Sharing Media with Clients: Gets It Right

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Project_PageHere is a question for the listeners: How’s it going, really, in sharing files with remote clients and teammates on your projects? Let me guess — you use Dropbox to access files, or sometimes Hightail or GoogleDrive. It’s a guessing game to see what the client is willing to use. Then you have Vimeo for viewing files that need review or discussion, yes? OK, so where are the notes? How far back in my email were those last comments about changes, which can spread out over days or weeks?

Alright, you get the point. This whole process of collaborating with a new prospect or client is a Rube Goldberg collection of disparate tools. Or, as the well-written phrase on the site says:

We replace the hodgepodge of Dropbox for file-sharing, Vimeo for video review, and email for communication … but that’s just a start …

This idea of a better toolset for collaborating has my attention, but I’ve been down this road before, and frankly each time someone brings me a new variation of this idea, the reality is that it doesn’t really work that well or it’s ghastly expensive for independent types like myself.


I think is different, and I’ll tell you why. After I had a demo and a conversation with our guest, Emery, I realized someone designed this toolset from the perspective of a professional media person; it wasn’t simply done by a software engineer with a good idea.

Here’s the deal: Emery has been involved in computer graphics for more than 10 years, including founding 2 companies. He has extensive experience in digital production, including television, film, web, and live broadcast. He’s brought all that knowledge and skill to as part of the design team for this new product. That’s a big deal, so let’s learn more about why this tool is going to be the right answer for so many of us in the business.


Emery Wells is the co-founder and CEO of Prior to, Emery founded and was the Senior Colorist of Katabatic Digital, a boutique post-production company focused on digital cinema and advertising. He has personally contributed to more than 100 digital shorts for Saturday Night Live, and thousands of high-profile commercials for major advertising brands.

Before launching and Katabatic Digital, Emery was an award-winning producer and visual-effects supervisor. In 2004 he received the ProMax Gold award for his work on Nickelodeon’s holiday interstitial package, with credits including visual-effects supervisor and lead compositor. In 2005 he co-produced and co-hosted MacBreak, the first high-definition podcast on iTunes, which held the #1 spot for several weeks. He later went on to co-create The Circuit, a technology news program and the first scripted series for the MOJO HD network.

Here is a write-up on Post Perspective that gives you some good background on Wells and


Why THAT Color? Why Not? Interview with Aleksandar Maćašev

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chromatweet-dumbo-new3bI’m beginning to understand more deeply that COLOR is more than a well-defined, well-behaved set of terms we all share regarding the physical ordering of colors and our assignment of the use of colors in society and culture.

We tend to think of color as physical measurements of light, and we have psychological responses to colors of light. In fact, global advertisers can count on these predictable responses for more sales.

Here’s the deal: Color is what you make it. In the same way that music can be defined in terms of pitch, interval, and duration, color can be defined as hue, saturation, and value. But like music, color is not something that can only be described by its physical presence. You can feel music and notice its influence, and so it is with color – if you make it so.

And so I say: Let’s challenge the established rules – which so many of us unconsciously find ourselves using – with our awareness, or lack thereof, of color.

And what better way to do that than to collaborate with one particular amazing person who now looks beyond the convention of defining, feeling, and using color. A man who believes in helping others find ‘THEIR’ way of defining, using, and feeling colors – Aleksandar Maćašev. You can start by visiting his website,; in fact, I encourage you to go there and explore. It’s the basis of this podcast.

chromatweet-macasevAleksandar is a New York-based visual artist. His work often crosses and re-crosses a thin line between art and design, and it ranges from deceptively simple to highly political. In 2010 his diverse body of work was collected and published in Aleksandar Maćašev / Book.

“Color is not essential, but very influential …
Color is ever changing, it is very relative and relational …”

This idea of exploring the topic of color from a more artistic perspective originated from five blog posts by Aleksandar  I read at that challenge the typical notions of how we think of color.  It was more of an ‘unthinking’ that I had to get my head around.  Aleksandar references a UK artist and author who explores our views and use of color from mind-altering perspectives, such as why is the West so infatuated with the color ‘white’?

