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Jacob Rosenberg Directs Waiting for Lightning

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CreativeCOW presents Jacob Rosenberg Directs Waiting for Lightning -- Cinematography Feature



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Waiting for Lightning is the tragic and triumphant story of legendary skateboarder Danny Way, following him from his chaotic childhood to his early talent with a skateboard through to his many professional successes. With a combination of archival footage, interviews and skateboard action, Waiting for Lightning also takes us on Danny's journey to China to jump the Great Wall on a skateboard.




Waiting for Lightning: The Movie trailer


From the producers of Act of Valor, Step into Liquid and Dust to Glory, Waiting for Lightning is a Bandito Brothers production in association with DC Shoes and is the directorial debut of Jacob Rosenberg.

Rosenberg, a skateboarder in the early 1990s, developed his passion for video and film by making skateboard videos released by Plan B. Upon graduating from Emerson College, he began directing music videos, commercials and short films. For more than a decade, he's collaborated with Adobe Systems, focusing on digital software applications and has contributed his technical knowledge to Avatar, Superman Returns, Shine a Light, S.O.P and August Evening. He served as online editor and DI supervisor for Dust to Glory (2005), for which he designed an all-digital workflow that mixed nine video formats. Waiting for Lightning is Rosenberg's first feature film.



Waiting for Lightning with Danny Way.
Waiting for Lightning came about because of my connection with Danny Way through Mike Ternasky, who was a mentor both to Danny and me. Mike was the one who gave me my first full-time job as a videographer when I was 18 and, through his brother, I was introduced to Adobe and got a job with them doing alpha and beta software testing of Adobe Premiere, starting in 1995.

The film has brought so many personal things back to me. It's been my first statement as a filmmaker and a story that's been such a long time coming. I always felt like I was a storyteller despite being immersed in the technical aspect of filmmaking for so long, and so it's amazing to have a film that's so personal be my debut as a director. Mike died in 1994 and Danny and I went our separate ways. I went to college, worked for Adobe, and through all those things came to form Bandito Brothers in 2007. In mid-2007, Danny saw my name in the credits of Dust to Glory. He contacted me and asked me if I wanted to make this 20-year retrospective video of his years as a pro skater. Of course, I said yes. But then, after sitting on it for a while, we agreed not to make a retrospective; we decided to tell a bigger story and make a compelling and dynamic film. At that point, it was a matter of clearly laying out my vision to Danny and him signing off on that. In the end, he gave me the keys and was candid and open.

From there it was a matter of assembling my team. I didn't want to make a somewhat traditional talking head documentary but rather an emotional, gripping story that moved quickly through history but built context the entire time. The events in the movie had already happened so we had to tell them in a way that was fresh for the viewer. Even skaters who know Danny don't know his whole story and for people who've heard his name but don't know about the Great Wall, you're telling them the entire history of the sport wrapped in this personal story.



Danny on The Great Wall of China.


Once Danny and I talked about what we wanted the film to be, he communicated with everyone in his world and gave his blessing, putting me in touch with them. There were topics I wanted to delve into with each person I interviewed, and the subjects who make the final cut of the movie were the people we interviewed who could articulate those things the clearest or the most passionately.

I heard stories about how he grew up as a child, and while interviewing Danny's mom, she owned up to a lot of the chaos she created at that time. His mom thanked me for using all that material about Danny's home life, despite how difficult it was for her to watch. It was cathartic for her to come clean and be honest publicly with what she put her kids through. It was easier to tell the camera than to tell Danny face to face. So it was a gift for him as well. Those are things Danny never heard his mom say; he hadn't had that conversation with his mom. In that regard, the film was very cathartic for him as well.

Danny and I first talked about the film in 2007, and I did a shoot with just him in 2008 to create a trailer for DC Shoes, as a way to motivate them to provide financial backing. We figured a portion of the budget would come from DC and a portion from Bandito Bros. In 2009, when Act of Valor came out, we realized we could shoot this whole documentary with the Canon 5D. We had figured out all the grain techniques and ways to make the camera output look good.

Shane Hurlbut, who was cinematographer on Act of Valor, has a crew of operators he's groomed. One of this elite team is Mike Svitak. He's also a surfer, a young guy and very motivated. He put together a really small portable package, with a minimal number of lights. We shot everything with three Canon 5D cameras.


