Joshua Meyers (“The Pursuit”) Geeking Out On Long-Form Doc Workflow

OWC Radio Host, Cirina Catania talks workflow and story for the Netflix original feature documentary, “The Pursuit,” with Josh Meyers, the head of post-production and co-founder of Emergent Order.

Founded in 2011, Emergent Order is an independent studio that develops and produces films and multiplatform content.

Most recently, Josh was the lead editor on the feature documentary, “The Pursuit,” a four-year journey chronicling the life of economist, musician, and president of The American Enterprise Institute, Arthur Brooks. It was featured at the Dallas and Cleveland film festivals and can now be seen on Netflix.

Josh has worked in the film and broadcast industry for 20 years, cutting his teeth on network promos, music videos and commercials at Nickelodeon, WWE, UFC, SpikeTV and the Paramount Network.

His company’s first feature film, “At the Fork,” premiered at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival where it was acquired by Samuel Goldwyn Films.

For more information on Josh and his partner, John Papola, visit emergentorder.com

For more about our host, filmmaker, tech maven and co-founder of the Sundance Film Festival, Cirina Catania, visit cirinacatania.com.

If you enjoy our podcast, please subscribe and tell all your friends about us! We love our listeners. And, if you have ideas for segments, write to OWCRadio@catania.us. Cirina is always up for new ideas!


This Episode

  • 00:08 – Cirina introduces Josh Meyers, the head of post-production and co-founder of Emergent Order.
  • 06:36 – Josh talks about his experience in creating the documentary film, The Pursuit.
  • 10:43 – Josh shares how they were surprised Arthur Brooks would play the French horn on stage while filming the movie.
  • 16:35 – Is the documentary film, The Pursuit, scripted?
  • 19:49 – Josh explains how they dealt with color spaces, even though they used multiple cameras.
  • 26:22 – Josh’s favorite hardware from OWC that helps his machine run faster.
  • 31:41 – Josh elaborates on how they finance and get funding in making their projects.
  • 36:11 – Josh describes what’s in his workstation, the software, and the hardware he uses.
  • 43:27 – Josh explains how useful the X2Pro plugin was in sweetening The Pursuit’s audio.
  • 53:27 – Visit Emergent Order’s website, emergentorder.com, to check out the fantastic stories they produced.

Jump to Links and Resources


Transcript

This is Cirina Catania with OWC Radio. Joshua Meyers is the head of the post-production and also the co-founder of Emergent Order. And we saw each other recently at the Creative Summit in Cupertino, where he gave a presentation about the workflow on a movie called The Pursuit. Hi, Josh, how are you today?

I’m doing great, Cirina. How are you?

I’m wonderful. We just have to talk about this because this was an incredible production. So can you tell people who are listening? What is The Pursuit, who was in it, and what was it about? 

Sure. The Pursuit is a feature documentary, and it’s based on the writings and talks of Arthur Brooks. He’s an economist and researcher, and his work is really interesting. It ranges from global poverty, the dignity that comes from work, and the pursuit of happiness. So we tried to cram all of those themes into one film. And that’s one of the reasons it was a three-year process from start to finish. He’s got a lot of interesting and dense themes, and we went around the country and around the world. In the end, I really think we ended up with this interesting video essay that encapsulates the best of his thoughts and research. And hopefully, people are getting something out of it. It’s up on Netflix now, and it had a pretty decent Film Festival run, and hopefully, more people check it out.

I think it’s awesome that you’re the co-founder of the company. So even though you’re in charge of post-production, do you also get involved from the very beginning on the creative side and the scripting, and how does all of that work between you and your partners?

Yes. I mean, it’s really great because we all have very different focuses on our careers. My co-founder, John Papola, is a great director, and the CEO here, my other co-founder, Lisa Versaci, she’s a great producer, and my background is mostly in post-production and editing. So we actually form a great unit in terms of looking at a project and thinking about it from all those different angles right from the beginning. So we have all that capability in house. And I just think we really complement each other. We’ve all been working together for a long time, and John has been my best friend since fifth grade, so really long time of working together, actually doing school projects and videos in high school all the way through working at broadcast channels working at Spike TV together and Nickelodeon and we sort of almost share a brain at this point. So we’re all involved in the creative process right from the beginning in our different capabilities. It’s very helpful to have me as the editor in at the beginning, because it’s just like, the process once we get the footage in goes a lot “faster.” I know what we’re trying to get out of it, so I don’t necessarily need people to sit with me 24/7. You can just dump a bunch of footage on me. And I can pull out a story because I already know what we’re trying to do.