My goal is to bring more awareness of color to people, especially to filmmakers, script writers, set designers, and the like. That’s the world I live in, especially independent filmmakers. I want to teach and inspire storytellers to consider a deeper and broader use of color to transform their audience with different perspectives. To reach beyond what has been done before with color in films, to expand ourselves to a higher level of awareness of life. That’s a big goal, I know, and that’s what keeps tugging at my core.

In the last 5 years there has been a huge shift in the availability of very-high-quality hardware and software for video production, with prices dropping rapidly. This is the area I know the most about. Along with this rise in sophistication of machines, there has been the rise of YouTube (now more than 10 years old), with millions of people just wanting to tell stories with video. We live in a world of “Polaroid video shooters” pushing buttons to tell stories – and yet they so often seem unaware of light and color. I can only imagine that the old masters of the paint world would be dumbfounded should they travel forward in time to meet with the newer generation of video storytellers.

Don’t get me wrong; there are many creative filmmakers. But in general, I sense a lack of awareness and inspiration about color in our lives.  We have the imagination to shape how we feel about color, and now we have access to equipment to use color in far more creative ways than most of us know … yet. If you’re interested in further reading to expand your awareness and use of color in storytelling let me encourage you to check out David Batchelor’s Chromphobia, he will take you on a new journey through the the topic of color that will push up against what you may know now. So on with the show!

Download only the audio portion here.


Interview with Randy Starnes on Color Grading Television Series Shows

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Randy StarnesImagine having the opportunity to sit down with a senior colorist who has graded dozens and dozens of shows over his career in the TV and movie business.  That is what it was like as Randy Starnes and I conversed over FaceTime between our two locations, Austin TX and Santa Monica CA.

Picking out one key point from this rich interview is difficult because Randy speaks with such ease and depth and care about his profession and the people he works with. He is a teacher, mentor, and seasoned professional colorist who remains fascinated with color. I’m grateful for this time with him.

Clearly there are many important people in the creation of a TV series, but as a colorist your relationship with the DP is critical, and Randy makes this point with insight, finesse, and emphasis during our interview — multiple times. Randy has deepened my commitment to push harder on all my projects to get to know the DP as soon as possible, any way possible.   You will see why he feels so passionately about this as you listen to his stories and experiences in creating looks for TV shows I’m sure many of us have watched. For example, The Blacklist, Masters of Sex, The Goldbergs, Camp, The Client List,  Gray’s Anatomy, Private Practice,  Desperate Housewives, and NYPD Blue, to name a few.

Before we get rolling, I’m giving a shout-out to Gray Marshall, colorist. He was kind enough to put me directly in touch with Randy for this interview. Thank you, Gray.

We cover a lot or ground in this 45-minute interview. Some of the following points are woven into the stories he tells:

1. Randy, how did you get your start and what drew you to color grading (or color timing, I suppose) back in the ’90s? What was the gear like back then?

2. Talk some about your experiences during the 2000-2010 time frame and the shows you did then. What was your experience with regard to the gear and, more importantly, the collaboration process?

3. As we move into the 2010-present time frame, the technology is changing rapidly, and I’m hearing there is more pressure to get shows graded in less time. Is that true? Talk more about that and what you’re grading on FilmLight these days?

4. Okay, about the Showtime series Masters of Sex.  Geesh, I can remember in the ’70s the work of Masters and Johnson being SO controversial.  The time period of this show, based on the book of the same name that came out in 2009, is the late 1950s, shot mostly in a hospital with people walking around in stylish clothes. Many are smoking. I’m wondering how the LOOK of the show was developed, at least from your perspective, after receiving the files.

In particular – many of the walls in the hospital are not actually white. They are a pale shade of yellow. Was that intended? However, the actual lights or practicals in all the scenes are pure white. Frankly, I like the look and the show; I’m just curious how the look came about. What was your input in the process or the collaboration, and why aren’t the lights more yellow? I just had to ask.

5. Ending our discussion – tell me what you think is around the corner with regard to grading TV and cable shows? What sorts of changes might we expect? What do you suggest to the up-and-coming colorists?

Thank you,


What Exactly Is the Munsell Color System and Why Should I Care?

What Exactly Is the Munsell Color System and Why Should I Care?

