Read up on COVID-19 coverage, and you’ll see the crisis labelled, correctly, as a war. With wars come frontlines, and with frontlines come the brave people on them — in this case the nurses who risk their lives every night to help patients suffering from coronavirus.
One of those nurses is Kelly Vandergrift, a mother of three and the wife of Clark Vandergrift. Clark is a Maryland-based filmmaker with years of commercial experience who used his considerable artistic abilities to craft a touching vignette titled “Salute.”
The minute-long video, which features Kelly and two of her sons, shows the boys FaceTiming with their mother while she takes a break during another long shift. The kids, Chase and Morgan, decide to check in with Mom since they can’t get their minds off her situation. It’s a gut-wrenching look at what families of medical professionals around the world deal with every day. Clark shot everything in his kitchen and completed the work in less than a week.
From the time I began scripting and shot listing until I had a final cut rendered, it was about four days of work. This took longer than it should have based on the nature of being in quarantine mode. I did it all — setup, shooting, and post. I actually shot on a couple different evenings because of a change I wanted to make.
The postproduction took the longest time, of course. Finding the right audio track took some time. Then figuring out how to shorten the phone call without making it seem like Mom was being abrupt with the boys took me a little time to process.
Part of what took Clark longer than he’d have liked was, like he mentioned, negotiating the crux of the video: The (real) FaceTime chat between Kelly — who was at home during filming, not in a hospital — and their kids. A veteran director of TV commercials, short films, and branding videos, Clark tends to eschew crossfades in general. But he felt they best told this story, so they feature prominently in the clip.
Normally, I like my cuts to be motivated by more sophisticated things like character action or music. I’m not a big fan of crossfades but using them to shorten the phone call while still implying that there was some time passing seemed like the right thing to do. Because it’s not something I usually do, it took me a little while to work through that.
Though Clark mapped out the entire plan before shooting, he made sure to adjust things when and where necessary. For example, we don’t see Kelly and her mask until the very end of the film. This wasn’t originally going to be the case.
I made adjustments to the script and shot list on the fly. Most of these tweaks were to the dialogue and shot list to thinly disguise that Kelly is a nurse until the reveal at the end. I felt this would give the piece a little more weight.
As you can imagine, this isn’t the first time Clark’s family has acted for him. Since he’s a seasoned pro with regards to the technical aspect of directing, he spends most of his time helping the actors on set, but in this case he spent it with his kids in their kitchen.
My family has been acting and modeling for me for a long time; they are my favorite subjects. But the need to shoot this in the evening took them away from the time that they like to play video games with their friends, so don’t think this went down without some complaining.
Clark initially created this work to pay tribute to the courageous medical professionals, like his wife, who spend hours and hours around the virus and its victims. Secondarily, he produced this video as a way to stay techincally in form and exhibit his all-encompassing skillset. Ultimately, he hopes a relevant advertiser gets wind of the film and runs with it.
I wanted to show a different side of my abilities in that I could write and direct a piece with this kind of emotional depth. Being stuck in quarantine is a great time to invest in yourself. I consider myself lucky to have my family (this time for filming reasons, but always for personal reasons), and I’m lucky to have the equipment that allows me to do a shoot like this in a time like this. I’d love it if an advertiser felt that this piece resonates with something they would like to say and they picked it up.
The Marylander isn’t a frequent poster on social media, but he’s received tons of positive feedback for this short film. Though the reaction caught him somewhat off guard, it makes sense even if you only watch the video once.
The only outlet for this video to date has been through my social media channels. I’m not hugely active on social media, and I don’t have a huge following there. But I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of shares and the things people have said about the piece. I think it really resonated with a lot of people. I wasn’t expecting that.
Boy 1: Chase Vandergrift
Boy 2: Morgan Vandergrift
Mom: Kelly Vandergrift
See more of Clark’s work at clarkvandergrift.com.
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