The Dudes Behind High/Low Film Show Us Their Rad Office Space

Ready for some pangs of major job envy? Then simply meet the trio behind High/Low Film, a production company nestled in S.F.'s historic Jackson Square 'hood. The brainchild of producer Keenan Newman, director Britton Caillouette, and editor Dana Shaw, the super-talented story-telling team is responsible for crafting mega-dreamy films for the likes of Phillip Lim, Levi's, Patagonia, and many more. Just take a look at their reels and it'll come as no surprise that the guys' workspace (which also doubles as Britt and his wife's apartment) is beyond awesome. Soaked in light and peppered with antiques from around the globe, it's something to behold. Get to know the gang — and their HQ — and be prepared for a visual high.
Photographed by Tomo Saito
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How did High/Low Film come to be?
Britton Caillouette: "Keenan and I met right out of school. I had just finished making a surf movie in West Africa, which Keenan caught at a festival. Being a fellow surfer and film junkie, I guess he saw something that resonated. He walked up to me and said we should work together. Within a couple months we had started a company."

What are your roles within the company?
BC: "Keenan produces, I direct, and Dana edits. Although we all do a little bit of everything. Documentary kind of forces you to be a jack of all trades and we're not afraid to get our hands dirty or fill in if a job needs to get done. We all walk the dog."

Where did you grow up?
BC: "Dana and I are Southern California transplants and Keenan grew up in Davis. Keenan and I both went to Stanford. I studied the history of the American West, Keenan studied film and psychology. Dana studied filmmaking at the Art Institute of California in S.F."

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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How did you guys find this amazing home and studio space?
BC: "My wife Carrie and I found a photo of Osgood Place on Craigslist. We were looking to move closer to her job at the Williams–Sonoma headquarters, which is just a few blocks down the road. This is kind of an in-between neighborhood and not a lot of people live down here. When we walked up for the open house, we immediately felt at home. This building has been around since before the earthquake. They say it used to be a brothel back in the Barbary Coast days, and I can see why. There are little rooms gathered 'round a hacienda-style courtyard. It's kind of an oasis in the middle of downtown. The space is divided into two halves, with two separate entrances, so Carrie and I could live on one side and High/Low could set up shop on the other. And the light! The whole unit has skylights throughout. It wasn't until about a year of working here that we fully realized what a perfect place it is to be a filmmaker. There are a ton of agencies, post houses, studios, and major company headquarters literally within blocks."

A look at Carrie and Britton's light-soaked living room.

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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How did your home and studio come together, design-wise?
BC: "Carrie is really our secret weapon. As a home-goods merchant with a keen eye for design, she runs a tight ship. Whenever things start looking a little too rustic or eclectic, she pulls things back toward the modern. It's a delicate balance that requires the right mix of materials. She also knows how to spot a bargain. We spend our weekends picking through flea markets and antique shops together. It's like a sculpture that will never be finished."

A photo-ridden tack board hangs in the kitchen.

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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How would you describe the style of High/Low films?
BC: "We strive to tell honest stories. Sometimes that means keeping things rough around the edges. How you choose to photograph something can make all the difference. We still shoot a lot on film, embracing the grain and imperfections that you can only get with analogue. Other gigs call for an ultra-clean, crisp look. Our company makes room for both. We like the idea of mixing the documentary approach with commercial production values. The right cinematography, score, or sound design can make something we encountered in the real world feel even more true."

Dana, Keenan, and Britt, show off their boots.

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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How would you describe your personal style?
BC: "One-legged Iditarod chic."

What three items in your closet get the biggest workout?
BC: "A white t-shirt, my Red Wing boots, and a Filson Tin jacket."

What's your best cheap score of late?
BC: "I recently stumbled upon a suitcase full of hundreds of my great-grandfather's photographs. He ran a construction and food service company in Los Angeles in the '30s, '40s, and '50s. He started out building tent camps for workers on big dam and pipeline projects and then housed crew for big movie sets before trailers were invented. I found photos of the Grand Coulee Dam being built, mining and ship-building camps, and production stills from films like "Gunga Din" and "The Garden of Alla." There's photos of him with Marlene Dietrich, Clark Gable, Judy Garland, even the Three Stooges."

Britton Caillouette in front of the chalkboard wall in his home-studio.

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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What have been the highlights of some of your work together?
BC: "About a year ago the Preservation Hall Jazz Band came to San Francisco to make a record with bluegrass legend Del McCoury. My friend, photographer Danny Clinch, called me up and told me I had to 'get my ass down there with a camera.' The guys were kind enough to let us hang around for a few days and document the session. There was a moment when Del and his sons were gathered around one microphone singing 'Tennessee Waltz,' I think. We caught a glimpse of Clint Maedgen, virtuoso sax player, staring in complete awe as the McCourys hit every harmony with absolute perfection. We'll never forget that."

A look at High/Low's studio, which sits within Britton and Carrie's home.

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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Does living in the Bay Area influence you work?
BC: "There's something about this city that's just in your face –– the grit of the street, the fog –– it's kind of like skateboarding. There's an incredible lineage of free-thinkers here. It's really the epicenter for experimental cinema. And I like how neighborhoods just clash up against each other. Like on our alley, we've got a strip club at the top of the street and people eating foie gras at the bottom. And the history! There are ships buried underground all around us!"

