One year ago this week, the first episode of Olive Us was released. It was Garden Day. Remember? We can’t believe it was a year ago! It seems like both two weeks and two lifetimes ago. And it still feels just as fresh and magical to us now as it did then. It’s true, “we CAN plant seeds if we want to!” We hope you won’t mind our little trip down memory lane as we celebrate the episode that launched Olive Us!
Olive Us started as an experiment a little over a year ago. We wanted a project that we could all meaningfully work on together as a family. We invited Tiger in a Jar to come for a week and try something out. We knew we would make at least three episodes, but we wanted to try to make more in order to build a stronger culture for the show. We ended up making eight.
We knew Tiger in a Jar made beautiful films, but we didn’t know what it would be like to launch a show together. Tiger in a Jar brought their curiosity, willingness to experiment, and expertise, and we got to work. It was a lot of work, but the best kind of work: creative, playful, energizing problem-solving. The collaboration has been more fulfilling and inspiring than anything any of us could have predicted. And Garden Day was the first fully developed product. We remember watching it just before we released it, and loving it, and hoping that others would love it too. We still hope you do.
Since the first episode, we have released 23 more–and we think each is distinctive, beautiful, quirky, and fun. It is really astounding to look back at last year and see what the show has become. We are so grateful for your support. We love this show. We love what it has meant for our family. We love what you have told us it has meant to you and yours. We love the stories you have told us about watching it, and how you have even made your own videos. We really, truly, can’t thank you enough, or tell you what it means to us that you enjoy Olive Us. So we’ll just say: Thank you!
As great as it is to look back on the past year and reflect on how this simple idea has sprouted, we know that the best of Olive Us is yet to come. Stay tuned…
Wow. We have been so excited about all the episodes this “season”. We can’t believe that we are finally releasing the last episode! And it feels like a grand finale–and in typical Olive Us fashion, a pretty big departure from everything else.
I suppose it sounds redundant now, but we are so thrilled to release Le Petit Chaperon Rouge! It’s another narrated episode, like Kish, but this time Betty narrates in French. So It’s our first episode narrated by a child, and our first episode in French. It’s a familiar story, so you should be able to follow along (and we know you’ll love the visuals no matter what). If you are interested, we have also posted the text in English and French here. It is based on a version Grandpa Blair tells. (We think this might be the most enjoyable way to study French).
We have been so excited about this episode for many reasons. Betty has learned the story at her school here in France. One of the first comments people make when they see the woods near our home is “they look like the woods where all the fairy tales take place!” It was such a treat to watch Tiger in a Jar ”attack” the forest with their camera-work. We also loved making use of some gorgeous half-timber houses at La Galotiere (the place where we filmed Cider Farm), and: The Wardrobes! A huge thank you to Miranda Anderson’s genius behind the whole ensemble–including re-fashioning a ladies red dress coat into the perfect red riding hood. We drooled over every character wardrobe: Little Red! The Mother! The Wolf! The Grandma! The Woodsman!
But wait! There’s more! The last piece was the title by Merrilee Liddiard! Oh my! We are crying it is so beautiful, right? Don’t you want a poster of that title?
With all that, we hope you love Le Petit Chaperon Rouge!
Kish is our first narrated story. And our first, what’s the word? epic? film. We were really excited to make it, and try out a new episode form, and we are so happy with how it turned out! We hope you will love it too.
It has special significance for us because the story was written by Grandpa Blair–and his voice narrates. (If you’re interested, you can read the original story here.) It’s a story we have heard many times, and we have retold it many times as well. We love the lessons it teaches, and the wonder at the night sky it inspires. [Fun fact: Grandpa Blair--a retired linguist--had in mind how people approach learning another language when he wrote the story of Kish.]