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I’m entering a new phase of exploring color in a deeper, more intentional manner. Working with color has always been a fascination, and I have come to realize that there is much more to learn beyond the technical nature of how to use DaVinci Resolve or any color-grading tool. This notion seems to be beckoning me to open up to new perspectives.

In this podcast with Art Schmehling, Business Manager for X-Rite/Pantone, I’m going farther along the path of the language of color. This interview is what I hoped for – an open conversation about color use and color awareness with the Munsell Color system as a basis and starting point for talking about color.  There are other color models. I have my reasons for starting here.

A number of years ago I was introduced to the Munsell Color System by Kevin Shaw during an International Colorist Academy class on Color Strategies for Colorists. I realized that, as a filmmaker and a colorist, I truly did not have a solid feel for how to language my expression of color. Truth is, I think a lot of us have never really had the opportunity to understand how color works, much less how to language it, unless we attended school as an artist. We do our best each day when working with producers and filmmakers, but honestly, at times it feels like the blind leading the blind during the initial conversations. In time a kind of meta understanding is deciphered as we sit long enough and talk.

Kevin mentioned numerous times that “Colorists are often tending toward clichéd looks – different movies using similar looks based on the type of movies,” and of course you can see this pattern clearly with the never-ending use of teal and orange grades, especially in blockbusters. That said, I’ve seen some very creative, subtle, interesting uses of teal and orange, but I get his point. But how do we discover new looks or uses of color that are in service to telling the story in more creative ways?

My mind begins to wonder how color is talked about in development of a script. How does the filmmaker work with the art and set designers so the topic just keeps unfolding? What color language do they use, and how subtle is that use? In time I’ll be looking for one or more art and set designer-type folks to interview on this topic. Know someone? Let me know!

Back to the podcast …  Another focus of my conversation with Art was to see if there is a kind of renaissance occurring around color in our lives, and if so, why? Turns out the answer is yes and Art explains why during the show.

Before finishing. I want to mention how useful I have found the Munsell Blog. I have been reading their posts over the last year and find myself continually enlightened with so many different uses of color in the world.

Lastly, it’s worth getting your head around Munsell Color Notation as it’s a wonderful starting point for understanding what color is and how to communicate your ideas with greater precision – regardless of your commercial use of color. Open up and discover!

Let us use our curiosity to discover how color can become more a conscious choice versus one made for us by companies trying to influence us with color. That’s a tall order, I know, but it’s worth considering. Hope you enjoy the podcast. There will be more shows of this nature over time.

What Exactly Is the Munsell Color System and Why Should I Care?

Here’s How Munsell Color Theory Works

Munsell color order system is based on a three-dimensional model depicted in the Munsell color tree. Each color has three qualities or attributes:

Hue – color such as red, orange, yellow, etc.

Value – the lightness or darkness of a color

Chroma – the saturation or brilliance of a color

Hue, value and chroma are also referred to as (HVC)

Munsell Color Theory is based on a three-dimensional model in which each color is comprised of three attributes of hue (color itself), value (lightness/darkness) and chroma (color saturation or brilliance).

The Munsell Color system is set up as a numerical scale with visually uniform steps for each of the three color attributes—in Munsell color notation, each color has a logical and visual relationship to all other colors.

What Exactly Is Munsell Color System and Why Should I Care?

– See more …







During my research for this show I spent a lot of time on the Munsell Blog site. There is one particular author, Aleksandar Macasev,  who evoked many new perspectives in my mind about our use and interpretation of color.  You can see all his posts here.  I’m still considering this one sentence  at the end of Culture… Why That Color?

” Knowing how much we are color-curbed by our own culture might at least show us direction toward a Dionysian color utopia where we could use the color freely as we like. Where we could loosen up and get in touch with our own feelings and the feelings of others. Where we could forget about codes, rules, and classifications and just feel the color.”

Color Grade Tests on Panasonic GH4 4k Files

Color Grade Tests on Panasonic GH4 4k Files

Sometimes you just want to have some fun with color. I was given an opportunity to work with video files shot on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4. This beautiful content was carefully shot with intention by Austin-based aerial videographer Andrzej Mrotek. I added some minor color correction and then progressively layered in a more artistic set of looks to see how far I could push this footage for greater emotional impact. I was impressed!

