Many thanks for the call

Thanks for the opportunity to sit down and brainstorm around this project! Our team is excited by the possibility to create a film that could encompass all that Thinking Beyond Borders does. As I was sitting down to write this I realized that every member of our team has either studied abroad or traveled extensively on their own during their teens/early twenties. Alexandra (our producer) is currently in Nepal for a month after spending a study abroad there years ago and not getting enough of it, Sutula (our cameraman) took a year off college to travel around India solo and I spent time crossing Europe by train following college. In addition Sutula and I both took gap years after high school and I have personally advocated for everyone I meet to do the same. So needless to say we are personally invested in your mission.

We imagine creating a tool that could separate TBB from the competition and challenge the way international programs are marketed. There are so many possibilities here to document the transformative power of international experiences and encourage others to experience it themselves. We have been cooking on some ideas. 

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let me take a moment to introduce Timber & Frame.


The T&F Team


Timber & Frame is an EMMY award winning production company that makes films around the world and lives on the coast of Maine. We specialize in filming real people (instead of actors) and creating intimate poignant films that blend the lines between documentary and cinema. The T&F team has filmed in challenging environments from Cuba to Bosnia from the Ecuadorian Amazon to the border towns of Mexico.

We have had the privilege of making films for National Geographic, The Nature Conservancy, Motorola and Country Crock among many others. We spend our extra time creating feature length documentaries about issues we are passionate about. Our current film is about the creation of America's controversial new national park in Maine which will be entered into competition at Sundance this fall.

Here is a private selection of our work that we think would be beneficial for you all to see. None of this work is currently on our website:



Friends of Acadia


Wanted to show you this project to show our emphasis on moments and the positive energy we can bring to a project. Would be looking to film human moments like you see here especially toward the end.

Tandana Foundation


Here is a video we did about a study abroad program a few years ago. We do not foresee your project to be similar to this but wanted to show a competency in filming similar programs, working in international places, and getting real human moments.

Maine Coast Heritage Trust


This is a work in progress rough cut of our most recent project. Wanted to include here to show examples of the movement, energy and production value we can bring to this project. Also you can see our drone work here. We filmed across the state of Maine for this project.

30 Nights Like Home

The piece that led you to our group in the beginning. Our crew's talents have grown considerably from the time when this piece was made but wanted to include it since it shows our work in similar programs and the intimacy we seek to achieve in each situation.

You can see more of our work on our website


the idea


This is not a tourism video. Thinking Beyond Borders is about so much more than being a tourist. This film will focus on the human moments that illustrate the core of TBB’s mission. Of course our final film will show students having fun and of course it will show them traveling to amazing places but the focus will be on the work and learning they are doing once they are there. The emotional connections they make as a group and with the local people, the realizations they have after opening their minds to the people they meet.

When we got the call to put together a treatment we began googling other gap year programs and after reviewing the trends in study abroad/gap year programs we see:

- a lot of pictures of young white millennials playing with groups of non-white children

- a lot of selfies on camels or elephants or in front of Machu Picchu (see some examples below)

How can we push past these cliches and differentiate Thinking Beyond Borders? We have to push deeper into the human experience. Thinking Beyond Borders is about learning, listening, and coming out changed. We want to depict that. Imagine our film depicting students supporting nurses at a clinic in Ghana, or showing women in India computer skills. Imagine in our film instead of a young white male showing non-white people something we see a young woman of color in India teaching white males from America. Flip the narrative on its head so to speak and reverse the cliche that demeans both parties involved. We see students laughing around meals of curry or guinea pig with their host family, learning how to dance in a traditional ceremony full of color and smiles, the everyday human interactions that show the impact Thinking Beyond Borders is having on the lives of all people involved.

The challenge we face is the limitations of the current budget, 50% of which could easily go to travel expenses alone for a two person crew to multiple countries. We could do less countries but we feel like it would do a serious injustice to you all as the client. So how do convey the breadth of the Thinking Beyond Borders experience at the current budget? We have a few ideas:


  • Strategizing our shooting around when important thematic moments will happen, from the first time meeting a new host family to the final celebration and goodbyes when leaving.


  • Use a two person documentary team (with considerable international experience) who have the ability to embed themselves subtly into each situation regardless of setting.


  • Select very visually different countries to concentrate filming in so we have the most visual variety for our buck. For example shoot in Morocco, India and Peru instead of Bolivia, Peru and Guatemala.


  • Plan at least one shooting trip to include two countries relatively close to one another or at least on the route home from one. For instance we would film in Morocco on the way home from India.


  • Focus on moments not just travel. Put in the time necessary with each group to get intimate human moments between the students and the local people they connect with.


  • Offer discount on in-house gear and crew rates in exchange for opportunity to travel to multiple countries and make a project for a group we really believe in.


  • Possibly try out a video journaling/crowdsourcing from students. Curious about this as a possibility but wary of making the film seem self indulgent..the video journaling would need to add a level of vulnerability and intimacy, not selfie taking and navel gazing. 


Look & Feel

We are a professional documentary team and we will bring a documentary style to this project but that doesn’t necessarily mean, run and gun without regard for composition and lighting. Building on the fundamentals of the documentary form we will be adding a cinematic sensibility. Low depth of field and primarily backlighting will create a sense of the ethereal. By focusing our shooting around the “magic hours” of natural light that happen in the hours just before and after sunrise/sunset we will achieve the golden quality that many films try to fake with big lights. There is a realism and a power to using natural light that is hard to fake. My team’s speciality in working with natural light will serve us well in the ever changing light conditions we will face from India to Ghana.

Interviews will be filmed but our emphasis will be to not show talking heads and instead to show our interviewees doing things, interacting with people and illustrating the points they are making in their voice overs. We will utilize z-axis camera moves using a gimbal camera stabilization system instead of pan or tilts in order to achieve a more engaging and cinematic sense that will bring our audience on a journey around the world.

Aerials will be pivotal to juxtapose the intimate moments with people and the sweeping landscapes of the foreign countries they are exploring. We imagine drone shots across rolling dunes in Morocco and winding tributaries to the Amazon.




In order to make the budget constraints work while still covering the breadth of Thinking Beyond Borders, we will run a crew of only a director/producer and cinematographer traveling to 3 countries over the course of a few month period starting in November 2017 and wrapping in March 2018. Ideally two of the countries would be done back to back (decreasing flight costs) such as a trip to India (to film with 1 group) followed by Thailand (to film with another) or Peru followed by Guatemala etc. Ideally all the countries we film in would look radically different visually in order to show the breadth of Thinking Beyond Borders. So even though it would be more cost effective to shoot in say Guatemala, Bolivia and Peru..all those countries could look similar to an American audience on film. Ideally we would film in an African location, Asian location and South/Central American location. 



Thanks again for inviting us to brainstorm around this important project. Overall our goal would be to capture the moments that we remember from our own study abroad experiences. We want to convey the power of simple connections with peoples and places that opened our eyes and left us changed. We are excited by the possibilities and look forward to creating a beautiful, informative tool for Thinking Beyond Borders.

Questions? Comments? Crazy ideas? Let us know using the form below. This is an evolving document and all concepts can be reworked to meet your needs and desires. 

We look forward to getting to work.

- Ben and the T&F Crew

Name *