It's very helpful to have an excellent editor who understands what they’re trying to get out of the film. Select someone who doesn’t necessarily need people to sit with them 24/7. Click To Tweet

That’s awesome. It’s wonderful to work with people that you know that well. You guys are in Austin, right?

Yeah, we’re in Austin. We actually made a move down here about, it’s gonna be nine years ago., and it feels like yesterday. If you told me I would be down here almost a decade, before we moved here, I would have said you were crazy because we were all New Yorkers living in New York and I kind of saw myself there forever. And then just ready for a lifestyle change and ready to open our business. And we came down here.

Why Austin? I mean, I’m hearing amazing things about Austin right now.

Well, Austin is really growing. And when we looked around here in 2011, we were interested in lifestyle change, a smaller city than New York was exciting. Shorter commute, the weather’s generally better, there’s really no snow down here.

And beautiful homes for a lot less money.

Yes, that’s true, although that’s becoming less true as everybody from New York and California continues to move here, that’s a good thing because it’s like Apple is just opening a new campus here and it’s definitely on the move. And before we move down here, it’s a creative hub, and people do move here, there’s an Austin Studios, Richard Linklater makes all those movies here, Robert Rodriguez, there’s actually a lot of animation studios here, which is interesting. I think when we looked around, we saw a lot of people moving here for similar reasons. And we’ve been able to draw on the local talent quite a bit for our projects. And it’s been great.

So there are good crews there as well?

Yeah, really good crews. You know crews kind of ebb and flow in the States when you talk about where the film incentives are. When we first moved down here, I think three or four different TV shows were shooting at once. Friday Night Lights were shooting down here, a bunch I can’t even remember, but they sort of all moved to Louisiana once the film incentive dried up. So that made the crews a little thinner in terms of TV and narrative, but the documentary crews and editors down here are very strong. It’s a very deep talent roster, and I was surprised by that. And it just so happens that’s what we do the most of.

It’s interesting. You said that you did work on The Pursuit for three years, isn’t it interesting when you’re doing a documentary? It’s not like a scripted film where you can actually schedule the time, exactly how long it’s going to take you to shoot, you know your locations, you have your script with a documentary, and I get this all the time people are asking me, “When’s your film gonna be finished?” and I keep saying, “Well, this is a real living person. And the story kind of ebbs and flows, and it can completely change.” Did you experience that with Arthur? What was your approach in the beginning creatively? And did that change? What did you want when you first started, and how did it change?

Well, like you mentioned before in the narrative. And my background is in commercials, mostly, so you’re talking like 30 seconds before I left Spike, we were doing 15 and 10 seconds because your airtime was eroding, you had to get more ad sales to the bigger companies, so station IDs were less than less. So my schedules were more like, I can get this done in three to four days, those are long schedules back when I was at the broadcast networks was like two weeks, that’s really long for a spot. So this was an adjustment, and I think we’ve sort of worked up to doing a documentary feature. We did short pieces, 5 to 10 minutes, we did a lot of those for nonprofits. And it took a while till we felt like we had the experience level required to take on a documentary feature. And it is something. It is something because you have this soup of stuff. Then you start with this outline, and it’s a good outline, it’s like “Boy, I would like to watch that movie.” And we executed that outline to the best of our ability, and it just wasn’t right. And I think we had a lot of thoughts. So it’s like Arthur is an author, and he speaks a lot like he has TED Talks, has Aspen Ideas Festival, and speaks 250 times a year.

Wow. Really?

Seriously. So we put him on camera, and we didn’t think that was actually going to be a big deal, because it’s like we would go to these countries, and you sort of needed a guide through it, or you were just making this sort of survey film that’s unmoored from any sort of personal storytelling. We’re trying to find a thread to connect. So we kept putting Arthur in the movie more and more, and he was surprised by that. And I think it was very hard for him to offer feedback, as he became more and more entrenched in the film. And there’s sort of a whole story where it tells his backstory, it shows his family, he’s very vulnerable. And honestly, the thing he hated the most, Arthur was a professional French horn player in, I think the 80s or 90s, in Barcelona, Spain. We brought him back to that stage and gave him a French horn in 2016. And he played something, and it sounded great to me. It’s like he picked it up for the first time in 20 years and played, like a concierto or something. That made him so crazy because he hit a few bad notes. We re-edited that scene more than I think any scene in the movie, to the point where we were like, “Should we just cut it?” because he’s so bothered by it, and he’s so embarrassed for people to see it. And I’m telling you, you would watch it and be like, “he sounds great to me.”

Right.

