SAN FRANCISCO — Pollen Music Group, which offers music and sound services, is expanding its reach into content creation by developing original IP for a variety of mediums, including television, film and virtual/augmented reality. The studio, which was founded by Alexis Harte, JJ Weisler and Scot Stafford, is best known for its work on Google Spotlight Stories’ Pearl, directed by Patrick Osborne, and several projects for immersive entertainment company Baobab Studios (
Crow: The Legend, Baba Yaga).
Thirsty represents the first project from Pollen that’s part of the company’s new content initiative. The five-minute short, which will be released later this year, explores the drying and burning of Harte’s native California, while weaving in some of his own mid-life demons. Produced during the COVID lockdown, Thirsty was spearheaded by Harte and filmmaker Josh Peterson.
“Back in May 2020, the hills surrounding me were already starting to crisp up and change colors earlier than I ever remember, and it was terrifying,” recalls Harte.
The film he and Peterson had planned was postponed due to COVID-19. However, as the forests and towns around the Bay Area started burning, the featured song and narrative began to feel even more timely. Harte and Peterson decided to move forward after figuring out a way to shoot safely on location in Inverness, CA, and Western Nevada with lead actor Rob Nilsson.
“As usual, Alexis’ lyrics had many layers, but right away I zeroed in on the theme of an environmental reckoning,” reflected Peterson on the film’s genesis. “That choice seemed even clearer as the summer of California burning wore on. One morning in the Bay Area we awoke to a nightmare sky of dark, hellish orange –– an unearthly red twilight that lasted all day and directly inspired the color scheme of our final scene at the coast.”
He shot the project with what he describes as a “run-and-gun guerrilla package” that included a Sony a7s II; a Sony 24-70mm lens kit and a few older still camera lenses; a Ronin-SC gimbal; a Peak Design travel tripod with a Manfrotto head; and a Feelworld F6 monitor. He was able to carry the whole package himself in a LowePro ProTactic backpack.
Most of the shoot took advantage of available light, except for the saloon scene, which made use of an old, borrowed Arri 1K HMI, as well as a couple of Falcon Eyes F7s to fill out closeups in the boat scene.
“We did the opening saloon scene at a dairy barn in Point Reyes Station in early November, and I shot a few detail pickups at an abandoned horse stable in Woodside one morning a few days later,” he recalls.
The final boat scene was shot in Inverness, CA, over two mornings in September of 2020, with one pickup shot a month later. After several days of scouting, Peterson shot the desert scenes in Western Nevada over two days in October.
The elements for the “desert splash” effect were shot with an iPhone 11, which offered a higher frame rate/slow motion effect than he could get with the a7s.
“The foreground element was shot on our first day, off a dock on the Seadrift lagoon in Stinson Beach, CA,” Peterson explains. “I shot the background plate in December in Berkeley's Sibley Regional Park.”
Ocean/water shots without actors were licensed from Pond5. Peterson used Adobe Premiere Pro to edited the short over 10 days in November and December, with a few final tweaks in January.
“I edited in Premiere Pro, with the big effects composite shot in After Effects.”
He completed the first pass, which was then polished and perfected by Chris Green.