A filmakers journey into lutherie

By Max Greenstein

In the wild nature of outback Australia, Ruben Becker works in his quiet studio, surrounded by forest. Apart from his customers and the occasional curious kangaroo, he works alone and in deep concentration. Ruben crafts handmade, bespoke acoustic and electric guitars, each one tailored to its owner.

I first met Ruben after picking up one of his business cards at a Melbourne guitar convention. Heading there with my dad (composer of this film’s soundtrack and a far more talented musician than I’ll ever be) partly to fawn over acoustics, but also because I was looking for a new project. A few weeks after the convention, I found myself standing in Ruben’s studio, knowing immediately that I wanted make a film with him.

Ruben Guitars - BTS 2

To provide a little context, my name is Max Greenstein and I run an socially minded production company out of Melbourne, Australia with my partner Kayla Robertson. Together we film and photograph businesses like Ruben’s, as well as artisans, responsible tourism companies and anyone we feel compelled to point a camera at. Right now I’m writing this from rural India, where we are working on a promotional film for an ethical start-up. Ruben arrived at the start of our production company’s journey, so allow me to transport you back to that day in his studio.

Captivated by Ruben’s collection of crafted guitars, we spoke about his thoughtful and anti-consumerist ethos, something he imbues in every one of his creations. It was Ruben’s inescapable dedication to his craft that convinced me that we should work with him.

Anyone who knows about making handcrafted instruments is aware that it doesn’t happen quickly. We recognised that this wouldn’t be the journey of a single guitar’s creation, but rather an insight into Ruben himself. The question we asked ourselves when developing our approach wasn’t how can we show his whole process, rather, how can we show who Ruben is was a craftsman.

‘Sound Maker’ was shot over several long and slow days of observing Ruben as he worked. Being the slow shooter that I am, he had to move with a little less pace than he was used to, but we kept things simple and just allowed him to craft. Against common practice, we left the additional lighting at home, forgot the reflectors, bulky rigs, sliders, and just stripped everything back. All of this was in an effort to mirror the simplicity of Ruben’s craft and capture that natural tone that resonates through his work.

By his own words, Ruben tells his customers that “to build a guitar is to create a story”, and shooting this film has convinced me of that truth. Ruben doesn’t have a formula for his guitars, he crafts with the hope that what he produces will exist long after his part of story ends, and will continue to create beautiful sounds for decades to come. I think there is something we can all learn from that ambition.

To find out more about matter studio please visit: www.matter.studio

If you are interested in learning more about Ruben Becker please visit him on Facebook at: facebook.com/rubenguitars/

Have a look at our Current Issue “American Guitars”

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Featured Interviews with Joe Bonamassa, and Greg Howe as well as  Luthiers Gabriel Currie from EchoPark Guitars, John Monteleone, and a look at Benedetto Guitars after 48 years by CEO Howard Paul. The Photographers Vault by Derek Brad of his shoot of Joe Bonamassa at the State Theatre.

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