So these were the kind of challenges we face that really took me by surprise because I just thought it was a really cute, nice scene between him and his wife. And to him, it was like a nightmare like he was worried about it. To be fair, I think some of his concerns were correct because he wanted to make sure his message about people living in poverty and people trying to pursue their happiness here and abroad was the main message. He did not want to make some sort of vanity project where he’s the star. So that was his concern, and I understood that, but it’s this balance because without him in it, it was these very disconnected episodes that were not jiving together. And I really think that connective tissue is what took so long, we spent two years on that. Not continuous, but we kept reshooting it, we shot interviews with him, sit down interviews with him four times. We shot a new speech he gave on stage, and it’s like we did a rehearsed speech, all these things. But yes, it was worth it because I think you just needed him, and that element could not be cut out.

We need companies that have a sense of an important mission and know how to relay that to the public so that it’s easy to digest and interesting.

Of course, it’s his story, and the music comes from his soul, it comes from his heart. Have you done a lot of recordings of live music? Had the team done that before? Because that’s a whole different physical setup, then say a normal interview. So when you’re recording, the music was that hard to do as well, for you?

We don’t have a lot of that in our background. I might be overstating what we did. He was on stage alone in the theater, and we handed him a French horn, and it was a surprise to him. I don’t think it necessarily plays that way. In the film, we’ve had people say, “Boy, that’s really staged,” and we’re like, “No, he really didn’t know.” Then he plays, and we have our cinematographer, sort of walking around, Tim, and walking forward, and there’s a boom recording him, and he’s mic’d. But it’s really just like him in an empty concert theater. There were challenges because there was a lot of audio editing to be done later because he wanted us to actually clean up any bad notes. So that was a real challenge, and also, because he’s got such a musical background, he wanted to be super involved in the scoring of this film. He had notes for the composer that went beyond our knowledge, and so we put him in direct touch with the composer, which I’m sure was not the composer’s favorite time. Not only down to the instrument, but down to the chord, and it’s like, it should move minor here, and it’s like, “Oh, wow. Okay, well, you have Final Cut, Arthur, so have at it.”

I know it’s really hard for you guys and for the composer in his defense a tiny bit, but I can understand, moving from major to minor and switching the chords. Those are important beats in the storyline, but it would be hard for him to know what you were planning in terms of the story. I mean, he was scoring this after you’d cut it, right?

Correct. 

I can see both sides of that. This is awesome. How many interviews did you do for this film? 

About 60 characters and expert interviews overall. What’s interesting is looking back in retrospect, a lot of the expert interviews were left on the cutting room floor for a whole bunch of different reasons. One is that halfway through the movie, as I said, we had that beautiful outline, and that changed quite a bit halfway through. And a lot of the experts kind of spoke to that other outline. So we weren’t going to go back and re-interview everybody. Everybody’s across the world and across the country, so it’s like you get what you get, and hopefully, you can retrofit some of this stuff, and it comes across like it was about the final intention of the movie.

It’s funny, and I laugh at people who say that documentaries are unscripted. Now you were editing it, and you were involved in the production. So did you actually work from a written script that came together after you said, “Okay, this is a wrap, we’re done. We’re going to start cutting.” Did you work from a script? How did you piece together the story creatively on your end?

We got everything transcribed. There was a fairly detailed outline, which had basically like a scene and interview order. So I at least had like that baseline, but then you just had to watch everything. And we had a great story producer, Spencer, and he went through as well. And it’s sort of a divide and conquer. I was on it the whole time, but at various times, I had other editors coming into help with individual scenes, just so we could make more progress. I’d be on one scene, they would take another scene, and everybody would be able to fully absorb all the material. There were times when sort of a full paper cut was assembled for a specific scene, Arthur in particular can be very wordy. A lot of times, John, the director, would go in and assemble a paper cut because we’re talking about these concepts that maybe I don’t fully understand. And it’s like maybe a test audience says, “Boy, you didn’t really give me enough there to get it,” so you have to put in more interviews than you thought you had to, because you’re trying to be concise, but it’s like, well, you got to give me an example of what he’s talking about here. I don’t really get it, or it’s flying by. I realized that I don’t know why, but I always notice it in test screenings in theaters, when things are flying by, and maybe it’s because it’s so big.

Let’s go ahead and start with the workflow from soup to nuts. What cameras were you using, and how did that affect what you did in post? And was sound ever a problem? Can you talk to me about the marriage between what was going on in production and then the bridge to post and how you managed all of that?

Sure, just let me know if you need more or less detail on some of the stuff.

You can geek out as much as you want. I mean, people who listen to this want to know, and I think anything you can tell them about what worked, what didn’t work, how you did it, people love that and it will help them. One of the main reasons I wanted to do this is to share my friend’s creativity with the world and help others who want to get better at what they’re doing. So you are able to do both of those.

