Inside the Mind with Max and Aimee Director Alex Pearce

Sure, we make a lot of immersive experiences, but the people who work at Jaunt have their own passions for the film industry as well. Enter Jaunt Studios Producer, Alex Pearce. When he isn’t being an all-around awesome person, he’s also an experienced 360 filmmaker in his spare time. The film, Max and Aimee is now on Jaunt and he set a meeting for us to talk about creating a film close to his heart.

Tell us a bit about the story of Max and Aimee?

Alex Pearce (Jaunt Producer): The normal pitch is more mysterious and doesn’t give away much, but I want to talk about the meat of this story so spoiler alert ahead! Max and Aimee is a story about a man who has Alzheimer’s disease and struggles to figure out the what is going on. Aimee is his caretaker and leaves him post-it notes to help him know what he needs to do. The post-it notes are metaphors for his memories. There’s a scene where you see thousands of post-it notes, and it’s a sort of collection of his memory, fading away. Our production designer, HanRui Wang did a really nice job of making that scene special.

Why did you choose to tell this story?

Alex Pearce: When our producer, Gigi Huang, approached me about writing and directing this story, it was an easy answer for me. I think it’s important to make films that your passionate about making. The story is fictional, but near to my heart as my great grandmother and many members of my family and friends have or had Alzheimer’s. I’ve had a lot of conversations with Jerry Sells, the lead visual effects artist for Jaunt. He has a family member who struggled a lot this year from Alzheimer’s, and he really supported me and expressed the importance of a film like this. I think that when people watch this film, they feel something emotional inside. It’s a film that can change the way people feel and think about this condition, and those are the most important types of films.

Why did you think it was important to make this film in virtual reality?

Alex Pearce: I actually made this same film as a “flattie” a few years ago! The story and script is almost the same, but the storytelling techniques are very different. In the “flattie”, the film is one continuous take, with no cuts. In the VR version, we cut quite often, more than other films in this category. We did this in VR for a few reasons. I haven’t seen many great character dramas in 360 video, and I think many people would argue that this kind of story would not work well in 360, but I disagree! I think that you can really connect with these characters in a way that you can’t in traditional filmmaking. Especially when you watch this in 3D, you can really feel like you are in the house with Max and Aimee. Scott Gemmell and Jaunt Studios were supportive and allowed me to use the JauntONE (our state of the art 360 camera) and in-house stitching software, so it was great reason to go out and shoot this passion project!

“Max” of Max and Aimee.

What was the most challenging part of making this film?

Alex Pearce: There were many challenges! We had a very small window of time where all the crew and cast were available, and ended up shooting the project over a long weekend in San Francisco, finishing around 6am on that Monday!

Megan Johnson, the cinematographer, did an incredible job lighting in 360. For each setup, we would have to light the talent and shoot them, then shoot background plates, in order to make it look like there were no lights. There was some tricky camera rigging too, where she had to put the camera near the ceiling to get the shot I wanted.

I had to spend quite a bit of my own money to pay the crew and talent, as well as rent grip and lighting equipment, and other costs.

Right before the shoot, I almost had to cancel because I was out of funds, but VFX Supervisor Patrick Jarvis stepped in with a huge contribution and because of him, we were able to finish the shoot. I’ll always be thankful for that!

The post production was tricky, because I had to do most of it myself, in my “spare time”. Between projects and on the weekends, I would edit and do basic visual effects, while somehow balancing my personal life and raising my two-year-old daughter!

Jaunt’s colorist, Jeff Olm, worked some magic to really give the film a cinematic look.

John Hendicott did the spatialized sound with his company Aurelia Soundworks, they did a great job and really helped out!

Alex (second in from the right) on set with the cast and crew.

What was your favorite thing about making this project?

Alex Pearce: Working with the fantastic cast and crew! John Carney (Max) and Kelli McCrann (Aimee) are both very talented and dedicated actors, who also managed to stay upbeat even as we did some of the tougher scenes and worked really long hours. Our camera operator, Kyle Mann, even flew in from Tennessee just to be a part of it! Everyone who worked on this project really believed in what we were doing and that made all the hard work worth it.

See Max and Aimee on Jaunt now.