This Dad Turned His Family’s Life Into A TV Pilot – Here Are His 5 Tips To Documenting Your Tribe

Afterlight TV Pilot

We accidentally became a large family. (For the record, I’m actually aware of how it happened).

There is myself (Rew) and my wife (Sarah) along with four born kids (Lilah, Caleb, Lucy, and Amelia) and one kid on the way. Sarah and I started dating when we were in 9th grade. We’ve been married now for 12 years.




It’s been quite an adventure, with many twists and turns along the way, but one component that has always been there is art and creativity.

When our first child was born, we were in the middle of a 7-year run writing and producing a family theatre program called “Studio Y?”. It was a great program with sketches, videos, choreographed dances, hosts, and more.

To be honest, having our first child didn’t change that much. She just spent a lot of time playing while we set up the stage or ran a dance rehearsal.

Then came the second, and again no significant changes, until the second child could walk. Suddenly we were balancing two people with independent minds and bodies while trying to manage dozens of volunteers.

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Things got tricky. We had to adapt.

More scripts started being written late at night, more of the time we would have to divide and conquer projects, but it was manageable. Then came more kids and a job change.

Studio Y? was brought to a close and we decided to start our own company (as well as working long-distances for a booking agency for music artists), we had a two-prong approach, managing music artists and filmmaking.

To be honest, filmmaking was the side hustle at first. But then I had the chance to shoot a music video for one of my artists, and right from day one, my wife and kids were on set. They appear a few times in the video and were there from morning to night both shoot days.

We loved it.

I enjoyed directing, and we LOVED working together again after a short stint of me mostly sitting on a phone making booking calls. So we started hunting for more and more opportunities. It doesn’t make sense to involve the whole family in everything, but we try to work altogether whenever it makes sense.

One of the best examples was the short film Finding Fairies which was featured a couple of years ago on this very website. I’m that one I had the chance to let my kids play the lead roles, and my wife plays the mom!

We love making this type of content that we can do together, but we also enjoy watching great content too. Unfortunately, there isn’t much available. Not enough media these days is compelling enough for the adults and our 11-year-old but is still appropriate for our 4-year-old.

So we have decided to work to change that. We were able to find a team of people with the same passion and create a story that we thought families would love to sit down and watch together. Then we were able to secure funding through a fantastic program called STORYHIVE (that has been entirely instrumental in allowing me to pursue my career along with hundreds of other filmmakers in western Canada).

The show is called Afterlight.

If you are interested in getting creative with your family, I have to warn you, it’ll be gratifying (though a bit crazy at times too).

Here are a couple tips that I have found to be helpful:

Don’t Overthink – Just Do

Go out there and make something, often. Get addicted to the process of creativity. Think of an idea and make it happen. It could be a film, a song, a dollhouse, a LEGO castle, a choreographed dance, a treehouse, a meal with a theme, or writing a story together, just make sure you create together.

Build it into your family rhythm. Don’t just send the kids to make crafts, make them together.

There are so many lessons to learn in perseverance, leadership, humor, communication, and more, buried in every creative project. Build a habit of discovering and exploring those things together.

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Find a Community

One of the beautiful things about art is that it is best done in the community. Not one of the projects I mentioned above (or the dozens I haven’t said) happened without a whole team of people chipping in. Find the people in your town who are also interested in the same project and get involved.

It’s important for kids to meet a variety of people and interact safely with people outside of their peer group. What better way than to create alongside their parents and a community. Always stay smart and be wise, but it can certainly be an enriching part of development.

Chase Interests

Not all my kids love being on set equally. My oldest ADORES it, and the others think it’s an excellent way to spends their time. However, my son is super into creating inventions, and working with his hands. So as a dad, I try to carve out time for that too. Help them explore the world. They are naturally creative geniuses, make sure to join them for the ride.

Save The Results

I can’t tell you how amazing it is to have a time capsule of our family in a short film. The same is true of other art forms. Make something and then cherish those memories.

Throw Away The Results

Keep in mind. When kids make art, the tens to make a lot of skill. Don’t be afraid to save the best couple bits and recycle the rest. That’s okay, and it teaches them an essential part of the artistic process. For years Sarah and I struggled with the volume of arts and crafts and felt guilty throwing much away. But, you have to live life. Save the best.

Have fun

Part of the joy of creativity is just the pure fun of it. Figure out what you can have a lot of fun doing together and do it! Some days may feel more fun than others, but I promise, living a creative family life is full of rewards!

TOOLS OF THE TRADE: Suggestions On Equipment To Document Your Family’s Journey

To pull off a video project, you definitely want to have the right gear. Luckily there are tons of option out there these days, Here are some of the pieces we used to make Afterlight, and a recommendation if you are just starting out.

Camera

We Used: On Afterlight, we shot on a Canon C300 Mark II. We needed to deliver this project in 4k and wanted the full range of data that a cinema camera comes with. Plus, it’s the camera our cinematographer is most familiar with.

Starter Recommendation: I don’t think you can go much better than the Panasonic GH5 for the price right now. It can’t do quite everything a pro camera can pull off, but for filmmakers who want to learn, it’s a great option. If that’s too pricey, check out a GH4 or a Sony a6500. If those are too pricey, start by filming on an iPhone and build from there!

Editing Software

We Used: Afterlight was edited on Final Cut Pro X with some VFX work done in Adobe Premiere. Both great pieces of software used very commonly in independent filmmaking.

Starter Recommendation: Lately I have been using DaVinci Resolve for all my editing and IT’S FREE! There is an upgraded version but the free version is pretty darn good, can be used across PC & MAC, and plays nicely with all the editors if you are passing projects back and forth. It’\s also the industry standard for color correction, so that’s a nice side benefit.

Lighting

We Used: Several different light options are used to make the world of Afterlight come alive. Most frequently we were using a combination of Source4 Jrs and LED panels.

Starter Recommendation: Lighting is really important, but if it’s your first film, I’d just use the practical source in your home or outside. When you are ready to start upping your game a bit, 2 or 3 LED panels can be purchased for cheap and go a long way.

Sound

We Used: A Tascam recorder with an NTG-2 Boom mic as well as LAVs on all of our actors.

Starter Recommendation: Never underestimate the power of sound in your production. It’s often said that people will forgive bad picture with good sound, but they won’t forgive bad sound with a good picture, in my experience that’s true. If you are just starting out, a mic that plugs straight into your camera can work well.

Check out the Rode Video Mic Pro, it’s well priced and will get you through a lot of production styles.

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