We filmed this episode this past summer in Snow Canyon, Utah. When we knew we would be near the area, we were so excited with the prospect of making an episode based on Kish–it is for sure our most “cinematic” episode yet. We love having this substantial connection to Grandpa–that his creative work and our creative work are intertwined. This episode makes us feel grateful for Grandparents, and grateful that Olive Us has enabled such inter-generational collaborations (Hand cookies with Grandma Mac was another such collaboration we loved). Sharing stories and recipes through these videos has been a much thicker connection than we ever could have predicted or imagined. But we think the story of Kish is strong enough that you’ll love it even if it wasn’t written by your Grandpa.
And speaking of creative work, this episode took a lot of different thinking to go from a written story to a short film. For example, we adapted the story to remove dialogue–which was really central in the original story, but can get complicated or confusing when a narrator speaks for actors–and rely more on visuals to tell the story. Tiger in a Jar jumped in head first to bring Kish to life. We love the custom music written and produced by Geoff Groberg. And are so happy with the beautiful illustrations by Merrilee Liddiard. We can’t tell–does our enthusiasm carry over to this blog post? Because it’s hard to contain it in these parts. Watch Kish Now!
The visuals from the Kish setting–Snow Canyon in Southern Utah–were amazing. This was one of the shoots where every few minutes, someone would say, “Is this place for real?!!”
To share Kish (and we hope you will!) use this code: https://vimeo.com/59196587
Kish is a different episode for several reasons. It is our first narrated episode, and it is our first episode adapted from a story. We imagine you’ll appreciate the difficulty of adapting a story when you read the original. We still read the story and wish we could have fit in more details and made this a 10-15 minute episode, but we also love the beautiful visuals that we got that capture the essence of the story, and pushed it in many ways. We still are completely enchanted by the original story, while we are also completely delighted with our interpretation. We hope you love them both too. Read the original now: The_Story_of_Kish
The last few episodes from this season are different from any other episode we have done to date. We’re excited to give you the first taste. It’s Shadow Puppets, and (fair warning) it just might make you want to make some shadow puppets. Hats off again to Tiger in a Jar, for the great concept, and the amazing illustrations by Merrilee Liddiard. Right? Watch Shadow Puppets Now!
Everytime we watch the episode–like clockwork–everyone wants to experiment more with shadow puppets.
Do you have the same reaction? We kind of think you will.
What are you waiting for? Go make some shadow puppets!
After we have made a list of shots we want in an episode, the next major step is to storyboard the episode. Tiger in a Jar introduced storyboarding to us, and it has made a huge difference in making a video–now most videos anyone in the family makes, whether as part of Olive Us, or just for fun, typically uses a storyboard. In fact, for Christmas, Ralph got some “Storyboard” sheets. Here’s a link to the layout if you want to print out and use for your video.
Before Tiger in a Jar demonstrated a storyboard, I think we were intimidated by the idea–it feels like something production studios like Pixar would do, but not something for a short family video. But Tiger in a Jar showed us some very simple storyboards for episodes, and the term became less intimidating. It basically means just sketching out what the different shots would look like. It’s very simple, but it also helps everyone start to visualize what the video will look like. We still may make changes to the storyboard, or make changes once we start filming, but the storyboard gives us a concrete guide. Here is a sample storyboard from Ralph’s Blackberries video:
One of the most helpful aspects of a storyboard is that we know when we are done. We consult the storyboard, and mark off when we have filmed each scene. One urge we sometimes have is try to film every shot we can imagine, so a storyboard gives some good discipline to the filming process.
Like the shot list, it’s really fun to look back at our storyboards now. And typically, episodes stay quite close to storyboards (though there is still some wiggle room.) When we look at storyboards for future episodes, it feels like a sneak preview.
There are still some steps besides making a shot list and a storyboard, and we’ll talk about some of those in the next few weeks. But if you have done a shot list and a storyboard, you have done the key pre-production work. Once you have your storyboard, you’ll really want to get filming. In fact, it may be wise to ask someone to hold you back beforehand. But that’s natural.
So there is your next bit of practical support: Make a storyboard.
To re-cap details on the contest:
We can’t wait to watch your video!
