Kessler University (KU): Tell me a little about yourself.
Dean Brennan (DB): I was born and raised in Michigan’s lower peninsula, which for anyone who is not from Michigan, is the mitten-shaped portion of the state, and probably the only part of Michigan you thought existed. No offense, Yoopers. Apparently I have a thing for easily recognizable states, but the real driving force behind my move from Michigan to Texas, was my love for water. Now at this point, anyone not from Texas is probably extremely confused. Allow me to explain. Michigan is known for being surrounded by and containing an abundance of beautiful lakes, and although Texas only has one or two naturally formed lakes, it is also home to some of the most beautiful rivers I’ve ever seen. No really, I swear. Specifically the San Marcos River- which inspired both the film I am collaborating on, Yakona, and my move to San Marcos, TX.
My fascination with story-telling, along with my inherent geekdom and love of all things technology, is what sparked my desire to explore filmmaking. I’ve never been satisfied with with accepting things as I first see them. I’ve always found myself wanting to know more. I want to know how things came to be and why. I want to know everything there ever was to ever know, about anything pertaining to those things. All of it. Everything. I want to know it all.
Needless to say, when I first saw pictures of the San Marcos River, I had to know more. Fast forward five years, and I’m living minutes away from the river and collaborating on a film that explores its nooks and crannies, including its history and relationship with the world around it.
KU: Would love to know more about your project. It seems that it is a subject you are very passionate about.
DB: If you have ever sat at the foot of a grand parent in awe of how different the world they speak of sounds from the world you see around you, then you can imagine the infinite number of stories a river, said to be the oldest most continually inhabited place in North America, has to tell.
Yakona, explores just that. The film is an abstract journey, in the style of Pure Cinema, that allows the San Marcos River to tell its own story. As humans, we are egocentric beings, and can only experience the world through our own perspectives. We can speak of how beautiful the river is, or how refreshing its cool waters are, but still, we would only be talking about the river in relation to ourselves. That doesn’t seem fair. The river is so much more than our own relationships with it. The river has seen generation after generation, sustaining and surviving, and its infinite number of stories deserve to be told. What makes Yakona so unique, is that it allows the river to speak for itself.
The filmmakers involved, myself, Anlo Sepulveda and Paul Collins, share a deep appreciation for the river and hope to celebrate it by sharing its story with others.
KU: There are some extremely unique shots in your film. How did you approach the project / shots?
DB: Most underwater shots seen on television or in films, move with the diver or submarine. We approached this differently. In order to give viewers the sensation of seeing through the eyes of the river, we used many slow moving and static shots. Rather than moving through the water, the camera is locked off or moving slowly. The idea behind this technique is to present the river as the one constant, while everything else changes around it.
When shooting the land above the water, in order to maintain the river’s perspective, we use more camera movement. We want to portray the land and everything on it, as if the water is viewing it while passing by.
Additionally, to stay true to the perspective of the river, all of the shots in Yakona are shot in slow motion, or 60fps. In doing so, the viewer is able to experience and examine the river in a way they would not normally see it. Slowing the footage down creates a dreamlike quality, making the river seem like a whole new world.
KU: What was it like using Kessler gear on your project? Why Kessler?
DB: We were looking for “Innovative Tools for Filmmakers” and, what do ya know? Apparently, Kessler read our minds. We were looking for durability, because when working in water and sand, equipment wears at a more rapid rate than it would in a studio. We needed affordable gear. Our budget, especially in the beginning, did not give us room for extravagant spending. We also needed something that was reliable and user-friendly. Like I said, we never know what shots will present themselves, and we need to be able to set up the gear quickly and know that it will preform every time. After researching and testing various options, Kessler seemed like the obvious choice. Our Kessler equipment was the perfect fit for our needs and we could not be happier with it. I especially like the Kessler Pocket Dolly and the motion control system. It is very easy to setup, even in the dark, and it produces every-time. I also love the K-Pod tripod system. It is extremely durable and one of the easiest tripods I have ever used, even under water, despite having no gils.
KU: What can we expect next from you?
DB: First, Alno, Paul and I are concentrating on finishing up Yakona for an early 2013 release. I am really excited to finish up the project and get it out there for people to enjoy. After that, I have not a clue. It will probably involve getting out a map, looking for more oddly shaped states to explore and finding new stories to tell. Or maybe I’ll get crazy and explore a rectangular state. Only time will tell. In the meantime, if you’re just dying to keep tabs on me, follow me @deancbrennan. For updates on the film, check out www.Yakona.org.