Besides the traffic, most people can agree that California has a stunning range of varied topography, especially in comparing the north and south. For Sean Slobodan, a Utah-based director and founder of Local.Studio, being outdoors has always inspired and driven him to create immersive videos that transport his viewers. We caught up with him recently to find out more about what inspired him to make “The Colors of California,” a video that showcases all the beauty that this majestic state has to offer.
What inspired you to make this video?
I spend a fair amount of time in California for work already, and I often just see a lot of city and get annoyed at the traffic. The state is so big and different from top to bottom that I liked the idea of putting something together that went way beyond the Hollywood experience that most people think of. The film was shot over the course of three separate trips and probably took a total of 3-4 weeks of shooting.
Why did you decide to call this video “The Color of California?”
Usually naming a project takes a while for me — but this one came pretty quickly. I can’t even remember what sparked it, but it felt right when it popped in my head. We were hiking out to a far hillside in San Francisco to capture the sunrise — it was unreal. Luckily, everyone was game to get up early enough, because we didn’t know where we wanted to shoot from. The weather just cooperated and we captured some really amazing stuff of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city. Just one of many.
What made this project so personally fulfilling?
I think any time you put considerable effort into a shot before you even know if it’ll work out, and then it comes together — it’s extremely satisfying. This project in particular provided a kind of freedom in a film that I don’t often get to feel and experience. We had made some plans before each leg of the trip, but overall we just shot what we saw and luckily a lot of it turned out.
What were some of your favorite locations you got to travel to while you were there?
Yosemite was mindblowing. That was my first time there, and we hit it at the perfect time, in early April. Crispy cold morning and way less people.
Which do you like better, Northern or Southern California?
They’re both so different. But growing up on the rainy West Coast of Canada, I’d probably have to go with Northern. More green, more trees, colder water, lots more nature. I love that stuff.
What was it like working with all the surfers in your video?
That dude was the chillest. Santa Cruz was also just full of awesome people. All different types. It was actually some nice elderly couple that tipped us off to the butterflies there. It was just awesome to talk with people from all over.
Did you face any challenges while filming?
Well, we had a couple of not-so-positive interactions with the Rangers in Yosemite. They didn’t like that we were filming out of the top of the car, and we got a ticket out of it. Logistics is always a challenge, too — lots of early mornings, late evenings, mapping out spots, weather. It was all there. Good stuff happens, though, when you’re out with other people you like being around, and who are just as dedicated. Leaving my family back home is always probably the hardest thing, though.
What type of gear did you use?
We shot everything on the RED Dragon. All audio was captured with either a Zoom recorder or, often, just on our phones. We’ve been shooting RED for a while. I think for me, it’s simply that I just want the best image I can get. I’m often outside, and shooting a lot of different light. Lots of run and gun, so I need as much latitude as possible in post-production.
Do you have any tips for getting the type of footage you got?
Call some buddies. Get in a car. And be okay with getting up early.
What’s your secret behind getting such smooth movement/panning shots?
Get a car with a sunroof.
When on location and shooting, do you have a specific narrative in mind you want to capture or do you just go with the flow and shoot as much as possible?
It’s a bit of both. I had an idea going into this project that I wanted to come away with. But the best and most productive trips have always been the ones that I’ve been willing to just see things as they come.
What were you hoping to accomplish after finishing the video?
I didn’t have any big plans for this piece. It just became important to me over time to finish and just put out there. I think that’s why I enjoyed the process so much — there was no external group waiting on it, or pushing a specific agenda. I was interested just to see what happened when I put it out and let it be what it was.
A Local.Studio Production
Directed by Sean Slobodan
Shot by Sean Slobodan, James Winegar, Jordan Overman, and Jac Scott>
Music “Airplane” by New Shack
Co-Produced by Override Films and Mystery Box
Massive thanks to Rachel Winegar, Matt Pagan, Scott Soens, Highsight Camera, Eric Robertson, Davis Ngarupe, Brad Kramer, the Park Rangers who pulled us over twice in Yosemite, and the beautiful wife Megan.