Vancouver is the heart of the film industry in Canada. As the third largest production centre for film on the continent, the city sees the creation of dozens of films and television shows every year. From TV pilots to feature films, with countless commercials in between, the vast number of productions going on here at one time is nothing short of staggering. The city is a perfect storm for film, and hidden within it are an untold number of aspiring filmmakers trying their best to make it big.
This is where Timelapse Media House comes in: The company where customers are more than just clients, and the film they produce is more than just footage.
Born from the ambition of film student Mark Chisholm, the company first appeared officially on paper about two years ago. Fresh out of film school at the age of 21, Chisholm first considered a role as a production assistant, before turning his eye to the more creatively freeing world of entrepreneurship. Today, five years after first having the idea, Chisholm is a founder and lead-director at Timelapse. As such, his responsibilities in the company are two-fold.
“From the business standpoint, I oversee what’s happening in the company … and when it comes to the film set side of things, I direct,” he says.
Also heavily involved is Garth Collins. Collins has been in charge of operations and production at Timelapse for just under three years, and has taken on something of an advisory role in the company. It’s his job to strategically direct the brand, reaching out to third parties in order to grow and maintain the business.
“At the core, we’re a five-person operation,” says Collins, though the company is currently looking at expanding their roster.
Run from a cozy house-turned-studio in Burnaby, the prolific company is small, but growing alongside the Vancouver film economy. Inside the building, Timelapse logos decorate smartphones, laptops and headphones, establishing the brand in an otherwise domestic setting.
Despite its size, the company has already been involved in a number of projects. Their featured works include a selection of short films, as well a variety of promotional content, with ties to the music and fashion industries.
Creating and polishing a work of film is complex, and as such the process differs significantly based on the needs of the individual. Simply put, there are vastly different methods of filming for different people.
As Chisholm puts it:
It really differs from project to project. Whether it’s a documentary, a music video, or a narrative commercial … The process for each one of those types of videos changes. A client will come in, and the first step is essentially having a conversation with Garth. (He) will meet the person and figure out exactly what their story is and what they need.
The conversation is just as much about learning from the client as it is about educating them on what they’re looking for. Establishing cost, as well as direction, is essential to figuring out how the project will come together, so it’s at this point in development that the needs of the project are sorted out.
“Is it three 30-second spots that are going to be on TV? Or is it a three-minute spotlight documentary kind of piece?” Chisholm says.
Typically, a project will be in pre-production for two to three weeks while the individual needs of the project are assessed. Then, once it get the thumbs up, the production team takes over. From there, the team will go out and begin gathering footage.
“Shooting is the fun part, and the easy part,” says Chisholm.
The content then goes to the post-production side of the equation. The cut undergoes colour correction, animations are added where needed, and sound adjustments are made whenever necessary. It is here where a final cut is ironed out, and presented to the customer.
No Clients, Only Partners:
One of the driving factors in the way Timelapse operates is in the way the company handles its customer-relations.
“Client is kind of a funny word,” Chisholm says. “We like to refer to the people we work with as partners, because it’s definitely a very collaborative process.”
At Timelapse Media House, the relationship between the production team and its partners has more of a mutual responsibility. What sets the company apart are the efforts it takes to ensure that the needs of clients are met with a certain level of personal connection.
“We’ve been a company that has gotten a phone call (and) a direction, and fulfilled the tasks of someone. Now we’re finding over the last year that we want to be paid to make those calls ourselves,” Collins adds.
Managing partner goals, rather than simply working under them, is something Timelapse aims for. Personal collaboration is key, and both Collins and Chisholm strive to tailor each project to the needs of a given partner.
“At the end of the day these people just want a visual identity,” says Chisholm. “They just want to express themselves and show what it is they represent in a visual medium.”
The Challenges of Starting Small:
Balancing freedom with finance is a struggle in any artistic field. Chisholm’s passion for filmmaking is allowed to flourish here, but it is matched at times by the harsh reality of business. From hiring an accountant to working with a financial manager, Timelapse has had to adapt as it grows in size and popularity. The balance between business and creativity is a concept Chisholm and Collins describe as one of the most difficult they’ve faced at Timelapse.
Working as such a small team is no easy task either. The company specializes in everything from script development and location scouting to marketing and distribution. With so many roles to be split between the five team members, multitasking is inevitable.
“We all wear so many different hats,” Chisholm admits. “A lot of those areas will extend into different departments of film, whether it’s helping the producing side or partner relations.”
While each member of the team has a role or two to label themselves with, the importance of working as a unit is always there, and the roles of each team member cannot be understated. In an industry such as film, with high budgets and harsh deadlines, having a good team to rely on is essential.
“We’ve really been selective about who we surround ourselves with on a daily basis,” Collins says. “You learn from everything you do, even going through difficult times. We had one of our equipment trucks get broken into on a set. It was something that was dwelling on all of us, but you get through that as a team together and you just take one step forward.”