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Journey to the Past

July 5, 2020

In April 2019, I had the pleasure of attending a performance of the new musical "Anastasia," based on the 1997 animated movie, itself based on the true story of the lost princess Anastasia Romanov. Revisiting this story and engaging with these characters all these years later brought back many childhood memories and a longing to tell this story in my way.

That's when I decided to ask my long-time friend Manon Chataignier whether she would be interested in collaborating on an Anastasia-related project. Once she enthusiastically agreed, we started talking about making a medley of all songs from the musical, but we quickly decided to focus on the most popular songs from the movie, Journey to the Past (nominated for an Academy Award).

We planned to meet in August 2019 to film the music video, but I had had an idea for another Anastasia video that I could film and release before then with the help of my friends in Chicago. The inspiration for this came from an animatic by Babbles Babbles of "The Press Conference" from the musical. We shot for two hours, and I released the project a couple of weeks later. Even though this was a relatively small project, everyone involved had a lot of fun and enjoyed the final video.

Manon and I wanted to record the song before we met in August so that once rolling, we could play it back, and she could sing along. However, due to a combination of timezone issues (I was in the United States while she was in Belgium), a vast amount of school work, and the difficulty of getting a proper studio sound on short notice made it unattainable for us to record before filming.

This meant that while recording, I played an instrumental version of the song on my phone over which Manon lip-synced, and we would replace it with the recorded version later. This happened to be a great mistake. I would advise anyone thinking of doing something similar not to: this leads to many synchronization issues down the line, which were difficult to deal with.

The gear used for filming was a Lumix FZ80 mounted on a Benro Red Dog R1 Gimball. Although we had a few technical difficulties, filming went smoothly overall. We shot for around 4-5 hours, ending up with 26 GB of 4K footage.

As soon as we wrapped filming, I started the post-production process, which lasted from August 2019 to June 2020. Although editing was relatively quick, visual effects took a lot of time to complete. They mostly consisted of repeatedly separating Manon from the background and placing floating screens around her. We managed to record the song in May 2020, almost a year after the first planned recording but like before, schoolwork and time zones had delayed us in getting this massive part of the process done.

In July 2020, the video is finally done along with a 7-minute mini-documentary in which I summarized this entire process and included some bloopers and visual effect breakdowns. Reflecting on the past 15 months, I have learned countless lessons about filmmaking, organization, and scheduling. Although I still see many mistakes in the final video I would wish to fix, I am proud of the work we have accomplished through blood, sweat, and tears.

You can watch the videos on this page or my YouTube channel.

You can also get notified whenever I upload a new video by signing up for my email list.

I hope you have as much fun watching it as we did making it!

- Andrei

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