Thank you. I hope I can live up to that.

There you go.

We use a whole bunch of different cameras. We shot a lot of our interviews on the RED Dragon, which we owned at the time since we have sold that camera. We have three Sony FS7s that I would say did the lion’s share of the shooting on this project. Once the RED was out of our lives, we shot a lot of the interviews on the FS7, and honestly, they blend well together with the RED Dragon.

I was gonna ask the color space between the two, was that a problem?

No, I mean, where it is a problem if the next camera that we shot with the Sony a7S, and that was a lot of our walking shots in India. We’re on a7S on the Ronin rig, so you do get that nice, small footprint with the size of that rig and the camera, but its color spaces are not as good as those of those other cameras. The problem is you just can’t get the rig we had. You just couldn’t get a bigger camera on the rig. And especially when you’re talking about doing a long walking shoot, you need to maximize the weight you’re carrying, because your wrists hurt very badly you’re wearing a vest, but it’s hurting your spine. So that camera has some problems, it’s an 8-bit codec, getting it to match the Sony FS7 is easier than the RED, they have a bit of the same color science on there. But there’s difficulty in the low light, and you just don’t have as much latitude there. But I think overall it projects fine on to the big screen. We were shooting 4K on all these cameras. We also used a DJI Phantom Drone for a lot of the overhead establishing shots, some of the driving shots in the movie. So basically, right there, you have four codecs that have to live together. So we employed a proxy workflow in our project, we used Final Cut X, but we rendered our proxies outside of the software. Some had lookup tables baked in, some did not, it depended whether we used REDCINE or Sony Catalyst, and then just some were just done with a compressor and then a lookup table added in Final Cut. 

Do you like baked-in LUTs, or do you prefer to do them in a post? And where are you working in Resolve for color too, I’m curious about that?

Well, the Resolve question, we finished the movie in Resolve. So basically, think of it as an offline-online workflow where Final Cut X is your offline edit program with proxies, and then you reconnect to your camera media in Resolve. We’re talking about baked in lookup tables for our proxy workflow. We arrive at a good look for our RED interviews, there might be a little more than has to be done, but we don’t like to just drop everything in S-Log. Although we definitely do both, it just depends. I think the REDCINE stuff, the color in there, and the lookup tables are really easy to use. So I think we just baked them in there. But then the other stuff was lookup tables used in the edit, and I think we use the Sony Cine gamma 3. Like you want this stuff to look really good and not distracting, but you don’t want to waste a ton of time on color correction in this sort of offline edit.

No, I agree. I totally agree. I think there are some new color spaces that are available with the Sony a7s that make it more filmic or more easily compatible with the other more cinematic cameras, so that’s good. Now when you started the film, though, you weren’t shooting in 4K in the beginning or were you? 

Yes. Always 4k. We shot our previous feature doc in 4K as well. 

4K videos definitely cost a lot of money to make but if you’re aiming to create the best quality film, this is the way to go. Click To Tweet

Oh, show off!

I know. I’m definitely at odds with that because I really want the most beautiful film we can create, but I’m also the post-production guy, and I’m like, that’s gonna cost a lot of money. 

And the files are huge, right? How much data did you end up with, after three years, 60 interviews, and at least four of them were two hours each from what you’re telling me. So how much media did you end up with that you were juggling?

I mean, just the camera media was about 20-22TB, so that’s the interviews and B-roll. Then we had an additional 2-3TB of archival in stock. And then from there, you also have to render all your proxies, which aren’t huge, but I think that was an additional, I want to say maybe 5TB. So it’s a big footprint on your storage, we have an editshare server about 128TB, I think 100 of that is actually usable, so you have that parked in there. And we were finishing the previous documentary when we started shooting this one, so it really got to be sort of a traffic jam in terms of storage.

Yeah, I understand that. Wow. So what are you going to do going forward? You’re not gonna have enough space?

Well, that’s always that is always the problem. For about two days, we seriously discussed shooting our next doc in 6K or 8K. But we are just not ready for that for a number of reasons. I just don’t think we’re prepared for that, storage wise. We give ourselves a lot of flexibility because people can pitch in, we have a bunch of iMac Pros, but then the 5K Retina iMacs are great at working with this stuff too. So we want to make sure all of our current computers can deal with this footage once you get it to the proxy workflow, even the laptops can deal with it. So that’s a really nice feature working in the lower resolution.

