review

2019 was a full year with multiple promotional film projects. We love organizations who are making a difference and are honored that they let us tell their story. In addition to these projects, John-Clay worked as an editor and colorist on a variety of projects, including a TV show episode. Here’s a look back at some highlights from 2019!

Ellerslie – Discover Majesty

Ellerslie – Discover Majesty

Eric and Leslie Ludy lead the Ellerslie Discipleship program at their campus in Windsor, CO. Their training focuses on the Gospel – that it is real and can transform a man or woman, who can then impact the world for Jesus Christ.