Place is important to the Noravera team. While their Canadian perspective is integral to their filmmaking, they open themselves up to wherever they’re shooting, in a kind of improvisational filmmaking. Brian Ceci talks about their process, their perfect client, and the South Sudan shoot that saw them under fire.
“Noravera” means true north. How much has Canada shaped you as filmmakers?
We wanted to be called a name that identifies who we are in the world. We carry that “Great White North” perspective everywhere we go. This perspective of being Canadian is often mistaken as being America’s younger sibling, but we have our own identity — we’re aware of our cohesion with nature, and we embrace it.
What is the role of “place” in your creative vision?
Since we started filmmaking 10 years ago, we’ve traveled immensely, so “place” is important to us. The way you feel in a space affects the way you shoot. Shooting with feeling is similar to an actor ad-libbing. Some things you can’t plan … they come to fruition the minute they are presented to you. We love that about filmmaking.
What do you love about shooting in Canada?
Canada is filled top to bottom with untouched landscape. It seems like every corner of every province has something eye-opening, to the point where you wouldn’t believe it’s in Canada if you saw it out of context. It just feels wild. We were recently talking about being in Haida Gwaii for a project and how it felt like we were the only people to have stepped in certain spots. It’s a cool feeling.
You’ve been working with drones for about a year — what’s the biggest challenge?
Drone work is challenging in that there are strict rules to ensure public safety. Being in Canada, we feel lucky we got in at the right time with all the certifications — it looks like it’s getting quite regulated in the United States. But as long as you have certification, you’re able to get to unique vantage points — the payoff is the footage that’s collected.
Tell us about your most memorable shoot.
We’ve had a ton of memorable shoots, but the ones I’ve personally enjoyed were in locations that are simply wild. Areas like Greenland, South Sudan, and Myanmar have been absolutely stunning, raw … and sometimes dangerous.
For example, in December 2013, we were documenting Obakki Foundation’s relief work in South Sudan. When the mission was completed, we wanted to stay an extra week to collect footage that required a bit of travel to the capital in Juba. Unfortunately, conflict erupted and ignited a civil war that hasn’t died since. We were stuck in a small compound with AK-47, mortar, and artillery fire going at all times. Thousands were killed. Luckily, we were able to get out on an evacuation flight to Nairobi four days later.
Who’s your ideal client?
Our client relationships have been the reason we go above and beyond to create a product that they’re blown away with, and we wouldn’t trade that for anything. The best clients are a part of our team. There’s no ego or us vs. them mentality. It’s simply all of us getting together and creating a vision that is unabashedly real. It’s all about teamwork.
Why did you get into stock?
We wanted to have the freedom to shoot content that doesn’t appear “stocky.” No businessmen standing in front of whiteboards or children playing on slides — this isn’t our jam. We’re looking for content that’s unique and real.
How do you get your stock footage?
Unless we have spare time, we generally don’t shoot stock while we’re on shoots because we’re busy shooting our pre-production plan. But we’ve started dedicating at least a day a month to shooting stuff — called Dissolve Day. It’s a great way to get camaraderie going with the team and shoot fun content we think people will like.
How has the Liftoff program affected how you work?
Liftoff is an amazing advantage to us. We’re constantly shooting or in post-production, so we don’t have a ton of time to be sorting through footage trying to find the perfect clips. We appreciate the level of service Dissolve offers. It’s hard to beat.
What’s in your camera bag?
It depends what camera “bag” you’re talking about. We have a lot of equipment. For most projects, we’re shooting on a C500 with an Odyssey7Q to deliver 4K. In our bag of tricks, we’re usually seen with our Canon Cine Primes, remote follow focus, DJI Inspire 1, and DJI Ronin. We like to travel light 😉 Oh, and we just put our first payment down on a brand-new RED Dragon, coming soon.
Noravera is Brian Ceci, Geoff Livingston, Jon Flahr, Callum McGuffie, and Ira Hardy. See all Noravera’s footage — it’s exclusive to Dissolve. Visit their website or follow them on Vimeo, Facebook, and Instagram.
Meet Derek Armstrong McNeill
Derek McNeill has been telling visual stories most of his life. The Seattlite first honed his eye working as a photographer in the US Air Force, then worked in advertising art direction and design. He now divides his time shooting his own documentary projects and stock footage. “After carrying around a camera kit for years, telling visual […] Read more