Yeah, but you still need space. And when you’re going to finishing if you’re going to do it in house, it’s a problem. You’re in Austin, walk over to OWC, and take a look at what they have because I think they can help you. And you know we’re sponsored by OWC, so I’m allowed to say that.

Can I plug something for OWC? At the Summit, I bought the Express 4M2, and I loaded that up with 8TB of SSD chips. And man, that is like my favorite piece of hardware right now. 

Yeah, it’s fast stuff. 

It’s so good.

Well, the other thing about OWC, and I’m not saying this because they sponsor, I’ve been a client of theirs for many years, and if I’ve ever had a problem with a drive, I can pick up the phone and call, and human-being answers. And they speak really good English, they help me, and they understand technology. If there’s a problem, they’ll say, “Hey, we’ll send you a replacement, send that one back, and we’ll figure it out.” And so you don’t lose time with your production, which is really important. There are a lot of companies that don’t understand that. Waiting 48 hours is even difficult when you’re on a deadline for a network or trying to make a theatrical release. So what about sound? When you told me you did four interviews with Arthur, I’m thinking okay, were they using the same sound setup for all four, and how do you match sound when you’re dealing with so many different kinds of sources?

Yeah. There’s a lot to deal with there.

Am I giving you nightmares?

Yes. The thing is, we work with some great sound mixers here in Austin. So, a lot of times, I just have to get it to the point where it’s passable and then let them deal with the nightmare of mixing everything together and making it sound like it’s all on the same day. Now the one thing I’ll say is we worked with local recordists when we would go to locations, and the quality of all the talent was really good. I believe this is because I wasn’t on the shoot, but I believe that all the Arthur interviews in his house were the same recordist, same room, like they would take pictures of the setup and make sure the boom mic is the same height. So, that part, I think the sound there was easily controlled. However, there were a number of other places we recorded Arthur, either on a balcony in India or on a stage in Barcelona in a VO booth. We had him down for two days of VO, and that’s where the real challenges lie because sometimes you’re actually putting all those lines in a row to kind of make a complete thought. So his sit down interview, the VO booth, all that stuff you’re trying to make it all sound like one thing, and that is where the real sound mastery comes in.

Yeah, sound is so important.

So important. And you have to listen to a ton of different speakers and sometimes you’re listening at the mixing house, and you come back, and you’re listening on headphones, and you’re like, “I thought it matched, but now let’s try one more time,” that meticulousness, you got to nail it because people notice.

Sound is so important. You need to be very meticulous on every single beat because people notice. Click To Tweet

Yeah, they really do. Even if they’re not aware that they’re noticing it, it’s subliminal, and they’ll pick up on it. Something in the back of their head will say this doesn’t feel right. You can get away with a bad picture to a certain extent but a bad sound? Forget about it. But I’m sitting here, and I’m thinking about everywhere you went and how long it took. Can you talk about how you finance your films, and then I want to get into post-production workflow. How do you finance all this? Because this is an expensive proposition. And now you’re on Netflix; you did a deal with Netflix, which is awesome, that’s not easy to get. But what did you do in the meantime?

The two feature docs we have sort of out in the world right now, The Pursuit and At The Fork, are works for hire. So, we go through a pitch process, we hear about these projects through one way or another, either through connections or friends of friends or just there’s sort of like a pipeline of things. It’s like you’ve done work for another client, they’re like, “Hey, these guys are looking for somebody to shoot this.” So the first movie was financed by Whole Foods and the Humane Society, and that’s great. Of course, all these movies are for-profit ventures, but documentaries are really tough from a production company standpoint. We’ve gotten paid from the budget, and then basically, any money that comes in from Netflix or iTunes goes to the funder. And for The Pursuit, Arthur had like a private donor that wanted to adapt his book to a movie. So Arthur once again came to the table with the budget money. We do a lot of for-hire work, and we’re endeavoring right now for the first time to do a fully self-funded documentary, that’s our next one. So this is kind of our maiden voyage, and we’re sort of a fifth of the way there. So we’ve already started shooting, but it’s a very different process, it’s a very much more independent film, going door to door process.

Yeah, it’s not easy, documentary filmmakers do it for the love of the genre and the love of the story. But I like the idea that you’re putting out there to encourage people to do work for hire, go out there, and try to find a sponsor ahead of time that’s going to help you finance these films. And using your own money is tough. Trust me. I know. For those who don’t know who is listening in the movie that Josh is talking about, it was called At the Fork, and it played at the Berlinale which is the Berlin International Film Festival in Germany in 2017, the film was produced in 2016, right?

Right.

