Sunday, May 14, 2017

Los Angeles Trade Tech "The Artist"



Click here to watch.


Credits:  

Director: Chris Campbell 
Writer: Jedd Levine 
DP: Mike Reyes 
Producer: Ian Feiner & Rob Roth 
Starring: Michael Taber, Jake Jacobson, Chris Martin, Ying Sayun

Why this script/concept? How does it reflect your vision as a commercial director?

This script stood out to me because, in a way, it was exactly what I was looking for and I could immediately see how it would play out visually.  Also, I audibly laughed while reading the spot and that's very rare for me (often it's just a huff and a chuckle.)  I attribute that to the absurdity of the spot, and I just respond the best to commercials in that realm.  


What was the casting process like?

The casting process was luckily very easy in the way that we were searching for looks rather than dramatic delivery or anything like that.  So I wanted unique and quirky looking (vs drop dead handsome or beautiful) characters that really looked the part so that they'd just inhabit this timeless bullpen we shot in.  Luckily again, everyone clicked in with the treatment and script and got exactly what I was going for.  Made for a very easy and fun day.


How did you search for/lock a location?

The location I had actually shot on before (or on some of their other sets) down in Anaheim at Silverdream Factory.  So because I knew the staging of that location and knew that I could afford it, that actually really helped me pick this script and be confident that I could pull it off.

How did you select your DP, crew?

The crew and the DP are all friends of mine and we've been doing music videos or styles that were not always taking us in the direction that best suited us.  So the core crew I really approached with a question of "Let's do something that really excites us again."  For myself that was the most important thing that had me motivated through directing it, doing the production design, picking up equipment, etc etc.  But additionally, I was certainly asking them to really help me out and (because we've been friends for some time) they obliged for little or no money at all.

How did shooting go? Any challenges?

Shooting went great actually.  Though our one mini crisis turned out not to be in the end.  Our main actor had to run to a callback – mid shoot – and then got stuck in traffic on the way back.  So we shot out his wide coverage and anything involving whole arms or face then let him go.  Then I had the makeup gal cover up my tattooed arm and I did all the close ups of the paint brush against the canvas.  That ended up being extremely streamlined because the DP and I would set up the shot and just roll without having to literally micro direct brush strokes.

Tell us about editing and finishing.


Editing and finishing were where the shoestring budget ended haha.  I edited the whole piece, which is one of my favorite parts, and then my DP and I colored the spot.  And coloring is the bane of my existence.  I don't know how colorists do it.  But overall, post went well since I shoot for the edit on set.

In retrospect, is there anything you would have done differently?

I think I would have not used the haze machine in hindsight, haha.  Old habits.

Any other thoughts?

Final thoughts: I'm very happy with it.  I got to spend the time to make something I was genuinely excited about without having to rush at all.  In the past, I've crammed two different 30s spots into one day and they really did both suffer in one way or another.  I'm very happy to be able to share this one with as many people as I can.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Ball Park Franks "Big Spoon"



Click here to watch it now.



Credits (director, writer, DP, producer, etc.)

Producer/Director-Tom Holmes
Writer: Forrest Boleyn
DP: Brandan Friel
Editor: Cal Laird

Why this script/concept? How does it reflect your vision as a commercial director?

I love comedy, the more absurd the better. I was really impressed the way the writer set up the scene and punch line, all in 30 seconds.

What was the casting process like?

The casting process went remarkably smooth. I had previous experience with the Actors Access website so I went back to it for this project. I believe the quality of responses you receive is predicated on the quality of the script. So it didn’t surprise me when I started to get a lot of really good actors responding. Because there are no lines in the script, there was no official ‘audition’. It ended up being a short meet and greet.

How did you search for/lock a location?

I’m new to Los Angeles, so I decided to network at some of the City Chamber’s events to meet new people. I met the marketing director of one of the Marriot’s. After coming up empty handed searching other location sites, I asked him if it would be possible to shoot the spot in one of his rooms. He agreed and offered a generously discounted rate for the room. Moral of the story, get out and network!

How did you select your DP, crew?

I posted something on Mandy and Craigslist for an editor. Cal responded, and after a good initial conversation, he asked if I was looking for a DP and camera crew. He had some friends he could suggest. After looking at their reel, I talked with Brendan and I was set with an editor and camera crew within a few days. So luck was on my side again.

How did shooting go? Any challenges?

I have been on some rough shoots and was fully expecting this could be another. I earmarked about 8-10 hours to shoot. When we got to the hotel they had changed the room, so we had an initial scurry to get everyone to the correct room. And once we got into the room, it was much smaller than it looked in photos. Even with a small crew and cast it was very tight. On top of that, the windows were blacked out so there was not a lot of fresh air moving through the room. But once we got into the room, things started to run smoothly. It ended up being a 6-hour shoot.

Tell us about editing and finishing.


The editor and myself thought we could get it done in two weeks. It ended up taking around two months. Throw in day job, additional sound cues and feedback from other crew, it added up. I didn’t mind. We were all on the same page of ‘lets get it right.’

In retrospect, is there anything you would have done differently?

Overall, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the shoot. As I mentioned earlier, it went remarkably smooth from start to finish. But in hindsight, I would have put more emphasis on costume design. Checking the location before the shoot would have given me an idea of possible problems, etc. And after each shoot, I take some time and go through each phase to see what needs to be improved for the next shoot. It always comes down to, preparation.

