Kristen’s Fairy House began with an “Aha!” moment in a shower, a picnic on an old railroad bridge, and a trip to an island off the coast of Maine. The idea was brought to life by a multi-talented team consisting of Tracy Kane (a set designer from New York), Barry Kane (a CAD consultant from England), Kathleen Secrest (a graphic designer from Toledo, OH), and Mark Forman (a documentary producer from Minneapolis, MN). Incidentally, they form husband and wife teams!
One summer, Tracy and Barry took a trip to a wonderful island in Penobscot Bay, along the coast of Maine. They discovered a special tradition of children building small houses out of pine cones, twigs and leaves for the fairies of the woods to live in. Tracy, inspired by this magical activity, began a picture book for children called Fairy Houses.
Each day, the little girl in the story checks to see if fairies have moved in to the house that she built, and finds some surprising guests!
Kathleen and Mark were nearing the completion of their first children’s, called Sheep Crossing. Always looking for another project idea, they couldn’t seem to find anything with all the right ingredients.
One day, Kathleen leapt out of the shower and cried “I’ve got it, let’s do something with fairy houses and Tracy’s book!” It was one of those ideas that immediately seemed perfect, even though neither of them had any real sense what the video might be.
Kathleen worked with Tracy at New Hampshire Public Television and was inspired by Tracy’s illustrations and story draft.
For years, Mark wanted to produce videos that would be somewhere in-between dramatic storytelling and documentary; Kristen’s Fairy House seemed perfect.
He and Kathleen brainstormed. They knew it had to have a thread holding it together, but were intrigued with the idea of keeping it real and spontaneous. It was essential to find out whether Tracy was open to the idea of doing a video related to the book, and would Tracy be willing to play herself in the video?
In July, the couples took the Kane’s luxury canoe out into Great Bay of New Hampshire where they docked by a railroad bridge, and had what was to be a very influential picnic lunch. They discussed the project, and to Mark and Kathy’s delight, Tracy was very interested in being part of the creative team, as was Barry. It was a go!
Production (the fairies are with us)
Kristen’s Fairy House was produced backwards. It was started with a rough outline and no dialog. The gist of what was to happen in each scene was explained to Kristen briefly, and Mark would just start shooting. It worked! In fact, Kristen’s initial screen test is actually part of the video.
At most of our major milestones of production – content, people, events, or even the weather – the fairies were with us, and things just seemed to magically come together. The motto for our production soon became “the fairies are with us”. It was truly inspiring, and was felt by all involved.
Scenes were allowed their own life. Wherever possible, adjustments were made to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. One scene called for Kristen to swim after a bag of popcorn to keep it from going out to sea where a seal might choke on it. A group of young girls showed up to ride floats on the fast-moving tidal water. They expressed an interest, and were recruited to play themselves in a high-energy race to catch the bag as the current carried it along! It was exciting, truly spontaneous, and great fun!
The production was done on a shoestring, (“less than what a Steven Spielberg production would spend for one morning coffee break”, Union Leader). Mark and Kathleen owned the shooting package and editing system that brought the project to the final stage of assembly in an on-line edit suite. The main expenses were for tape stock, travel and lodging.
Mark Forman (Director/Editor) Mark (dubbed the “Maestro” of directing and editing), captured the essence of our quest to convey the natural beauty inherent within nature. His ability to keep on track and focused allowed us to shoot all scenes in a remarkably short time, and within our minuscule budget.
Mark worked his magic when editing the rough footage, introducing music that truly made the heart soar. Among his many, many contributions, he introduced the concept of the fairies being `in-between the things that we see’, and linked it to the provoking slow dissolve of focus between objects in the lens.Mark has produced, shot and edited films and videos for more than 20 years. His documentary films have been broadcast nationally on PBS and have received awards from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Currently, he currently is a pricipal of Cornerbooth Productions in Spokane, WA.
Tracy was the gentle beacon that guided everyone throughout the production. She provided the initial seeds of inspiration for the video from her book concept, Fairy Houses. She developed the screenplay to include vital scenes like the quarry scene, where Kristen swims to save the artwork. Also, the climactic dance scene, where she and Kristen become kindred spirits, and swirl in discovery and enjoyment.
Tracy played herself during shooting, drawing illustrations, attending to set design in the breaks, working on continuity at all times, and generally inspired many of the spontaneous production gems.
Kathleen began the whole thing with her “Aha” shower scene at home. She saw the potential in her friend Tracy’s book concept, took it a step further, and projected the idea into their next video production. She saw the aunt/niece relationship at the core of the story, not to mention the unforgettable `blueberry pie’ scene!
In addition, Kathleen was responsible for sound. Being there at all shoots to fine tune, adjust, tweak …. while at the same time attending to a producer’s endless list.
Kathleen is a former Art Director for the University of New Hampshire and is currently a graphic designer for Robideaux, an advertising and public relations firm in Spokane, WA. She is also an artist and a producer of children’s videos.
Barry Kane (Assistant Producer) It was a small production team and everyone did a little of everything and a lot of carrying around of production gear. Being an instinctive `Jack of all trades’, Barry’s range was probably the greatest. He did everything from catching and controlling frogs and grasshoppers, to helping direct some scenes.
It was Barry’s idea to end the major scenes by panning the focus to a fairy house, as if the fairies were watching. (And still feels like they were!)
Responsible for all photography, including the video cover, he captured the `official’ as well as the `behind the scene’ events.
Even though 8 year old Kristen had never acted, she was at a perfect age to still want to believe in fairies. (We can’t figure out why the rest of the team doesn’t seem to be growing up?) This probably helped in the conviction of her acting, just being herself. The scenes were unrehearsed, and mostly shot one time.
Kristen loves outdoor activites, and is very curious about nature. She was so into the production, that when going on location to the islands to shoot, she brought her own cricket from her yard at home to act in the story. Tricket (as he was named) took up residence in the yard at the cottage and provided us with wonderful nighttime sound effects!
Unique attributes of Kristen were her ability to be patient, unassuming, and never loose her cool!
Patricia Sullivan (Narrative) Pat happened to live next door to Tracy and Barry. A writing professor at the University of New Hampshire, Pat also has a daughter at a perfect age to be a test audience. Pat was taken with the project. She matched just the right few words to match our images and music. In truth, some scenes were shot and included mostly because they would be fun to shoot, or looked too good to miss. Pat managed to find ways to either give them an extra depth, or sometimes make them critical to the telling of the story. A true wordsmith, Pat was the `Weaver’ of our production tapestry. Only after a rough version of the video was completed, was the written narration approached. As it always seemed to happen when a key player was needed, the right person seemed to just show up!
We needed a sincere, natural voice that matched Kristen’s character, and portrayed the subtle messages that Kristen’s Fairy House was delivering. When asked if she knew a suitable candidate, Kelly Edgars who runs a local children’s production group, immediately thought of Amanda. Again, the fairies were with us. Amanda was the ideal match. Her voice melds with the magical video images. Nobody even questions that the voice is really Kristen’s!
Trudi Puffer (Wardrobe) Trudi, Kristen’s mother, had also never been part of a video production before. She was a natural. All days, events, scenes and their respective costumes were carefully orchestrated. She fit in to the `jack of all trades’ nature of the production, and helped with any and all areas needed.
Trudi’s idea to dress Kristen in a fairy costume for the dance scene was an inspiration to us all. She turned out to be a real fairy godmother!