Director of Communications, Brendan Schaller, shares a memory of filming “The Backyard Philly Project.”
“The Backyard Philly Project” underwent production from October 2011 to June 2012. Because of our five separate schedules and residences in different places, we often made plans to meet up in the city for at least one full day a month. We would conduct interviews with our teens, shoot b-roll footage around the neighborhood and the city, and have our own little staff meetings to plan and brainstorm.
One memory that sticks out for me was an earlier meeting, which I think was last November. We had launched our Indiegogo campaign to raise money for production costs of our film, and we wanted to make a short video featuring our team, so that we could personally reach out to our supporters to help us tell this story. At the time, Amanda was the only one who lived in Philadelphia, so Bruce, Nienke, and I drove from the Lehigh Valley. After a day of filming, we tried to make this video in Amanda’s apartment. We were writing down what we would say and how we would explain our project to the viewers.
As we were drafting, we began to ask ourselves some deeper questions about our film. Like most documentaries, the overall purpose and point don’t seem to be revealed until you’ve already begun making it. This was beginning to happen for us.
We started asking each other and ourselves what our story was about. Who are we helping and who are we trying to reach? How is this film going to change anything and why is it important? We started digging deeper and finding answers for these questions. We wrote and rewrote our statements. We made a lot of tea as it got darker and later.
Bruce and I needed to be back in the valley that night, because we had work in the morning. Nienke had to go just to wake up and drive back to Philly the next day. At the time, I was commuting to Philly three days a week and working another job in Allentown. I rarely slept enough, and spent way too many hours on the PA turnpike. But these questions needed to be answered and we needed to figure out where we were going before we started running there. We had already begun filming and investing time and money into our project, so before we could ask others to do so, we had to know what it was going to be about.
We stayed in Amanda’s studio apartment until after midnight that night. We got home around 2 a.m. We later realized that the audio of that video didn’t record properly, which was extremely frustrating. But the next week, we met up in Bethlehem to record it with all five of us. I was commuting that day, which involved leaving Allentown at 6:30 a.m. to work in Philly and then got back to Bethlehem at 7 p.m., just to spend the next three hours filming our message.
What these late nights and commutes taught me about our team and our project was that we had all made a commitment to making something. We all understood that this story was bigger than us. And though our nights were sometimes long and frustrating, we always had a good time doing it. We hope the hard work and enjoyment we put into making “The Backyard Philly Project” shines through. I think no matter what, the five of us are proud of it.