Getting Started: Shot List
Are you making an Olive Us-inspired video? Need some help getting started? One of the first steps we take when we are making an Olive Us episode, is to think about some of the activities we want to capture. Here’s a list of shots we made for Stacking Wood:
It’s really fun to look at the list now, because we can still see how it organized our thinking about the episode, but the episode also changed a lot from these first thoughts (notably, in a stroke of genius, Tiger in a Jar recommended a strong narrator…). We typically make a list like this for every episode, and sometimes we stay close to the list, other times the episodes depart quite a bit by the time we start filming. But one of the fun activities for each show is to gather and think about what shots would tell the story we want to tell.
There are still some steps between this list and the actual shooting, and we’ll talk about some of those in the next few weeks. But we think that if you make a list like this for what you want to film, it will get you really excited to get filming!
So there is your practical support: Make a list of the shots that will tell your story.
To re-cap details on the contest:
We can’t wait to watch your video!
Heloisa sent us these drawings made by her 4-year-old students. The class is engrossed in learning about animals hatched from eggs. It started by watching How to Buy Eggs from a Petite Ferme. The students made these drawings after watching the video. So great!
We love them all: The boots! Giving money! The cracked egg! Thank you Heloisa, and students for sharing your work with us!
Drawings by the children from Heloisa`s Art Class at the Instituto da Criança, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Want to make an Olive Us Video? Now is your chance!
Several people have reached out to us sharing family videos they made, inspired by Olive Us. We don’t think we could possibly express how thrilling it is to hear this and watch what others have done.
We have also heard people say what amazing mementos Olive Us videos will be for our family for years to come. We agree! We love making the videos–even though they take a lot of work–and we are so inspired by the thought of having these videos, years in the future, to enjoy and remember. And we think YOU would love to have such a memento of your family as well. So here’s a little kick in the pants you might need to get you going…
It’s a contest! Make your own Olive Us-inspired video!
Have you ever watched an Olive Us episode and thought, “We should make a video like that!” or “I would love to have a video like that of us!” Well, even if you haven’t, now you can make that video and get rewarded for it!
You can take inspiration from wherever it comes. A day in the life of a child like How to Be 2? A tour of your town like Betty in Paris? The family working together like Stacking Wood or Garden Day or Carwash? A favorite family recipe like Tzatziki or Snoball Cookies? Exploring some favorite site or activity like Pottery Lesson or Cider Farm? Or maybe there is just a family tradition, or specific moment you want to capture like Hand Cookies with Grandma? Or something else entirely. Whatever gets you going…
And don’t worry! Don’t feel like your video has to look like a Tiger in a Jar production–they’re professionals for a reason. But we do hope you’ll think in terms of making a lasting memento that you will love to watch together, and a video that you are proud to share. As an example, watch Ralph’s video, inspired by Olive Us. It’s called “Blackberries“:
So here are the details: This contest will run through April 30. Which means you’ve got about 7 weeks. The length of the video should be less than 5 minutes. (Most Olive Us episodes are between 2 and 4 minutes–Ralph’s Blackberry video is around 1 minute, and that’s fine too). The winners will be selected by a panel of experts–watch for an announcement in the coming weeks.
The winning video will be featured on our newsletter and blog. Beyond this, you’ll also win a Kindle Fire HD! Woohoo! And of course, a part of the reward will be the satisfaction you’ll have, years down the road, when you re-watch your great work, and knowingly refer to it as your “award-winning” video…
To submit your entry, simply upload your video in whatever way you like best (Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook, your blog, or other video sharing account) and send the link to email@example.com. If you have already made such a video, you’re in luck! You can still be entered–just send us a link to your video.
We can’t wait to see what you make. We hope you win! And win or not, we know you’ll be delighted with your production for years to come.
photo by Sara of Modern Kids.
We are preparing for some upcoming episodes, and want your help! We are looking for a joke (a really funny joke) related to the theme “school”. We are also looking for a tongue-twister (a really tongue-twisting tongue-twister) related to the theme “school”. The winning joke and tongue twister will be featured in an upcoming episode of Olive Us! We hope it will be you! Please share! To submit your joke or tongue-twister, just send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.