Location: Lancaster, PA
Derek Lau is the Executive Producer and owner of aideM Media Solutions, a full-service video production company located in Lancaster, PA offering a variety of services including digital cinematography, internet and website video, documentary videos and high energy sports coverage.
Lau and other members from his team were integral collaborators on Calf Rope in several capacities. Derek served as part of the onset sound department and also as a camera operator for the rodeo scene in the film. Dadley Productions asked him to respond to a few questions about his take on filmmaking as well as his involvement with working on Calf Rope:
How did you get started as a filmmaker?
I began making skateboarding videos - loved the action!
What inspired you to pursue filmmaking in your local community?
I grew up in Lancaster County. When I started out as a filmmaker, I found that Lancaster was a great place to meet the right people at the right time to start my production company, aideM Media. People in this area are approachable, so, if you try hard enough, it’s easy to connect with the right people in the industry.
As for Lancaster as a filming location, we have great geographic diversity: lakeside beaches at Mt. Gretna, suburban and urban areas, and beautiful countryside – lots of dynamics and diverse landscape that help with filmmaking.
What do you love most about your local film community?
I like the fact that people are supportive of one another, and that we have so many talented people in one arena, and we figure out how to work together.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to tell their own story?
Just do it... Practice makes perfect. Don't let perfection hold you back. Get the baby out...the baby doesn't have to be perfect.
What is your favorite film, and why?
My favorite movie is Paul Verhoven’s Total Recall. I love that film because it is a combination of action-packed sci-fi and non-stop psychological thriller – one of those movies that plays on reality so that the audience doesn’t know what is real and what is dreamt. From the standpoint of sound design/mixing, I suggest watching Tron – very cool sound effects and futuristic motorcycles!
What recent movie or TV series has inspired you?
I recently re-watched the movie Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny, a film written, produced by, and starring Jack Black. It’s musical-fantasy-comedy, a mix of live action and musical sequences. I think it’s clever – a rock opera and back and forth between acting and singing. I just watched Swingers for the first time last night. I was impressed with the fact that such a hit film could be produced with such an attainable budget.
What was your first experience on a set, and what do you most remember from that moment?
I went to the Art Institute of Philadelphia. There were several student projects, including a documentary about Love Park in downtown Philly. Love Park used to be a mecca for the skateboarding community. At the time the documentary was shot, the city was remodeling Love Park to make it less attractive to skateboarders; when that was announced, all the famous skateboarders across the nation came to Love Park. They wanted to see who the best skateboarder was before Love Park closed to their sport. .
Sound was challenging on that set. There’s a difference between capturing skateboard sounds and combining interviewing people with city noises in the background. We had to wait (for noise to diminish), and also figure out how to position the microphone in the best way to minimize background noise. I learned that sound professionals must have a lot of patience. What’s funny is that the sound guy is sometimes considered annoying on the set because he or she considers things other people don’t consider – ambient and background noises like a lawnmower or birds that you have to wait to pass before filming.
What day of the Calf Rope production did you find most memorable?
The first day of Calf Rope production, with the vintage 1950s and 1960s cars and the paper boy on the bike – was really memorable. I was impressed with all the props and everything that went into the film’s production. The attention to detail was amazing! And, of course, our last day on set – the cattle auction scene – was emotional. That’s the way it is when a film wraps!
Which scene in Calf Rope was the most significant for you as a sound person?
There’s a scene that involves a phone call; we needed to capture clean sound and quiet voices. We had to get the microphones as close to the actors as possible. I got chills during that scene.
What is your single favorite line from Calf Rope?
“He had a powerful thirst.”
What’s next for you in terms of film projects?
My company is focused on commercial filming now. Personally, I am working on a documentary with a colleague and former classmate in Philadelphia about black business owners and African American entrepreneurship.
What is your one piece of advice for someone who wants to get into filmmaking, particularly in your technical area of sound design?
Definitely go for it! There are many opportunities in sound; most people want to be DPs (Directors of Photography). Not many people choose to focus on sound in filmmaking, but it’s a growing field and really interesting. I recommend apprenticing under a sound person to launch a career. Sound is one the most important aspects of a movie and I’ve learned to pay attention to it when watching a film. For the dramatic experiences in Calf Rope, there are caring, loving sensitive scenes as well as fast-paced action scenes from the calf roping and cattle auction sequences. You know a lot of the foley audio and music are going to be tied in, but it’s also important to capture “clean” sound on set so your location sound helps mix into the final sound mix well. By “clean sound,” I mean doing everything possible to capture the highest quality sound – whether it means waiting for background noise to die down or positioning the microphone to capture the best sound.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about Calf Rope?
I love the fact that Calf Rope encapsulates an era of American history that was interesting to preserve [mid-1960s in rural America]. Calf Rope is a great story about family dynamics, relationships, and how the different roles each family member plays all work together to create the whole.
of Dadley Productions. I was beyond impressed at his leadership, and their combined organizational abilities to pull everything together to make the movie happen.
What is the best way to stay in touch with you?