Chaz Bear scores the music for a dreamy film about the workings of his own creativity
11th December 2019 by Will Stewart
Tyler McPherron – I grew up in an off the grid home in rural southern Oregon. We had a couple horses, an outhouse and a 1960’s mobile home that ran off of 12 volt solar power, which was barely enough to power our old 13″ TV. When your household electricity solely comes from a few solar panels and a series of golf cart batteries, you really don’t get a whole lot of TV time draining the batteries. TV time was limited and thus it was an extra special treat. In middle school I enrolled in a video production class where I got to film and edit the morning announcements. Coming from my background, having the freedom, power and opportunity to wield a VHS camera to make moving images felt like magic.
From that point I began a non-linear path toward where I am today. After classes, internships, production company jobs and freelance gigs, I’ve landed on what I find to be a rather lovely career. Today, I live in the Bay Area and work as a Director of Photography/Cinematographer for commercials, documentaries and music videos. Occasionally I dabble in directing, but I reserve that special energy for projects or subjects I’m passionate about.
While it’s not my bread and butter, I’m well versed in filming and directing short, music based documentary style films. I used to work frequently with Yours Truly, a music-centric production company that started in San Francisco. We’d mainly film session style videos with up-and-coming acts like FKA Twigs, Lizzo, Future Islands and Moses Sumney, to name a few. In 2014, Yours Truly asked me to direct a short documentary on how Chaz Bear (Toro y Moi) was starting a new creative studio with his pal Brendan Nakahara. The piece entitled, “Sketch to Screen,” profiles Chaz and Brendan’s interests in graphic design, art making and it marks the development of Company Studio. The short film got a Vimeo Staff Pick, which garnered some attention.
In the years since, I’ve been fortunate to become collaborators with Chaz Bear and the Company Creative crew. I’ve had the opportunity to work on Toro y Moi projects, such as the “Boo Boo” album stream and the “Ordinary Pleasure” music video, as well as a handful of film and music video projects for Company Studio.
While having lunch after a stroll through the dog park one day, Chaz Bear mentioned that he was planning to rent a cabin near the Russian River to finish the album he was working on. I asked him if I could tag along to document it and he agreed. A few months later, armed with an 8mm camera, a sound recorder and a couple mirrored closet doors, I embarked on a journey up to meet Chaz at his improvised music studio in the woods.
I entered the project without any real plan nor idea what I was going to make. I had sort of anticipated that Chaz Bear would be slugging away on finishing the album day and night, but what I discovered was something a bit different. As you see in the film, his time there was more about seclusion, proximity to nature, relaxation and boredom. Through this process we see Chaz endeavour to find the peace and purity at the core of his creativity.
“Creating Outer Peace” is a much more meandering and open ended type of film than I typically work on, however the post production of the film came together quite intuitively. My first cut doesn’t flow much differently than my final cut, 20 some odd versions later. With the editing, I wanted to do my best to convey the meditative experience of being there, smoking weed, exploring the river, taking naps on the porch and dabbling with music. The sound design for the piece used diegetic audio from the trip, as well as other sounds pulled from my personal sound library.
Chaz generously offered to score the film, based on some music I found that had the vibes I was going for. Scoring the piece was probably my favourite part of it all. Chaz Bear invited me over to his studio where he had a small funky harp hooked up to his computer. I played the film for him and he basically scored the film live as it went. After just a few attempts in each section, we had the score recorded. It felt truly gratifying to get to collaborate with him in a way that brought a whole new dimension to the film.