Behind the lens, Mike Svitak, photo of Jacob Rosenberg on set of an interview.
Behind the lens, Mike Svitak takes a photo of Jacob Rosenberg on set of an interview.


I'm a huge fan of cinematic recreations à la Errol Morris. I knew there were numerous crucial scenes that we wouldn't have footage for. I wanted to take the Canon 5D and use the shallow depth of field to create moody moments, and then blend it in with the rest of the footage, perhaps full view for some of them, and some of them just enough to evoke the feel of what we're talking about. So we shot recreations for things such as the violence in Danny's childhood home, rehab and things that Danny and I talked about.

The shoot in China happened in 2005, and was documented with MiniDV and Super 16mm cameras; we re-telecined the footage at Laser Pacific (now part of Technicolor). We went back into DC's library of film and digitized other archival footage we were interested in to ProRes and brought it into our edit suite.


Photo: Ty Evans -- Jacob Rosenberg (L) and cameraman Christopher Murphy lining up a dolly shot on Danny's property in Kauai.
Photo: Ty Evans -- Jacob Rosenberg (L) and cameraman Christopher Murphy lining up a dolly shot on Danny's property in Kauai.


Photo: Ty Evans -- Jacob Rosenberg (L) and Christopher Murphy running through another Dolly Shot.
Photo: Ty Evans -- Jacob Rosenberg (L) and Christopher Murphy running through another Dolly Shot.


The epilogue of the film takes place at a ramp that Danny has built in Kauai. We wanted to make sure that, at the end of the film, the viewer has a sense of where Danny is today. That was all shot after the film was accepted in the SXSW Film Festival. We went to Kauai with a couple of RED Epics and Canon 5D and 7D cameras.


Photo: Ty Evans -- Kauai Camera Line up.
Photo: Ty Evans -- Kauai Camera Line up.


We used the RED Epic because it's a small enough camera to do handheld work and also it gave us the opportunity to shoot at a high frame rate. With a wide angle lens, it was easy to follow Danny on that ramp into tight spaces and get unique shots.


Photo: Ty Evans -- Red Epic POV in Kauai.
Photo: Ty Evans -- Red Epic POV in Kauai.

Photo: Ty Evans -- Framing up Red Epic in Kauai.
Photo: Ty Evans -- Framing up Red Epic in Kauai.


Waiting for Lightning encompasses every single format I've worked on: VHS, ¾, Betacam, DigiBeta, Super 8mm, 8mm, Hi8mm, HDCAM, DVProHD, Super and regular 16mm, 35mm and then R3D 5K. Skateboarding films have been shot in every format there is, and so it's great to represent all of them aesthetically and then culminate in this beautiful end sequence.

The digital post production workflow is a trademark of Bandito Brothers. We're always thinking about ways to maximize our creative time in the edit. We use all the tools to solve problems and make it better, and keep it in the online as long as possible to add new scenes. We were taking our Avid cut and matching a conform in Adobe Premiere Pro to all the native formats. At any point, we could go multiple layers in the cut to grade uncolored shots, replace shots -- to do anything we need. It's taxing to everyone who works on the online because we'll make a change because we can. But the end result is that we have creative power until the very end.

Photo: Ty Evans -- Jacob Rosenberg hiding some unseen footage back in April 2012 after finishing editing the Kauai epilogue in Premiere Pro CS6.
Photo: Ty Evans -- Jacob Rosenberg hiding some unseen footage back in April 2012 after finishing editing the Kauai epilogue in Premiere Pro CS6.
We have plenty of After Effects systems, a DaVinci Resolve system and a 2K Christie projector so it's all very seamless and you can see it in the right viewing environment to approve any shot. Because of the number of formats in the film, the post workflow was closer to Dust to Glory than to Act of Valor. Since day one, we've used tools from Adobe, HP, Blackmagic Design and NVIDIA in unique ways and we have unique content that comes from our shop. I'm always communicating with those companies to give them the opportunity to run those new products through our system. In the case of Waiting for Lightning, HP and Adobe really stepped up to support us.

