WELD at Work: The Making of Blood & Oil
I recently sat down with Nashville WELDer and film director Cale Glendening to talk about his latest passion project, Blood & Oil. This short film was a labor of love and collaboration, and the result is a compelling depiction of the community of bikers Cale rides with here in Nashville.
During our talk, Cale walked me through the creative process behind the film and the importance of pulling others in to take the project to the next level. For Cale, collaboration was essential, and without it the project would not have been the same.
This project was obviously near and dear to you. Can you tell me more about the group you ride with?
The group I ride with is called The Blackbirds. We do a group ride every Wednesday night, and it’s open to anyone. But even though I ride with The Blackbirds, I wanted to make sure this wasn’t just a Blackbirds film. This isn’t a film about how cool motorcycles are. There’s a message behind it, and these were the people I wanted to convey that message.
So walk me through production. What was it like filming this project?
I think we shot something like 38 hours in three days. We just had to. It was a lot of fun but also a lot of work.
The hardest part was scheduling 15 to 18 people over a three-day period. I wanted to shoot everyone together and then shoot them in their own individual environments — Jimmy in his shop, JT in his music studio, Paul in his studio, Vijay in one of his buildings he’s renovating. I wanted to go to their locations so that even though you see them for only a short amount of time, you get some insight into their days.
The hard part was not only scheduling them, but scheduling them at specific times of day to get the light the way I wanted it. We did around 15 setups in three days.
We also really wanted to showcase that the guys I ride with will weather it all — that they’ll ride in the rain and snow — while also making it seem like the video spanned a longer time than just three days. I had a guy on call who said he was willing to ride whenever it rained. So when the forecast said rain, we went out and shot for a couple of hours. For the snow scenes, I was literally at the gym and looked out the window and saw that it was snowing. I didn’t even know it was in the forecast. So I sprinted out there, texted our guy to meet me, and was able to get the shots we needed. Those few hours were maybe the coldest I’ve ever been.
One of the lines in the video is, “I stand with my fist clenched,” and I think that’s what it takes to do anything in this life. If you have no fight in you, you’re not going to go anywhere. All the guys in this video, they weather. If you truly understand passion — if you’re truly invested in what you’re doing — you know that the journey is just as important as the accomplishment. Life takes a lot of hard work. I want to ignite that fire. Do what you want to do, regardless of what comes.
Was there a moment in filming where this project started to feel real? Where you knew it was going to be worth weathering to create something special?
It was on the second day of shooting actually. I had this vision for this shot where the sunlight comes through the windows of a garage, and we only had a small gap of time to shoot it before the sun went behind a tree. I had this vision in my mind, but the way it ended up looking was so much better than what I imagined. I immediately knew it was the opening shot. This was going to set the look, and now everything was going to have to live up to it. You can’t just have this one amazing opening shot. We knew we were going to have to bring our A-game the rest of the film.
You’re a man of many talents. Why did you choose to be so collaborative on Blood & Oil?
On a lot of my projects in the past, I’ve functioned as a one-man team. I love the art of filmmaking so much that I’ve ended up learning a lot of the different processes involved. With a project like this, though, I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’m a master at each of these individual things. I knew I needed to find people who were masters in their fields.
JT, who’s featured in the film, is an amazing musician, and he showed me some music that was absolutely gorgeous. I knew I wanted to bring him on board. And in terms of sound design, I have a nice audio recorder I run around with, but sound is really not my specialty. I knew if I brought on someone like Dallas Taylor, he could really take it to the next level.
Dallas Taylor, you say? The Dallas Taylor?
Haha, yes, Dallas Taylor who is actually a fellow WELDer. I’d tweeted asking if anyone knew someone who did sound design, and I was put in touch with Dallas right away. I checked out his online portfolio and was blown away. I immediately reached out to him and told him I was a big fan of what he does. I said I was working on a piece and asked if he was interested in helping out. He was like, “Yeah man, send it over!” So I sent him a very rough version, not even close to finished, and he was like, “Absolutely, I’m on it.” We talked on the phone the next day, and he was supercool to work with.
I’ve loved the opportunity to collaborate with other artists on this project. Dallas’s part was crucial. If I had tried to do the sound design, it would definitely not be what it is today. It was an honor having him believe in this project and offer his services to help fulfill this passion of mine.
Do you see more of these types of collaborations happening through WELD Nashville?
I wish WELD had been in Nashville sooner! Being around other artists who are passionate — that’s what breeds real creativity. If you’re collaborating with people because you share a passion for an idea or a project, you’re going to feed off each other’s energy, and that’s where you really start to learn. If someone can show me an angle that I may not have thought of before or that I may have missed, that can affect my entire career. Now I have a different lens to look through.
You mentioned earlier that this project was a personal investment. How would you encourage people who feel like they don’t have the resources to make a project happen?
I definitely understand that we all need to make a living, but if all you do is wait around for paid work, you’re not going to get very far in your career. When I pursued people to help with Blood & Oil, I tried to sell them on the passion of the idea. I was straight-up and honest. I let them know I would be spending a lot of my own money and promised that if they were willing to help, there’d be opportunities for them to learn. That was all I could truly offer. Getting more people involved really makes everyone’s art better. I’m always looking for opportunities to help others as well. If it’s a project I believe in, I want to help. It’s not just a job to me.
It comes down to this: I love making better things. If I can help someone else make something better, I love that. It’s not a competition. It’s a love that I get to share with others. No one is going to keep me from doing my job.
At the end of the day, what’s your hope for those who watch Blood & Oil?
The reality is that Blood & Oil is a passion project. It’s not truly for anyone but myself. I don’t need a reason to create art. This is a job I’d pay to do — and, in this case, I did.