"We love handwritten notes," says Britton of the old-school pens and ink that sit in their office alongside a leather folio from the Mexican Revolution.

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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How would you describe your personal style?
Keenan Newman: "Carl Sagan crossed with Toshirō Mifune."

What three items in your closet get the biggest workout?
KN: "Wool mountaineering socks, an Xcel wetsuit, and Adrienne Rich's 'For An Album' poem."

What's your best cheap score of late?
KN: "Britton is a HUGE sports fan so I bought him a hat that says 'Sports!'"

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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How do you choose the projects you work on?
BC: "We pick projects that inspire us, expose us to new worlds, and keep us learning. What other job lets you hang out with salmon fishermen one week and fashion designers the next?"

What projects are you working on at the moment?
BC: "This week we're off to Marfa with the Levi's concept design team to explore the art of Donald Judd and American minimalism. Then we're going to Japan to learn about Zen Buddhism, natural indigo dying, and other ancient crafts."

A look at Britt and Carrie's living room book spread.

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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What have been some of the most amazing trips you've taken as a group?
BC: "In September we took a road trip through Rajasthan in India. Then we traveled to northern Ethiopia to document villages receiving clean drinking water for the first time. Both experiences were life changing."

A Lieca M5 passed down from Britton's grandfather hangs on a strap from S.F.'s General Store.

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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How would you describe your personal style?
Dana Shaw: "Half land dweller, half sea dog."

What three items in your closet get the biggest workout?
DS: "A Patagonia down vest, blue checkered button up, and green Levi's 511 trousers."

What's your best cheap score of late?
DS: "A $200 leather jacket for $20 at the Salvation Army and an old Bell & Howell 16mm film projector for free."

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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How would you describe the style of your home?
BC: "Modern West."

Britton and Carrie Caillouette in their bedroom. The Pendleton blanket was a Christmas present from Carrie.

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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Britton and Carrie's beautiful wedding photos in their bedroom.

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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How would you describe the feel of your workspace?
BC: "We're all kind of collectors at heart. We bring back a lot of treasures from the road — a shark's tooth from Baja, a basket from Udaipur, a blanket from Cuzco — everything has a story. It's kind of like making a film. We're collecting images and sounds, then moving them around until the whole thing feels right. We want our workspace to feel like a home. We've noticed our clients tend to look for excuses to leave their desks and come hang out here."

The Working & Wilderness poster is a custom typography from Hatch Show Prints in Nashville.

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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What are some of the things you collect personally?
BC: "I tend to accumulate old trade blankets."
KN: "Music. Tons of it. Listening to music is how I understand the world. I'll never hear enough."
DS: "I tend to collect old Super 8mm cameras and film, projectors, salty ship memorabilia, and random folk art that I come across."
CC: "Funky old objects, enamel ware, mirrors, boxes, buttons, books, ephemera...really anything interesting and beautiful."

Dana, and his pelican tattoo, working away.

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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What other photographers, designers, films, places, etc. inspire you?
BC: "Robert Frank. The Salton Sea. Sebastião Salgado. Townes Van Zandt. Pier Paolo Pasolini. Robinson Jeffers. Todd Hido. Point Reyes. Tom Waits."
KN: "Sergei Eisenstein, Glacier National Park, Akira Kurosawa, Mount Shasta, Pedro Almodóvar, mountain lakes in the Sierra Nevada, the Lumiere brothers, the Cinematic Orchestra, Etta James, John Muir, Ocean Beach, Victor Jara, Jorge Luis Borges, Saul Williams, Pablo Neruda, Sebastião Salgado, the Yuba River."
DS: "Arnold Newman, Richard Avedon, Eadweard Muybridge, J. Grant Brittain, Thomas Campbell, AJ Fosik, tattooist George Campise, Spike Jonze, Stacey Peralta, the Inner Richmond district in S.F., my dad's glass studio in San Diego, the redwoods, the ocean, my grandfather, and much more."

The guys in their workspace.

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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We've heard about your best steal, what's been your biggest splurge lately?
BC: "A 1962 Harmon Kardon tube receiver for my turntable."
KN: "I splurged on a new 8'3 Al Merrick Gun. Then I broke it in half at Ocean Beach three weeks later."
DS: "I just pulled the trigger on a new surfboard and wetsuit for the season. My surfboard is still intact."
CC: "A 10-piece 'Coupe' place setting at Heath Ceramics."

One of the beautiful seating areas within home-studio.

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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How would you describe your personal style?
Carrie Caillouette: "Casual, yet refined. Vintage with a modern twist!"

What three items in your closet get the biggest workout?
"Italian suede booties, silky tops, and all sorts of denim!"

What's your best cheap score of late?
"I spent $10 on a rare sterling silver whistle. I'm going to make it into a pendant."

Carrie writes a recipe for roasted peaches on the kitchen wall.

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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These blankets are gorgeous! Where are they from?
"They're a part of our collection of Pendletons and Mexican blankets. I think there's a Missoni in there, too. We love all the colors."

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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Tell us about the old cameras that decorate your office.
"They're a part of our never-ending junk yard of old Super 8's and 16 millimeters in various stages of decay."

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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Tell us about the High/Low mascot, Mason!
BC: "He's a 100-pound Irish Wolfhound mix who gets more attention than all of us combined."

Photographed by Tomo Saito
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For more on High/Low Film and to catch their flicks, check out the guys' website here.

Photographed by Tomo Saito