I co-run a production company, Dress Code, and direct commercials. I always thought I’d make a feature documentary “some day,” but the goal suddenly felt more urgent as I approached my 40th birthday. I pursued a few compelling subjects, but they fell through.

Then our company was hired to make a short about artist Geoff McFetridge, whose work I’d admired for decades. I thought there might be a larger story to tell, so I proposed a feature to Geoff. He didn’t say yes, but he didn’t say no either. After letting us film for a couple years, he finally acknowledged we were making a movie.

That's how we began production on Geoff McFetridge: Drawing a Life.

Geoff McFetridge: Drawing a Life (Official Trailer)www.youtube.com

In the beginning I thought Geoff’s image as this cool and positive family guy must be obscuring something darker, and I looked for the tortured artist stereotype. But over the course of making the film, I realized this wasn’t the case; I became as compelled by Geoff’s authentic approach to life as I was by his art. This helped push the film past the conventional “artist doc” and into exploring more universal ideas: how one decides what matters in life and how to balance creativity, family, and identity.

During our first shoot, Geoff commented on how much gear we had, though it wasn’t much. After that we tried harder to fly under the radar. Mostly it was just three of us–a DP, sound, and me. The DP’s had to pull their own focus, which ruled out anamorphic lenses. At the beginning of each shoot I spoke with Geoff about what we hoped to capture, but things felt better when we followed his rhythm organically. To shoot in this reactive vérité style, we relied mostly on one spherical Angeneiux 30-90mm zoom so we didn’t have to stop what Geoff was doing to swap lenses.

DP’s Claudio Rietti and Danny Vecchione used an Alexa Mini to craft a cinematic look, contrasting composed lock-offs inspired by the geometry in Geoff’s paintings with equally thoughtful hand-held shots.

Working around my day job, we shot 56 days over four years. Geoff is a fairly private person, and trust developed slowly. We didn’t film with Geoff’s family until a year into the process or in their home until year three. This extended production period allowed us to experiment with the edit between shoots.

I’ve directed short form work for 15 years, but had to learn new skills to make a feature. We showed an early cut to EP Spike Jonze and his biggest note was that we needed an arc and to show how Geoff had changed. That one note altered the trajectory of the edit. We went through countless versions to arrive at the through line that resonated the most.

During this process, I turned forty and Geoff turned 50. Watching someone a decade ahead navigate life with such intention pushed me and the film to explore how we use our most precious resource: time. Finishing the film was an exercise in devoting myself to a larger dream.