On Creating Ambience: An interview with Filmmaker, Brett Ferster

Field Notes Interview #67: Brett Ferster, Filmmaker

We sat down with filmmaker, Brett Ferster and talked about using ambience as a soundtrack in his recent dialogue-driven short film One Night In Aberdeen.


Creating any engaging piece of art comes down to creating a strong environment for the story to live in. When it comes to film, music can help provide that strong environment in crafting an immersive experience. For Calgary, Alberta director, Brett Ferster, establishing a strong tone in his short film One Night In Aberdeen was all about finding the right balance of music and intimate dialogue. Ferster used the indie-pop track “Lark” by Marmoset Band, Radiation City and it had remarkable results. One Night… was received positive accolades including a feature as Short Of The Week on Vimeo. 

Check out the trailer to Ferster’s film below and share your thoughts by commenting. Enjoy.

M: When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

BF: I knew I wanted to throw my hat in the filmmaking ring, when I switched my degree in University from History & Eduction to a fine arts degree in New Media. Particularly, when taking an ‘off shoot’ new media class – I had an assignment to create a short film from all collected material from the internet (pictures, video clips, sounds, songs, etc.). And I spent weeks and weeks and weeks making this film, while neglecting my history course work. That was a big sign for me to change paths.

M: What was the inspiration behind One Night In Aberdeen?

BF: The inspiration for Aberdeen came from when my producer and I went to see the stage play by two local playwrights. They had made an hour long play entitled ‘Super 8’, and I really connected with the characters and their approach to telling this story. And what a test it turned out to be, how could we translate and adapt this great stage production into a worthwhile short film.

M:  What made this production different from your others?

BF: This was new territory for me, having created strongly plot driven work previous to this. So I wanted to see if we could adapt the play, into a conversational driven film that envelopes you over time. I think my strengths lay in more classical filmmaking styles too, so this was almost a counter-intuitive project to many modern short films. It’s not a sub-10 minute gritty handheld film, and truthfully, I wasn’t sure if it would find its audience because of that. But I’m over the moon that it has, and that people enjoy this type of film as well as all the other great work out there. 

M: What role do you feel music has in film?

BF: Because of the style of the film – a paced conversational intimate story – we knew from the get go music would play a huge part. It needed to fill in not only room ambience and help build the tone in parts, but also be key in creating a mood for the intro and outro of the film. 

M: How do you feel music is misused in film?

BF: I don’t think I could say music is misused in film, because it’s always going to be such a subjective decision and creative choice. And those choices may work for some, and less so for others. Where music may be used as a crutch, some may see it as the missing piece in a scene. As long as music is used with intent, and deliberately with an idea behind it – that’s all an audience can ask for. 

M: How did you know “Lark” was the right song for the soundtrack?

BF: ‘Lark’ was a perfect fit for us and the way it is used in the film. Early on in editing I became interested in the idea of duality and parallelism. And my challenge was, could I choose a song that could be used as the intro and outro song, but because of what the characters and audience have just experienced, could it sound different in the end compared to how it sounds at the beginning? So ‘Lark’ was a perfect fit for me and this task, as I really enjoy it simplicity and sincerity as it creates its melody, that isn’t too cheerful nor lonesome but somewhere in between. I wanted the song we chose to feel like a soundtrack to the characters’ and where they are in this moment in their lives.

M: What would be the first line in your letter to a young filmmaker?

BF: I think my first line in a letter like that would be, The highs are high and the lows are low – but the adventure is worth it if you love it. 

M: What’s on the horizon for you?

BF: I am just finishing a new short film, told through two converging story lines about three brothers who discover a dead body at their swimming hole – and their decisions in the moment. And ever so slowly starting to look at the feature film world, but it’s a big pond to play in, and I want to find the right story to tell first. 



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