A Videographer’s Perspective: Making of the “Man in Bronze” Film.

Man in Bronzeee

Three years ago, as a brand-new intern, I was dunked head-first into easily the most exciting video project I have ever worked on. Teresa Knox, the CEO of The Church Studio, personally entrusted me — on the sole basis of my portfolio and a few shoots together — to capture something that she deeply cared about, which could not be re-shot if there were any mistakes. I was handed a camera, took a trip to a foundry, and experienced the thrill of shooting the pouring of molten bronze. At that point, I knew I was experiencing something bigger than your average media production internship.

I joined The Church Studio team at the perfect time to begin filming “The Man in Bronze.” In the fall of 2020, Jim Franklin, the sculptor, was almost ready to transport the wax statue to the foundry for casting. (Honestly, he is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.) We immediately started collaborating with The Crucible foundry to decide which moments would be the most important to capture. I became very familiar with the 4-hour round trip to Norman. It was challenging because the foundry operates on a strict schedule with a large, well-coordinated team and multiple active projects simultaneously. They didn’t have much ability to be flexible with the timing of individual stages, so I needed to always be ready for a full-day excursion on less than 48 hours’ notice.

Since then, I have participated in countless other shoots with folks who knew Leon personally. Teresa usually finishes these interviews with an opportunity for the crew to ask questions, and I typically take advantage of this to ask more about Leon Russell’s personality and how well the statue represents him. This allowed me to pursue a deeper curiosity about what he was like as a person, and gave me the material I needed to build a section near the end of the mini-doc with an emotional “montage” of people talking about what this statue means for his legacy.

We learned a lot while making “The Man in Bronze” and poured much hard work and love into it. Despite the challenges, we ended up with a mini-documentary that blew away everyone’s expectations, including the world’s harshest critic inside my head. Words cannot describe how thrilled I am to see this going out to the public on the big screen!

– Matthew Simonson

The Church Studio

The Church Studio

The historic church was turned into a recording studio and home office to Shelter Records in 1972. Under Leon Russell's leadership, the stone structure served as a creative workshop for songwriters, musicians, engineers, and singers to collaborate, learn, and inspire.

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