Documentary filmmakers do it for the love of the genre and love of the story. Click To Tweet

In the Berlin Film Festival, the Culinary Cinema Track is really very popular, and I didn’t see this movie, but I was looking into it before I did this interview with you. And it sounds really interesting because the filmmaker John Papola, he’s an omnivore and his wife is vegetarian. Can I find this movie and watch it somewhere now?

Yes, I believe it is still up on Amazon Prime.

Okay, awesome. I’m going to look for it because it’s got to be very interesting. I’m an omnivore as well, so I’m very curious about how John’s impression may have changed during the filming of that movie. Because my daughter is vegan/vegetarian, and when you mix a household like that, it’s very interesting. You were one of the editors on that project as well, right? 

That’s correct. 

Awesome. Let’s go back to The Pursuit and talk about if you were sitting in your editing suite, can you tell us what’s in it? What software, what hardware, you mentioned Final Cut. What else am I looking at?

I have an iMac Pro, and I actually use that, so that’s kind of off to the side as my broadcast monitor. And in front of me, I have an LG one of those widescreen monitors on an arm because I just really liked how you can work on a nice, wide monitor for a nice, long timeline is great.

You know what Josh I’m so glad you said that because I have one as well. And I always feel a little guilty that it’s not one of these really expensive ones. Now I do have the 5K’s and all that, but the one that I use every day is the LG 32-inch, and it’s slightly curved, and it’s on a high. So you just made me feel very good.

Yes. Like for me, I don’t want to do color correction on it because it’s not one of these really nice retina displays, but it just gives you so much workspace. It’s basically like two monitors together in front of you. So yeah, I have that. I just got an OLED screen, and I don’t even know who makes it. I guess it’s an LG 60-inch, and it has all the HDR stuff like the Dolby Vision and all that which we haven’t done HDR yet. But on this next project, I think we are going to because that’s really come into its own where the client really didn’t understand why we would pay for that for The Pursuit, which that’s fair. And I think because of the mix of cameras, it probably wouldn’t have really been the best material to do like an HDR pass with, it really wouldn’t have done very well on that a7S camera, but I really do think it makes a big difference. I know there’s sort of war about that and how there’s like that post-processing HDR that really wrecks certain films and all that. But we really like new stuff and we really just like really great picture quality and we always have, and it’s a long time coming from what we used to do 640 by 480 editing in our Premiere 1.0 or whatever that was. 

Having a marketing background is really important. People can create great videos, but if you don’t market it no one will know.

Yeah, that brings back memories.

We bought one of the first capture cards that was affordable by Pinnacle and never looked back.

Wow, times have changed. Now, what are you using for studio monitors and for headphones and things like that?

They’re a little too big. The KRK Rokit 8 Powered Studio Monitor with a big subwoofer on the floor, I like AKG headphones. I’ve actually been using those for like 15 years now, the same model, it’s like the only one that feels really comfortable. Because it’s like sometimes you just leave them on all day and your ears can ache.

That’s true. And I’m not the sound mixer, I’m very cognizant of sound, and I wonder how the headphones change the way we perceive sound when we’re editing. So everybody has a headphone that they love, it seems like. The headphones have their own personality, don’t they?

Yeah, they certainly do. And there’s an affinity, and there’s a nostalgia I have now for this headphone. I just wear them out on my whatever sixth pair or something like that, just like the wires fray or fallout. But what are you gonna do? They sound really good.

It’s like your favorite stuffed animal when you were a little boy.

It’s a warm friend.

There you go. Alright, so we got speakers, you have the 60-inch monitor you’ve got…

Oh, I can add one thing. I actually started out when I was at WWE, I worked in online rooms, and I actually used a Keychron keyboard like the actual Keychron machine. And they were super clacky, and the Grass Valley keyboards are really clacky, and I’ve never kind of get over that. So I have like one of those, it’s like a German ABS clicky keyboard. You can always hear me down the hall, and it sounds like I’m really working hard. It’s funny because when I type and I’m talking on the phone people are like, “Is that a sound effect?” because it doesn’t sound real like it’s so overdone. But I just really like the feel of that I could never really get used to those Apple flattish keyboards.

It takes a while. I remember when I got my first one a few years ago, the flat one. So you’re cutting on Final Cut, and then are you making any color adjustments, are you handing it over to a colorist with Resolve or are you working in Resolve as well? 

