An interview with filmmaker Craig Murray from Nashville, TN about how he made his poetic short film It Hurts.
How did this project come about?
This project really started out as an opportunity to visualize a book that my friend had written called “Where’s the Joy?”. It’s a book about the painful valleys we are all often in and where God exists within those places.
I’ve been wanting to do more narrative work lately, so when my friend Danny Williamson came to me with the thought of doing something together we were quickly thinking spoken word or poetry would narrate the story. Within the book there are heartfelt poems written to encapsulate the reality and truth of each chapter.
“It Hurts” is actually the name of the poem within the book. It was obvious to us this was where we wanted to derive our story from.
As I was watching the film I started to get a little nervous because ever since I got married 5 years ago anytime this subject matter is shown on screen it does something profoundly deeper and emotional to me which means I’m usually a weepy mess. What was it about the content that resonated with you?
Yea, it’s a very real sense of worry I think we can all relate to when we love someone that deeply and that’s exactly why the poem was connecting with me. While the story in the book is different, the sentiment and emotion is much the same. That’s what made me want to create a short film based on the premise of losing someone that’s been your everything – and all so suddenly. Causing you to feel isolated, confused, unsure of what was spoken over you, but also the unimaginable strength we can only find in God’s word within these valleys.
After a few discussions and brainstorms with my wife, who helped me co-write this, we landed on a story of marriage suddenly wrecked (at least seemingly so). Because this was a passion project we knew there were many considerations as to what we could pull off with a small crew of volunteers while maintaining a realistic view.
Given those constraints, how did you cast the film?
I knew I wanted to portray a young couple and I also wanted to minimize shooting locations so the author and I tapped into our networks to see who was interested in the idea. Right about that time I wrote a more formal treatment and honed in on the characters more with my wife, Ann.
We were really fortunate to know two talented artists – our leading actor playing the wife and the supporting actor playing the husband that just happened to fit the casting call and they were down to do it.
What did production look like? How many shoot days? What kind of gear did you use?
We settled on a two-day shoot schedule and made the most of a weekend. Our supporting actor, Brian, was already going to be in Nashville for a live painting and sermon that same week and Micah, who played the wife just happened to be available so things lined up! What’s crazy is that we weren’t sure where we were going to shoot the interior home scenes until Danny was offered Jeremy Camp’s (the musician) home while he was out of town. It was incredible and completely awesome how our friends and family came together to line up all the needs we had.
We shot with a minimal set of gear and used mostly natural light with a few Astra 6x panels and gels to shape our interiors. For camera we used my small A7sii rig and Zeiss primes. Exteriors were simply timed with the sun’s position and availability of locations.
Dude that’s awesome. I love those types of stories – it’s amazing how everything comes together in such a special and unexpected way. What was the editing process like for you and how did you land on the music for the film?
Totally! It was so much fun. When we got to post we had to augment most of the audio since we didn’t have location sound. After I did a rough cut, I got in touch with a composer I had been chatting with for a while named Ben Winwood. He and I worked for a while to dial in the inflection and arc of the score and he absolutely nailed all the right moments and builds.
Do you have a musical background? I know for me and so many other filmmakers that that don’t, working with a composer to craft an original score is quite the daunting task. Do you have any tips on how to navigate that process?
I don’t actually, but I often know the flow and feel I’m going for as a director and this project was no different. I had a few references and notations put in the time code so I could specify where the moments and tone needed to be highlighted, etc.
By references do you mean you were using temp tracks? Or you were just making notes on what kind of mood or vibe you wanted at that point on the timeline?
Both actually. I pulled some references and also did a rough cut with a temp track and notionas to baseline from.
Last question: Knowing what you know now, what’s something that you would have done differently on this film?
That’s tough to pinpoint, especially because I think we really maximized within the constraints we had. However, I would have loved to put our lead character in a bit more of the “realization” arc of her hope – that being the remembrance of God’s words and then show that amidst her day more-so than we did. That likely would have required another day of production, but I’m happy where things landed regardless.
This was a story we all felt needed to be told and I’m incredibly thankful for all the hard work and collaboration that made it possible.
Awesome, well you did a great job and shared a very powerful and important message that will no doubt find the people that need to see and hear it. Thanks for sharing!