A film without words, a score without a script — nothing about acclaimed Dave Matthews Band violinist Boyd Tinsley's film Faces in the Mirror is typical. But the trajectory of the global music megastar who "stumbled into the violin" as a youth in Charlottesville, Va. is anything but average.
Tinsley runs on instinct and knows when something feels right. He predicted the success of Dave Matthews Band from his first listen. With Faces in the Mirror, it was no different. "I had never felt anything like this in my life," Tinsley told Rolling Stone magazine. "I was absolutely certain that this is what I had to do. It wasn't even a choice."
Faces in the Mirror tells the shared story of family tragedy, forgiveness, and redemption. The film's young protagonist, Ben Fisher (played by indie actor Ryan Orr) returns home to bury his estranged, workaholic father. On the day of his dad's funeral, Ben enters a dreamlike state and takes a journey to forgiveness.
Tinsley created the experimental film with Filament Productions. According to Filament Creative Director Aaron Farrington, Tinsley's musical background played a major role in the film's production, which was interesting but also challenging.
"Working with Boyd was sort of like working with Yoda ... if Yoda was taller and really liked tennis," Farrington says. "He came to the film from music, from improvising and being completely in the moment."
The order of production was also highly unusual and "very Boyd," says Filament Director of Technology Stephen Thomas. Tinsley composed the score before the cast and crew were even decided upon.
The film has little dialogue, so the story moves forward through its music, acting, and impressive camera work. On a typical day on set in Charlottesville, actors and crew members would listen to relevant parts of Tinsley's score prior to filming. Tinsley entrusted Farrington completely. According to Thomas, the set was very loose and organic, which was an unusual way to manage a film but a lot of fun. "We were a team. All of the filmmakers were local, so it was really like a bunch of friends on a camping trip," he says.
As Dave Matthews Band recorded Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King by day, Tinsley worked on the film's soundtrack by night with close friends and band mates over a five-day period in Seattle. The film, however, took three years to finish. "Boyd was very involved with editing," Thomas says. "He had no concern for the right way. He knew what he wanted. The process had to match up to the emotion that Boyd wanted to convey."
Farrington adds, "A lot of times while editing the movie I would come to Boyd with a new scene edit, one that I thought I had improved over the previous night's editing session. And every time, he would just shake his head and say, 'Aaron, you over-thought it; you had it right the first time. You have to trust your instincts.'"
Tinsley's instincts were right yet again. After initial screenings in early 2012, Faces in the Mirror received rave reviews. Rolling Stone described it as "riveting," and Vibe called it "outstanding."
Tinsley chose Orr for the lead, because he'd recently lost his own father. "Boyd didn't want an actor acting," Thomas says. "He wanted an actor to rise and live the character." Tinsley felt that Orr's eyes conveyed both haunting and cheering qualities that the ghost of a loved one imparts to those he or she leaves behind. Tinsley also used the filmmaking process to work though the loss of beloved Dave Matthews Band saxophonist LeRoi Moore.
"The heart is common to everyone, but grief, like the faces in a mirror, can be experienced in many different ways," Thomas says. "Boyd just wants everyone to see the movie. He wants you to feel it. There's really no other way to explain it."