February 1, 2023

How We Created Documentary Films—Without Ever Leaving our Seattle Headquarters

Our core identity is storytelling. Over the last decade, we've traveled the world to meet people and tell their stories, from London, Turkey, Ethiopia, and most of the United States. What we do is so up close and personal, and when that’s taken away by something like a pandemic, how can we continue making documentaries and capturing these special moments virtually—and do so with the production value we’re used to?

There were plenty of different types of remote filming options that popped up during the pandemic, like recording video conferences, sending phones with ring lights, and even shipping carts of high end film gear to people’s houses. But these options would really limit the quality or expect people to figure out how to work the technology that showed up on their doorstep. What we really wanted to do was replicate what’s usually done by a team of gaffers, audio recordists, and camera operators—and do it virtually. And we thought about it: If we can control a computer from a distance, then maybe we can use a computer to control production equipment from a distance, too. Being the son of a mechanical engineer, Belief’s Lead Filmmaker & Animator Andy Maier knew what it took to make something—and after weeks of brainstorming, building, and even banging his head against the wall a bit too, he created a custom remote interrotron.

Aptly called Rover, it’s really just a box with a lid. But this box is equipped with studio-quality sound, lighting, and video equipment to allow for full-fledged documentary-style interviews, built with reliability and accessibility in mind: All someone has to do is plug it into an outlet and have a conversation. Operated by the technicians in our Seattle headquarters, it gave us a chance to virtually meet everyday people and honor their stories. Whether we were telling the tales of some of Keap’s super users who, against all odds, turned the trials and tribulations of running a business into triumphs, or creating a docu-series for Amazon, where we helped tell the stories of the small business owners in its DSP community, many of whom are serial entrepreneurs and have operated logistics or long haul businesses themselves, the world’s a better place because those stories were told.

While the best version of making documentaries is being with people, Rover has given us an opportunity to bring high quality production to people who can’t travel, clients who are working within budget constraints, and even gives us more options when a single-location shoot isn’t feasible. And it’ll continue to remind us that we can come together to create solutions to help us do what we’re made to do, even if someone or something—or some virus—ties our hands behind our back. This pandemic forced us all to step outside our comfort zones. We found a way to make that work, and if you’re here, you and your business did as well—and that story is worth sharing.

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