It definitely depends on the project. We do a lot of these mini-documentaries, and sometimes we will finish them right in the edit. I think Final Cut’s color tool is very good. Especially when your final output is YouTube or the web, you can certainly get it looking really nice. John Papola, he’s a really great colorist, he uses Resolve, so he usually gets it looking kind of near finished. Basically, it’s like, when our budgets are good, we can go get professional color help, when our budgets are medium, we have to do it all here. Both of our films, we’ve been able to go out to external colorists and had a great experience with that. But it’s just so different than the days when I used to work on commercials where the whole workflow was so segmented, and you would just edit and then just pass it on to the next person. And we’re very much just passing it between rooms here. The only thing we don’t really have in-house anymore is motion graphics. We’ve had a number of people here over the years. We have such a lumpy need for that, where it’s like sometimes we are doing like five projects at once that need motion graphics, and then we’ll have months where we don’t. So it’s just better that everybody comes in on a freelance basis for that.

What about sweetening? Did you sweeten The Pursuit? 

I’m sure. So we went out to Pro Tools, and we used X2Pro, which is a plugin for Final Cut to make an AAF, and that AAF was a little crazy. It had a lot of IXML tags. So like everywhere the recordists go, they were tagging every channel, so they have a six-channel record, and they’re tagging every channel. Well, we had a lot of different shoots, and we had a lot of different tags. So we sort of left all those and Final Cutters rolls. And then, when we made that AAF, we had something crazy like 300 sub-rolls, and the mixer was like, “What is this?” He was trying to save us a lot of money because he’s like, “You don’t want me to sit here and deal with this, like for my rate.” So we went back and cleaned that up a good amount and handed him back. Because usually, X2Pro produces something pretty great, like usually that AAF is something mixers like. This was such a big project and so many different IXML tags we were not quite prepared for what it produced. So after we cleaned that up, we have like a two-week-long, professional mix in surround. As I said before, definitely necessary for all the different Arthur sounds and spaces, he was in to make it sound like when it’s all becoming narration under the picture. You need it all to sound like it was recorded at the same time.

So what’s your new one? You’re working on March of History, right? 

So two things since we’ve done The Pursuit, one is out in the world, one is just starting production. So the interesting backstory behind March of History is, it’s the third in a series of economic rap battles between long-dead economists. And believe it or not, the first one we made in 2009, it was actually the foundation of our company. Because that went viral on YouTube, it was a rap battle around the financial crisis, around bailouts and boom and bust cycles, and why is the housing market going crazy. And we made a sort of a rap battle between two opposing long-dead economists. And that went viral, and it launched on NPR, New York Times wrote up a little blog post about it. So it was actually a pretty big hit, and we raised money to do another one. And then, from there, we started doing documentaries about economics and education. And that really was how we got out of the broadcast networks and into all kinds of content development and really quirky stuff we’ve made, but I think that’s one of the things we’re going to be remembered for. Because it’s the one thing when you mention it, usually in a room of ten people, one person will have heard of it.

That’s true.

And the other gratifying thing about them is, they have been used in a lot of economics classes in high school and college because they were co-written by John and an economist, Russ Roberts, the first two. And so they had this academic rigor that was really like, yeah, this is silly, but it’s actually the real lesson. So if you listen to this, you’re not going to learn the whole lesson, but you’re going to hear all these terms that hopefully, you’ll look up and it’ll start the lesson. So that long-winded intro, the third one just released in October, and it’s about the very important topic that we hear about today all the time. And it’s Karl Marx versus Ludwig von Mises, capitalism versus socialism. So these long-dead economists get together and have a battle about what has been the dominant theme in the march of history. So we use a lot of historical footage, these guys are rapping over footage of historical uprisings and communist China and Russia and just all kinds of stuff. And so far, that has been very successful as well. And we just found out that it has gone viral in China. It was reposted in China, not on YouTube, so if you go to our YouTube channel, I think it’s up to some small views, like 2 million, 3 million views, something like that. 

Ideas have the power to become bold, original stories.

Wait a minute, Josh, two or three million is not small. Okay. Moving on.

I don’t want to exaggerate that. I’ll have to look it up. But in China, it was reposted, and it’s up to 4.3 million views. So they are big fans, I guess.

That’s wonderful. Well, you guys have an amazing sense of humor, and the creativity behind your company and your ability to tell a story and find interesting stories is really wonderful. When I read your description of the company, you talked about mission-critical, and I think you’re doing the kind of things we need more of. We need companies that have a sense of an important mission and know how to relay that to the public so that it’s going to be easy to digest and interesting. And I really commend you on that. I think it’s wonderful.

Thank you. I think that’s one of the things we’re presented with some of these very heady and nerdy topics that don’t sound very entertaining. And it’s sort of our mission to present them in an entertaining way that you would keep an audience. And I think that’s partly because of our back background from Nickelodeon and Spike TV, and we’re used to promoting and marketing, making trailers for things. That’s just always been in our DNA to take these very complex subjects and try to make them interesting for a broad audience.

