Face to face with the filmmaker of ‘Heartbeat to Heartbeat’

Bryon Evans talks about fitting 50+ performances into one citywide music video

“Heartbeat to Heartbeat, Eye to Eye (From Reno with Love)” is a new song by a long list of collaborators, including The City of Reno, Artown, Reno Philharmonic, and more than 50 local rock, soul, hip-hop, singer-songwriter, classical, pop, and jazz musicians.

The project is driven by three motivations—to combat some of the isolation the pandemic has brought by showcasing local talent, to assert a sense of local unity, and to raise funds for performing artists, a group whose revenue streams came to a screeching halt when venues closed in March.

Wife-and-husband team Shannon Balazs and Bryon Evans made up just about the entire film crew. – photo: Bryon Evans Films

Bryon Evans is the filmmaker who distilled dozens of outdoor performances into one beautifully produced 5-minute music video. He’s a Southern California transplant who’s been making commercials, videos, and documentaries in Reno since 2007.



How did you get involved with this project?

The first contact I got was from Eric Andersen, who was one of the lead songwriters … I’ve worked with Eric for a number of years, and his band, The Novelists … My wife and I had been sheltering in place three months. All the George Floyd protests were happening. The world was erupting in protest against civil injustice. And I was sitting at home feeling kind of helpless. I really wanted to do something to help the world … So when this project came about, it was very special. I didn’t care about the terms. I said, “Absolutely. Yes, let’s do it. I’m here to help.”

Was the challenge of making a video with this many musicians different than with other videos you’ve made?

When Eric said he was going to collaborate with a lot of musicians, I figured, oh, maybe 15, 20 people. He ends up collaborating with, I think it was 53 different musicians, all in all. So I get the list, and he says, “Look, we don’t have to film everyone.” I’m like, “OK. ’Cause that’s going to be crazy.” But then we kind of ended up filming almost everyone … I had to go to this kind of grid system that you see in the video, to show everyone playing at the same time, but in different locations.

Greater Nevada Field is among the iconic Reno locales where the video was shot. – photo: Bryon Evans Films
Were there any technical decisions you had to make that were new or different for you?

Because of COVID and everything, one was just staying distanced … Everyone was wearing masks … I used a little longer lens so that I could get a closer shot … I’d say the editing, though, was one of the most challenging things … And by the way, the whole film was made by two people, myself and my wife, Shannon Balazs, who’s my camera assistant and production assistant. She’s also an amazing production designer in her own right … It was really just a few of us that were getting to Reno Aces stadium at 6 a.m. or before sunrise, setting up, getting the band ready. It was a very small crew.

There’s nothing about this that looks quickly made or like you cut corners at all.

Thank you … I’m a really big on preproduction. I go into every shoot with a really thought-out idea. This was kind of crazy and variable, too. Even when we got the Lear Theater, we weren’t sure if we were going to get access to the inside … We were contemplating filming a scene on the outside, but thank goodness we got onto the inside because nothing could compare to that. It’s one of my favorite scenes. The lighting was pretty much set when we walked in. We didn’t have to do much, and it was just a beautiful setting. It was really about being careful about time of day. And when we got those dusk shots in front of Silver Legacy and in front of Pioneer Center and those sunrise shots at Aces stadium—that was all intentional to make sure that we got the best lighting for that moment.

Bryon Evans shoots video of Shaughn Richardson near the Silver Legacy at dusk. – photo: Bryon Evans Films

[We were] not only choosing iconic Reno locations, but those locations also represent a lot of industries that have been hit. I mean, everything’s been affected by COVID, but these were key industries that we’ve lost. So Reno Aces represents sports. Obviously Shaughn [Richardson] in front of Silver Legacy represents the casinos. The Lear Theater represents live entertainment, theaters, movie theaters. My place that I love to be: we filmed inside an empty bar. 

What’s your favorite thing about the video?

I’ve had incredible comments and reactions from people saying that they broke down in tears. They were emotionally moved by this piece. They’ve watched it over and over. They love the fact that it is a universal message of love and unity and hope. And for me, that is the most rewarding thing that can come from a video production that I do because as a filmmaker, I feel that film’s greatest gift is to create empathy within a viewer.

That was exactly the goal of this project, wasn’t it?

Yeah, absolutely. When I heard the song and it was finished, I’m like, “Wow. This is heavy. This is deep.” And obviously I do my best when I set out to capture a visual step that will match that. I’ve been doing this awhile. It becomes an intuitive thing where you just know that the moment, the thing you’re crafting, is going to fit … My wife was the first one to see a rough cut. She came in and started crying. And I sent it to Eric Andersen … for him to see first cut. He called me bawling. He had to leave a restaurant … He couldn’t form a sentence and just was so emotionally moved. I said, “Dude, call me when you’re OK.” So I knew we were on the right path.

Singer Khalilah Smith Cage gets ready to deliver a heartfelt performance in City Plaza. – photo: Bryon Evans Films
What are you working on next?

I’m working on a couple of short films. That’s become a big love of mine. I currently have a horror comedy short film in festivals right now. That’s doing really well. It’s getting selected and it’s winning some awards … I’m also working on my first feature film script right now, which I hope is a project that comes to fruition in the next five years or so … I am working on a mini-doc for Midtown, to celebrate the finishing of the Virginia Street construction. 

Who knew? It’s like there’s this strange new branch of your industry during COVID. People need videos to express community support right now.

You know, it feels really good. I’m honored that people trust me to make those videos. Some of the comments I’ve gotten from fans [are] that I have the ability to find the emotional threads within a story and stay away from the cliche, stay away from the cheesy, and really get to the heart of things. I’m really honored that I get tasked with the challenge to tell these stories.

Click here if you’d like to donate to the From Reno with Love Artist Fund. Click here if you’re a performing artist who wants to apply for funding. Learn more about Bryon Evans’ work on his website.

Kris Vagner is an arts and culture writer who’s earned awards for critical writing, entertainment writing, feature writing, and—somehow—sports writing. She’s also the editor of Double Scoop, Nevada’s visual arts news site. More at www.krisvagner.com. Support her work in The Ally.

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