Next Level: Joint Effort
Photo from Joint Effort by Zeppelin Zeerip
This series of posts highlights some of our Next Level Grant recipients. We asked Zeppelin Zeerip to provide insight into the work on his latest project, ‘Joint Effort’.
The Next Level Grant Program provides funding for local directors and producers that are currently working on a project in the state of Utah. The Utah Film Commission seeks to cultivate original storytelling by providing the extra push for filmmakers to get their film to the “next level”. This program funds projects of all stages from development to production and distribution. More information on our next round of funding will be available soon. Read more about the Next Level Grant Program here.
My name is Zeppelin Zeerip. I’m a filmmaker, though that’s just one component. I work for Field Work Creative and my day to day is all over the board. Some days it’s fundraising or pitching potential brand partners on a project, while other days it can be creating decks, putting together storyboards, or running down to the desert to get some last-minute b-roll. Oftentimes I’m in the field, producing or directing, which lately has meant that I’m on the side of a mountain or in a cow pasture. My other interests and passions are snowboarding, environmental activism, climbing, and running.
Joint Effort is an homage to Zoe Zeerip’s journey with Rheumatoid Arthritis. It’s an attempt to show that just because you have an autoimmune disease doesn’t mean you’ve got to resign yourself to a life on the couch.
What led you to document this story?
I’ve watched Zoe struggle for the better part of a decade with arthritis and realized that it’s a lonely journey. So often the perception around arthritis is focused on older consumers, and almost never on teens and young adults. I wanted to create a film that showed arthritis from her perspective and would resonate with other people her age.
How did you prepare for this film?
Prior to this Zoe had been very reserved in talking about her struggles, so the biggest thing was getting her comfortable with filming. Warming her up to the idea and really laying out the vision was the most important part, sharing her story took courage.
What was your day-to-day experience while filming?
Filming was pretty casual since our crew was small, and we filmed around my childhood home in Michigan. We’d go out into the city with a shot list, bike around to get what we could, and come back the next day for whatever we didn’t get. It took us roughly three days of filming to get what you see in the final cut.
The pool scene was the most interesting – we bought an old fish tank and put our RED camera in it to capture the underwater shots. I figured if it can hold water in, then it should also hold water out!
What did you take away from this experience?
My biggest takeaway was how important it is to continue doing passion projects. When I started shooting Joint Effort there were no financial supporters, which gave me complete creative control. I had previously gone on a trip to Washington with Zoe and another cinematographer to try and shoot it, but it didn’t have the right feel, so we scrapped it. Coming back to it a year later really helped give me the clarity for what it needed to feel like.
What do you hope your audience takes away after seeing this film?
I hope the audience realizes that arthritis can affect people of all ages and inspires others to share their stories. It isn’t a disease that has to be managed alone, and through sharing stories people can find the support they need.
Is this career path something you always wanted to pursue, and how did you initially get into the industry?
I fell into filmmaking by meeting a group of guys at Westminster who were making a documentary about a friend of ours, and I joined the team early on. The film is Far From Home from Red Bull TV.
How did the Next Level Grant help you in the process of creating this film?
The Next Level Grant was huge. It allowed me to hire my editor, Jacob Callaghan, who really brought it all together. He understood the vision and really hit it out of the park with post-production including sound design and color.
Do you have upcoming projects that you’re working on?
I’ve got a few, one about a cat-eating hermit in Idaho, another about the origins of snurfing (modern-day snowboarding), and a feature-length documentary about public lands.
What advice would you give to a local who is trying to get into the industry?
You’ve got to be scrappy and able to get along well with others. There’s no formula for being successful in film, it’s about seeing opportunities and making the most of them.
You can watch Joint Effort here.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Allie Russell is the Marketing Coordinator for the Utah Film Commission. For any press and media inquiries, contact the Utah Film Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.