Many thanks to The Polish Ambassador for a non-commercial-use permission agreement to include a track from his album Ecozoic.   If you like a wide variety of exotic music, I recommend you check him out. You can download his music for a donation. Special thanks to for making this experimentation possible. Honestly this was fun!


Client Work: Extinction Event

Color Grading Phase of Extinction Event

Extinction Event IMDB summary: A band of survivors navigate a hostile world in the aftermath of an apocalyptic viral outbreak. Rob Larkin brought this film in for grading.  It’s beautifully shot.

I really like the camera moves in the film. But more importantly, the color that was already in the scenes was a wonderful starting point for the color grading phase.  Often when a film is shot this well the colorist’s job is to add some contrast to the raw footage and a bit of color where needed and get out of the way of the story. Kudos to the DP Andrew Barrera, located here in Austin.

This is a horror movie and you feel drawn in from the very first scene. You know something isn’t right and is likely to be going very wrong, but how and when?  You’ll have to catch this one and watch it to hear how it ends!

Thank you, Rob. Great project.


Color Grading Phase of Extinction Event


Color Grading Phase of Extinction Event


Color Grading Phase of Extinction Event


Color Grading Phase of Extinction Event


Color Grading Phase of Extinction Event


Color Grading Phase of Extinction Event



Color Grading Phase of Extinction Event


Color Grading Phase of Extinction Event


Why Use a Video Test Charts? – Interview with David Corley of DSCLabs

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Click to play Part 2 or right click to download.


Here are the questions:  Are you using a color test chart on all your shoots? Why not? Have you considered what it’s costing you in post with your colorist who ends up fixing those problems versus using your budget for creative color work?

SW19-CDM24+4These are questions I’ve been wanting to explore, and with Resolve 11 now supporting automatic color correction with the use of color checker test cards, I thought it would make a lot of sense to talk with David Corley, Founder and President of DSCLabs in Missisauga, Ontario, Canada. They are the most respected company in this area.

In this show we’re going to talk about the evolution of color test charts by DSCLabs, and we’ll touch on the integration of color test charts with Resolve 11.

My guess is there are two types of people listening to this show right now. A smaller group are you folks in broadcast or high-end studios dealing with multiple cameras and using color charts religiously, or maybe you’re an old-school film DP and your life depends on using a color chart.  But I bet the larger group of you listening may not even know what a color test chart is or why you should use one. Right?

Well, as Art Adams (career DP dude in California) said in a previous interview “How to Use a DSC OneShot Color Reference Card – Raise the Quality of Your Video Productions“:

“Shoot a reference that the colorist can quickly dial in so he/she can spend more time finessing your look and less time trying to do damage control.”

As a colorist using DaVinci Resolve, I see the trouble that filmmakers are constantly getting into with color accuracy, especially when using two or more cameras (GoPros, DSLR combined with higher Sony or RED cameras).  Documentaries are notorious for run-and-gun shooting. But if you’re taking the time to get good audio and using a clapper for sync purposes, it only takes only a couple seconds more to include a color checker card.

There is a painful reality that occurs once the finished video project comes to me. It seems few people truly understand that color accuracy starts with the camera and the lighting issues at capture. Multiple cameras mean multiple issues (read: problems). All too often on lower-budget projects this is simply not addressed, with the hope that it will all be fixed by a colorist.  Yet, if filmmakers commit to a discipline of using a color test chart when they shoot, they don’t have to commit as much money in post for the colorist.

That said, the best person and company I could think of to talk with about color test charts is David Corley, who created DSC Labs. He introduces a wide range of additional reasons why you’ll want to be consistently using a color checker chart in your shoots, and it’s not always about color accuracy!  Hope you find his interview as interesting as I did. Loved his stories (see Special Note below)!

DAVID – welcome to the show!

  1. You’ve been the champion for color accuracy for a long time, right? Talk about how you got started.
  2. I believe your color charts get used in some pretty wild places and remote locations, yes?
  3. You have all sorts of patterns and types of charts. The only one I’m familiar with is the DSC card which Art Adams recommends. Smart guy. Talk more about the various patterns and what they are used for.
  4. So you guys have been focusing on color test charts since the early 1960s, basically pioneers. What makes your charts unique?
  5. Do color charts go bad or change over time?
  6. OK, here is the part I’m keen to hear more about — your collaboration with Black Magic for the new Resolve v11. How did this come about?
  7. What was it like collaborating with BMD software engineers versus, say, a camera vendor or hardware or broadcast engineers? Who came up with this idea first?


