Creator Spotlight: Francesca Russell
Mar 19, 2020
Anyone who knows Soundstripe knows our purpose is to keep creators creating.
So every few months, we like to give someone from our community of creators the spotlight and explore the great work they’ve been doing.
This month we’re featuring Francesca Russell.
Francesca is a documentary family photographer and filmmaker, who currently resides just outside New York City on Long Island with her partner Eric and their two kids, Lila and Logan.
Before becoming a photographer, Francesca spent twenty years as a professional stage manager both on Broadway and regionally, where she helped artists realize their visions and share their stories through live theater.
In addition to being a photographer and filmmaker, Francesca is also an avid knitter, crafter, list-maker, adventurer, sunshine-lover, learning addict and project-a-holic. Her goals for her work are to one day have a film published on the New York Times’ Op Docs, and to continue helping families see the importance in creating tangible proof of their own stories.
We spoke to Francesca to learn more about how she approaches filmmaking and where she finds inspiration.
Francesca also made us a playlist of her favorite Soundstripe songs for family films. Check it out here.
Soundstripe: What do you enjoy the most about filmmaking?
Nothing compares to being able to relive memories or share stories through video - there is a visceral quality to it that just isn’t present in still images or written word.
To be able to hear the voices of loved ones who may no longer be with us, to see a child take his or her first steps, to hear the stories of others from their own lips — it's the closest thing to being there.
Bottling up memories for families to hold onto forever, or sharing inspiring stories that could possibly help or enlighten someone who might be watching — it's the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.
Check out Francesco's sizzle reel to see her work (featuring "Kingdom Come" by Caleb Etheridge):
SS: How do you choose the music for the type of content you create?
FR: I am drawn to tracks that take the listener on a journey — tracks that rise to a climax and then resolve.
Just like the video footage, the music should tell a story. The music sets the tone for the whole film. When I sit down to begin an edit, I start with the music. I think about the story I want to tell, and I look for music that supports that story in mood, pace and genre.
Practically speaking, for family films, I am generally looking for tracks 3-4 minutes in length with a waveform that has peaks and valleys. I am mainly drawn to the folk genre, but also use cinematic music quite a bit.
I pick the mood of the music based on the story — is it a light, fun film, or perhaps something with a heavier subject matter? The track I pick must support the mood and tone that I want to set for the story of the film.
SS: Where do you get your inspiration from when creating your films?
FR: I am inspired by real life stories of strength, love and overcoming or even just managing life’s challenges — big or small. I am inspired by parents doing their very best to raise their kids in a loving home, despite the sleepless nights, messes and tantrums and tears.
I believe that by sharing our stories candidly we forge connections. We normalize the fact that life is not perfect, and that’s okay. I believe in focusing on the light that gets in through the cracks.
If the stories I share through my films can inspire or help even one person by letting them know they are not alone, then all the work that goes into making them is worth it for me.
SS: Any recommendations or tips for aspiring filmmakers?
FR: Technically, just practice, practice, practice. I will probably be a life-long student. There is always something to learn. For those who aspire to make family films, I highly recommend the courses by Xanthe Berkeley and also the Filming Life Academy.
Remember that the story you are trying to tell is the backbone of your film. Don’t get caught up in pretty footage or visual tricks if it doesn’t support the story. For excellent training on creating story structure in films, I recommend Muse Storytelling’s courses and webinars.
And for those who may not have professional filmmaking goals, but just want to document their family memories, I would recommend making sure you have all your videos backed up somewhere like Google Photos or iMemories. Don’t risk losing years of memories by keeping everything on your phone!