Well, you’re doing a great job. So what’s the new one that you’re just starting?

Well, the new one, I’m just starting. I can’t talk about it too much. But we shot the opening scenes, and I can tell you it’s about the broad overview as it’s about modern parenting.

Oh, nice.

So there’s a lot there to dig into. But we’re very excited about this first scene, and it came out really great. And our strategy was we would shoot this first scene, which has some really great experts and some reenactments and then use that to raise money for the rest. So we’re very much using this as a proof of concept. And we will see where we go from there.

Much better than a sizzle reel where you pick pieces of other people’s work and put it together and try to sell a concept based on that. I’ve never really been a big fan of that. I think that’s cheating in a way.

I used to work on the upfronts for networks, so I did so many sizzle reels. Sometimes I would have to do a sizzle reel for a new show, and I would only have a logo, and you’d have to go from there. And it’s like you’re talking about, okay, it’s gonna show on stage to all these advertisers, and it’s got to be good. And so you really learn the smoke and mirrors of selling when you do those upfront presentations.

Yeah, the marketing backgrounds are really important. I’ve always said that anybody that can cut really good promos knows how to weigh down and get just what’s really important. Suppose you can do that you can create long-form entertainment, and do it well. I think promos are harder in a way.

Yeah, but I mean, it’s hard. Promos are hard too. They’re hard on their own way, you agonize over frames rather than minutes, so it’s different.

Oh, my goodness, Josh. This has been wonderful. Thank you for all this wonderful information. I know people are really going to enjoy listening to this. We’re going to follow you because I’m going to want to bring you back in when you have this new one, a little further along the road. Thank you for your time.

Well, you’re very welcome.

We’ll do it again very soon. This is Cirina Catania with OWC Radio. I’ve been speaking with Josh Meyers, who is the head of the post-production and co-founder of Emergent Order. Where’s your YouTube channel? What’s the name of your YouTube channel?

Our YouTube channel, I believe, is just Emergent Order. And the new video was actually produced for another entity, but we have a link if you go to our channel.

Okay, so what is the website you want people to visit?

You can just go to emergentorder.com.

All right, that’s great. And then look for At the Fork on Amazon Prime, and definitely look at The Pursuit currently on Netflix. And you know what I tell you guys every time get up off your chairs and go do something wonderful today. Thanks, Josh. And thanks to the listeners and thanks to OWC for sponsoring and making this program possible.

Thank you.



Checklist

  1. Build a strong unit of multi-talented individuals for your production team. Find people who share a similar vision as you to establish a harmonious working environment.
  2. Be more flexible when it comes to shooting documentaries. Unlike scripted films where you can plan ahead of time, documentary shoots can sometimes be unpredictable.
  3. Maintain a good relationship with clients and work peers. Video production is always a team effort. Camaraderie and workmanship will get you a long way.
  4. Transcribe interviews so it’s easier for the director to determine which parts to cut out. 
  5. Establish a workflow with your team. When everyone is organized and knows what to do, the project gets done a lot faster.
  6. Shoot in 4K. The video quality is way above par making it a great experience for the audience.
  7. Prioritize sound quality. Hire an excellent sound director and editor who can produce the film’s sound and music in the best way possible.
  8. Submit films to film festivals and award shows and get a chance to earn high praise and recognition for all your hard work.
  9. Promote your work. Share your craft with the world through effective online and offline marketing strategies.
  10. Check out Emergent Order’s website and YouTube page to watch some of their great stories.

ABOUT OWC

If you work in tech and haven’t heard about MacSales.com, you’ve had your head in the sand. Other World Computing, under the leadership of Larry O’Connor since he was 15 years old, has expanded to all corners of the world and works every day to create hardware that makes the lives of creatives and business-oriented companies faster, more efficient and more stable.  Go to OWCDigital.com for more information.

Here’s the company’s official mission statement:

At OWC, we’re committed to constant innovation, exemplary customer service, and American design. 

For more than 25 Years, OWC has had a simple goal. To create innovative DIY solutions to give you the most from your technology.  

Beginning with 100% compatible memory upgrades, reliably exceeding Apple’s maximum RAM specs, OWC’s product offering has grown to encompass the entire spectrum of upgrade and expansion possibilities, all with a focus on easy, DIY setup and installation. 

Our dedication to excellence and sustainable innovation extends beyond our day-to-day business and into the community. We strive for zero waste, both environmentally and strategically. Our outlook is to the long term, and in everything we do, we look for simplicity in action and sustainability in practice.

For us, it’s as much about building exceptional relationships, as it is about building exceptional products.

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