SPECIAL NOTE FROM TOM: Since this interview, I’ve learned from David that his wife, Susan, is as much the company as he is.

As David wrote later: “While I may be the mouthpiece, Sue is a huge percentage of the company, not only in her management capacity, but also her creativity. I will come up with some idea, and Sue will suggest modifying it to something vastly superior. Without Sue there would be no DSC, and I would be flipping veggieburgers someplace.”

What a sweet couple.  After you read David’s story about how they met, started the company, and hobnobbed with the greats in the film industry, you’ll come to adore them as much as I do.

“About three years after I came to Canada I met Susan Mynott, another UK immigrant.  She was working as a secretary for a doctor at the time, and our family was friends with her aunt and uncle. We fell in love and a year later married.

“I was working with my dad, making TV commercials (he did the business side, I did the production).  We also created a panel show which, while popular, lasted only 22 episodes. I was associate producer and soon learned that the producer just shoots the show; the associate seems to do everything else.

“Sue helped me in this and we had many interesting conversations with celebrities, including Eleanor Roosevelt, pianist Arthur Rubinstein, stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, Jane Russell, catcher Yogi Berra, boxer Archie Moore, Ava Gabor, Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward, Bertrand Russell – philosopher, logician and mathematician, the Duke of Bedford, and many others.

“We had name panels on the desk for the guests, and before one show Arthur Rubinstein took me aside and said, ‘David, in my language [Polish], the way you have spelled my name means toilet. Could you change it?’ I did!

image001“Sue and I drove a very beaten-up Peugeot, so we rented a smart convertible to pick up the Newmans at the airport.  After taping two shows, we were driving along the 401 to take them to their hotel. Paul, who was sitting next to me in the front, said, ‘Dave, if we have any beer left in the trunk, I’d love one.’ Joanne, who was eight months pregnant and sitting in the back with Sue, said, ‘Oh, I’d love one, too.’  So I stopped at the side of the road and gave them each a bottle of beer.

“There we were, driving along Canada’s busiest highway in a convertible, with two of filmdom’s biggest stars guzzling beer. I almost wanted to be stopped by the police because the publicity would’ve been huge, but I wasn’t.

“When we dropped them at the hotel, Sue asked if there was anything we could bring when we picked them up to take them to the airport the next morning. Joanne said, ‘I would love some fresh orange juice.’  So Sue squeezed some in the morning and we took the juice in a thermos.

“As I handed Paul a cheque for their appearance, he said, ‘We have had so much fun, please give the money to a local university.’ Truth is, we were so broke at the time it was about three years before we eventually did as they wished.

“Ava Gabor was a character. When we picked her up, she said, ‘Where are we having lunch, darling?’ We suggested Winston’s, which had the reputation as being the best restaurant at that time. Ava said, ‘Oh, there are much better restaurants than Winston’s in Toronto. I will show you.’

“By now, Sue and I had four children under six and we lived in a small house in West Toronto.  My dad was tired of producing commercials, and we helped him start an audiovisual rental company, which eventually became very successful and was taken over by my young brother Tony.

“This is when Sue and I, with our fourth child only six weeks old, started DSCLabs. Officially, CFO Sue is also CCBW (Chief Cook and Bottle Washer) and everything in between!  We worked from our basement for five years, then rented 300 feet under a restaurant for three more years, gradually moving up to our present, custom-built, ground source heated/cooled, 15,000-foot building.”


So there you have it. The full story about DSCLabs. Makes me wish I lived closer to them. Would love to share a cup of afternoon tea or a glass of Malbec in the evening to hear more stories!


Back to the future now – take a moment and visit DSCLabs to learn more at
DSCLabs where they have a dozen or so videos posted that talk specifically about “how to use” their test charts.

Screenshot 2014-07-09 09.04.48

Is HP’s DreamColor Z27x Your Next Video Reference Monitor

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Everyone is talking about 4k, right, but who can afford a 10-bit 4k monitor that will have reliable color accuracy? For most of us, our desires outstrip our pocketbooks.  Well, maybe there is a way …. Even though we have MacPros now that easily manage 4k workflows, the real issue is the display, and anyone doing media work knows is how important it is to have a color-accurate monitor. So we make HD and 2k monitors work for us for now.

