Project Spotlight: “One Spirit” DVD

From time to time I’ll be talking about various outside projects Toxic Bag Productions has worked on. One such example is seated before you:

In early 2008, Toxic Bag was approached by Chicago author Jean Latz Griffin (full disclosure: she’s Joe’s mother) to produce a DVD as a companion piece to her book, “One Spirit: A Creation Story For the 21st Century.” The book itself is a deceptively simple work of beauty: the text is brief, basic, almost childlike. It presents the origin of the universe with reverence, without judgment, in spiritual terms absent of any particular theology or dogma. The illustrations that accompany the text, by Mom’s sister-in-law Jane Gaunt, are vibrant and evocative.

One Spirit Cover Art

The idea was to create a short animated piece using Jane’s art, accompanied by music and a reading of the book’s text. An additional “meditation piece” would also be created, much longer, using the same images and music. The DVD would also include a 20-minute piece on Creation stories from around the world, and a “making of” video about the book, featuring interviews with author and illustrator about the years-long, miles-apart collaborative process (Mom lives in Chicago and Aunt Jane lives in California). In total the DVD would contain about 70 minutes of material.

The first hurdle was that there was no reasonable way to get anyone from Toxic Bag out to California to shoot interview footage of Jane and still keep the project under budget. The second hurdle was that, due to a solid commitment at a books convention, the DVD needed to be finished within five weeks.

Fortunately, my cousin Brian LeGrady is a camera operator in Hollywood. He happily agreed to take a drive to the high desert and drop in on Jane with a video camera. They set up in Jane’s art studio for the interview, and also got some wonderful B-roll footage of Jane in the desert. Meanwhile, I headed into the city on an uncharacteristically beautiful day in January to shoot the interviews with Mom. As we were shooting run-and-gun with a handmade pseudo-steadicam, some of the shots are a little shaky, but overall things looked pretty good.

We brought in local actors Vayram Nyadroh and Kerensa Peterson to read the “One Spirit” text for the animation and narrate the “Creation stories” piece. Steve and I spent the next four weeks editing, composing music and locating images for the “Creation Stories” piece. A friend who travels extensively provided great photos of the Middle East, some dating back to the early 1970s. The simple animations of Jane’s artwork were accomplished using the motion tools in Final Cut.

The last week or so of the project was an experience, with last-minute edits and video compression issues pushing the DVD replication deadline about as far as it could possibly go. But we made the deadline, had DVDs in time for the convention, and the client was happy. Which is pretty important if she’s your Mom.

The “One Spirit” book and DVD are available at


About toxicbag

Toxic Bag Productions, Inc. provides sound effects and music for independent films, animated shorts, theatrical productions, dance performances, podcasts and video games. They work out of their studio on the north side of Chicago.

Posted on March 10, 2009, in Project Spotlight and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I cannot believe I never knew your mom is a writer… I’m a bad friend.
    And strangely enough, Sara is taking classes through University fo Phoenix right now! What kind of classes does your mom teach?

  2. @Dianna: she teaches journalism, as well as a politics and communication course.

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