Think of one of the greatest storytellers of all time – Stan Lee. Each Marvel movie has a storyline, within each movie every character has their own story, and all of the movies intersect with the overall story of the Marvel Universe. It’s all about the layers. This structure keeps our attention and pulls our minds into another world using complex stories within stories.

Family films are not about impossible superhuman abilities, but they are similar to Marvel in that they have different levels of meaningful stories. When I create a blog, I usually choose one focal point, but to the family who the film was created for, there are a lot of meaningful pieces that go deeper than the casual observer would understand. This time, we are going to pull out a few of the storylines that were behind the creation of this film.

Story #1:
a shade of meaning

As a biology major, color fascinated me. Neuroscience can describe how color is received into the brain: specific wavelengths of light are refracted onto the retina where rods and cones send neural signals to the primary visual cortex, with a whole lot more detail in each one of those steps than anyone wants to read in this story. Scientists can even tell you all sorts of research about how colors play into our cognition and memory. My son may have synesthesia, a joining of the senses, in which he associates colors with certain smells. Really, this nerdy stuff is so amazing! But you know the most incredible part of color? It only exists as a perception. It’s not really there and it can be experienced differently by different people.

If a person with total color-blindness can’t see this concept we call color, it doesn’t really exist and therefore doesn’t have meaning…right? With the understanding that philosophical arguments don’t have right or wrong answers, I’m going to do my best to tell you why I think that color has a lot of meaning. 

When you strip color away from a film, you also strip away part of the realness of that memory. Artistically this can serve a purpose when you want to draw the viewers attention to a specific item, expression, or dramatically lit scene. I used this technique when I volunteered for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, an organization providing the gift of remembrance photos to parents who will never get to bring their baby home from the hospital. All of the images created were in black and white to help the parents focus on the love for their child, and less on the pain and realness of remembering the loss.

In family filmmaking, color plays a crucial role when you want to portray the full depth of a memory. It makes it feel more real, almost tangible. It’s as close to reliving the moment that you can possibly get. Color creates an important link between our memories and emotions. THAT, I would argue, means that color also holds a lot of meaning.

You may be wondering…why oh why did I then make half of a film in black and white? The answer, of course, lies within another story.

The discussion of skin color is a hot topic, and I have found it incredibly difficult to speak up about my thoughts without fear of saying something wrong. At the same time, silence has not felt like the right solution either. The lack of discussion leading up to recent events is the primary reason our culture is in this position right now. The best way I can find to express myself is through my art. I asked this family specifically if they would do a session with a purpose. Their family is made up of different colors, yet the experiences that they have are so relatable to any family. Without color and with color, the film expresses the same love and joy. We can’t change skin color, but what would happen if we changed our perception of its meaning? What if the presence of varied skin tones brought vibrancy to life in the visual esthetic of our uniqueness? What if we saw color as nothing other than a pigment, an ancestry, a beautiful history of people who lived, laughed, and loved? I don’t want to ignore color. I want to embrace it.

Story #2:
A blended family

The stages of life do not have beginnings and endings. They sort of blend into each other, with children growing and changing gradually yet oh so quickly. And when a house has two teenagers remote learning and a 6 year old homeschooled during a pandemic with mom and dad both working full-time, it can begin to feel like it’s just one giant cluster of chaos. Yet even in this time when everything is so unsettled and hectic, there is beauty in the little moments when we slow down and spend time together.

Story #3:
Video games & movies

When I asked Jen in her scriptwriting session what activities were important to their family and she said video games and movies I froze for a second. Previously I had a no technology “rule” for sessions so families could spend time interacting genuinely. This request really challenged me. I knew that leaving out technology, a big part of their family dynamics, would be leaving out a piece of their story. It made me slow down and think about how I could show WHY these things are important. All too often our culture values going going going. This session reminded me to pause. “It’s is a place to slow down and value rest over productivity.”

Story #4:
What is a home?

Jen is one of the best REALTORS I know. Not because she can find you the best houses at the best prices. Many REALTORS can do that. What sets Jen apart from everyone else is the heart she has to help people. She understands that her job is more than about finding a building for her clients to live in. It’s about finding them a place to live, laugh, and love together. “Homes are made up of so much more than wood and nails. They contain personalities, adventures, the colors of life.”