An extremely reasonable solution has emerged from HP through a close collaboration with SpectraCal and really a great number of high-profile animation and media production companies all over the world. Listen in to this show with Greg Staten, DreamColor Architect from HP, and Derek Smith, CTO at SpectraCal. We talk about HP’s new DreamColor  Z27x that is a 27”, 10-bit panel with 2560×1440 pixel resolution, BUT this baby supports 4k inputs and displays 4k images in a number of novel ways. So how exactly DOES this panel support color accurate 4k video? What about multiple color gamuts and linearity issues and PRICE? Bottom line – is this panel the right answer for color-critical work, and why was it important I do this show now?

Short answer: I was excited when I heard about a display product architect from a well-known company – HP – who had collaborated closely with a display calibration companySpectraCal – bringing the best of both worlds together for media producers.

spectracal-gradient-shadow(m)I’ve been looking forward to producing this show for weeks! This kind of cross-company collaboration is valuable. HP desires to cut the price in half from the previous DreamColor and make certain the display accuracy of the panel hardware is dead-on accurate AND make the display 4k-capable – well, their design has the promise of being a winner. Sure, in 2-3 years we’ll see 4k panels come down in price and at least potentially linear in the way they handle RGB internally. But for now, there is an excellent solution from HP with very attractive pricing, special features for handling 4k, and an extremely simple way to maintain color accuracy using SpectraCal’s CalMAN software that speaks directly with the DreamColor Z27x internal firmware. There is a lot to like about this product. Listen to our conversation and find out more! Tom

Client Work: Dwight Adair on Color Correcting West Texas Muse and Finishing for Theatrical Release

Dwight Adair on Color Correcting West Texas Muse and Finishing for Theatrical Release

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In this interview I speak with Dwight Adair, writer/director/producer at Seadra Productions. We talk about film and the color-grading & color correcting experience of West Texas Muse, a film about Tommy Hancock.  This documentary is 64 minutes long and was shot over a period of 12+ years on SD video.


West Texas Muse (Tommy Hancock) Two Minutes Promo Segment from Tom Parish on Vimeo

There were quite a few special challenges in getting the movie finished. It was originally edited on an FCP3 system, and the movie included many old family movies and stills, all needing special color correction.  Dwight did an amazing job of editing the story and building up the initial sound track.  As you know, the devil is in the details with audio, so I’m giving a special shout-out to Reed Hart for his dedication to reworking the soundtrack from start to finish to make it perfect. He truly has a intuitive feel for what sounds right in a mix between words and music.

West Texas Muse will be screened twice in Lubbock on June 22, 2014, at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.  An excellent write-up was recently published by William Kern, so if you want more background please read his article.

Movie Synopsis:

Dwight Adair on Color Correcting West Texas Muse and Finishing for Theatrical ReleaseWest Texas Muse is a documentary about the Texas fiddler and songwriter Tommy Hancock, originally based in Lubbock as the house band/owner of the Cotton Club.  The Cotton Club became well known as a premier West Texas dance hall, holding as many as 1600 people, and provided an opportunity for famous musicians touring the Southwest and the West Coast to take a much-needed respite from their long bus rides.  These famous performers included Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Bush, Don Walser, Merle Haggard, Hank Thompson, Ray Price, Freddy Fender, and many others.

As Hancock became interested in hippies and LSD, he began a spiritual quest that not only changed his life and music, but influenced many well-known Texas musicians, some now based in Austin, such as Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Lloyd Maines, Jesse Taylor, and many others.  It also changed the Cotton Club from being a dance hall for country music into something that more closely resembled the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, where cowboys, hippies, bikers, and persons of all descriptions learned to get along and enjoy various types of music.

Hancock formed the Supernatural Family Band, and later, when he could no longer perform due to arthritis, he supported the Texana Dames with his songwriting and dancing.  Musician, bandleader, songwriter, author, and father, Tommy Hancock now lives in Austin and is the subject of this 64-minute exploratory documentary about a wise, spiritual man who has much to say about life.