When we started this project in 2010, we didn't have Adobe CS6; if it had been around we would have started there. But we always knew we'd finish in Premiere and After Effects to deal with all the formats. We'd be constantly kicking over EDLs from Avid to Premiere and then conforming cuts. Everything was cut was on an HP Z800 workstation with a DreamColor Display, plus we had NVIDIA cards for really high power GPU performance to playback the raw RED files for the Kauai sequence.

We did end up cutting the epilogue in Premiere. That Kauai sequence was cut in CS6. We had a five-day deadline and all this raw RED footage. I wanted to work with the cut and get the results I wanted and there was no way I could have done it without Adobe CS6.

Photo: Christopher Murphy – RED Epic and Danny’s Kauai Mega Quarter-Pipe
Photo: Christopher Murphy -- RED Epic and Danny's Kauai Mega Quarter-Pipe
The project was formally green lit in Sept 2010, the edit formally started in Jan. 2011 and we delivered for SXSW in March 2012. And then we kept shooting even past SXSW to June or July. We did that first interview with Danny, with a RED One, way back in 2008, and started to assemble a folder at that point. From 2008 on, we were media managing this project and accumulating footage from the 5D, F900, XDCam and Red One. From 2010 on, all the raw footage was getting downloaded to the system, backed up, and imported into an Avid project. Once the interviews were conducted our editor (Carol Martori) would kick out encoded files of each interview for transcription and then she began "coding" the interviews based on the content of them.

We had so much footage coming in from so many different people that media management was a challenge. Because I have such a long history in skateboarding, I couldn't trust anyone else to understand the significance of each archival clip or interview, so I had my own system of going through the material. In the end, we had 60 terabytes worth of material.

Up until the end, we were swapping shots and getting more footage, even after we sold the film to Samuel Goldwyn. We'd been tracking down archival footage and tracked down someone who had an interview we'd been looking for. We found one interview that no one has ever seen just a month before we delivered the film. We licensed it from him and put it in the film.

We had to rename every interview clip at one point because we'd shot so many 5D clips and we had to synch everything and keep track of it as well as access it from the online Premiere system. We had an internal server where the primary footage was kept, but we had also duplicated copies on the local back-up system. This was a media management technique we developed on Act of Valor. There were no special tools we used other than relying on assistant editors and securely RAIDed storage.

I think what's really gratifying for me is that my first feature encompasses so many parts of my life and identity that are meaningful to me. From my mentor and the culture of skateboarding that I love to my old friend Danny to this legacy relationship I've had with Adobe. If it wasn't for Adobe, I wouldn't have met my partners and we wouldn't have started Bandito Brothers. If there were no Bandito Brothers, I don't know if I would have had the resources to make this film, or if Danny would have seen me in the same way if I didn't have this relationship.

I'll be indebted to my editor Carol Martori and my writer Bret Anthony Johnston for the rest of my life. It was a pleasure to work with Carol; she's so damn smart and good at what she does. She was a sociology professor before she came to editing and because of her background in sociology and psychology, we really looked at the character of Danny Way from a rich socio-psychological standpoint to explain things that otherwise are hard to understand. With Bret, he and I are skate nerds; he just happens to be a brilliant writer who heads Harvard's Creative Writing Department. With the One-Two punch of those two, my vision for the film was in good hands.


Photo: Mike Svitak -- Writer Bret Anthony Johnston and Director Jacob Rosenberg
Photo: Mike Svitak -- Writer Bret Anthony Johnston and Director Jacob Rosenberg


So far, from what we've seen, audiences get it and having that emotional reaction was important to me. I felt it was a huge victory. All the right things came together and I couldn't' be more proud that this is my first film and I made it about this subject with these people. And finally, we couldn't have done it without the hard working kids in Bandito Post from Lance Holte (Post Director) to Rommel Mendoza (Assistant Editor) and our tireless producer Hana Ripperger-Suhler. These three gave everything they had to make sure the quality of the film was there and that every night, after the team went to sleep, everything kept going.

For a schedule on where to see Waiting for Lightning, click here. The movie is also available on iTunes.


For more about Jacob's journey as a skater, himself, and his inspiration for the sport as a filmmaker, see The Berrics' two part video piece at http://theberrics.com/shoot-all-skaters/jacob-rosenberg-part-1.html and http://theberrics.com/shoot-all-skaters/jacob-rosenberg-part-2.html






Danny Way in Waiting for Lightning
Danny Way



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