Any other thoughts?


This was my first project with Spec Bank and couldn’t be more pleased with its resources, scripts and community. What a great place to be if you’re trying to build your reel and develop relationships within this industry.




Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Liquidspace "Business Meeting"





Credits:

Director: Yiuwing Lam
Writer: Chris DeNinno
Director of Photography: Christian Evans
Producer: Russel Sher
Production Designer: Pam Chien
Editor: Yiuwing Lam

Why this script/concept? How does it reflect your vision as a commercial director?

I thought Chris' script was really funny and well written. It really jumped off the page for me in terms of the hilarity of the concept and it was easy for me to imagine the chaos of trying to hold a meeting at Chuck E. Cheese...since I've spent so much of my early career holding pre-pro meetings at Starbucks... 

As a director, I love comedy that's visually absurd but grounded in realistic characters. That way, the audience can relate to the characters even when they may be in situations and environments you could never imagine them to be in.   

What was the casting process like?

We used an online casting service and held digital auditions. We found our two Businessmen as well as our kids this way. The cast was great-- especially Chris Bonomo, the lead Businessman, who I think really "nailed it". To round out the cast, my wife drafted her co-workers who used their vast experience in corporate America to give very "method" responses.  

How did you search for/lock a location?

The script took place at Chuck E. Cheese so we knew it had to be a Chuck E. Cheese. Luckily, they had a sense of humor and said yes!

How did you select your DP, crew?

I've worked with Christian Evans, our DP, and Pam Chien, our PD, on a bunch of spots and not only are they talented and fantastic people, they actually like working with me (or so they pretend)! So it was a no-brainer to work with them on this-- they're fantastic! And our producer Russel Sher came aboard via a recommendation and since then I've had the pleasure of working with him on  more spots-- he's a calming force of nature.

How did shooting go? Any challenges?

The shoot went super smooth. We actually wrapped ahead of schedule. That's a testament to the professionalism of the crew, the amazing actors and Russel's awesome producing chops. The only real challenges was the early 5am call time but surprisingly the kids weren't affected by this at all. Go figure! They were at Chuck E. Cheese, playing games, eating cake and spritzing each other with water guns-- they literally didn't want to leave!

Tell us about editing and finishing.

Since we had no budget to hire anybody, I did the editing myself on Premiere, mixed it in Adobe Audition, and did the color correction in Da Vinci Resolve. It was actually really fun but definitely time consuming. 

In retrospect, is there anything you would have done differently?

Hmmm.... everything went so smooth, I really don't think there'd be anything I'd like to change. Maybe better crafty? Though, this was a spec....

Thursday, March 10, 2016

1-800-DENTIST "Halloween"





Click to watch.

Credits

Director/Producer: Clayton Broomes, Jr.
Writer: Daniel Gray
Cinematographer: Kimberlee Venable
Editor: Kyra Uniejewski
Colorist: Donato Boccia
Production Sound Mixer: Brian Neris
Post Sound Editor: Carlos "Storm" Martinez - Creative Mixing
Art Production/Wardrobe: Susan Olupitan
Dentist: Keith Johnston
Father: James Ware
Mother: Sidse Ploug Soerensen
Son: Sebastian Broomes
Daughter: Simone Ware
Voice Over: James Scott

Why this script/concept? How does it reflect your vision as a commercial director?

The script spoke to me immediately. I am a fan of outrageous, over-the-top comedy in commercials, the kind you see come from Geico. I also felt it would be doable considering the budget I had to work with.

What was the casting process like?

I've made a few shorts and one award winning feature film in the past, and the casting process for those previous films were nothing like the casting process for this commercial. Since I had working relationships with so many actors, I just cast actors I knew. The dentist Keith Johnston starred in my feature film (Pro-Black Sheep) and in my most recent short film (Grey Dawn). He's talented and great to work with. I figured I would cast my son to play the son and his classmate from Pre-K to play the daughter, who I have seen perform in a school show and thought she would be a natural. We're close with her mom and knew her dad was also an actor, so it was a no-brainer to ask him to play the father in this commercial. As for the mom, she was referred to us by an actress friend who couldn't do the weekend we planned on shooting. And there you have it...

How did you search for/lock a location?

I just used my mother's house here in Brooklyn.

How did you select your DP, crew?

My friend Ellie, who also starred in Pro-Black Sheep, is doing graduate studies in film at Columbia University and I asked to see her reel to choose a DP she worked with. Kimberlee's clip was the shortest on the reel but I knew right away that she can help get the look I wanted for this commercial. The production sound mixer Brian was referred to me by one who I worked with on Grey Dawn.

How did shooting go? Any challenges?

Shooting went really well. The easiest thing I ever shot so far in the 17 years I've been picking up the camera. The only problem was the lawn people using a leaf blower in a neighboring house around the corner. I had to go to them a few times to let them know we were shooting and that the blower is ruining our sound. They were respectful about it. Unfortunately, it was the neighbor that demanded they do more. Eventually, they were finished and the sound was fine. The best thing was the overcast I desired for the production. It was great.

Tell us about editing and finishing.

I had my editor Kyra Uniejewski edit the film without me present. She edited my latest short but now lives in Jersey. Being at her place wasn't necessary. She would do a cut and I would give her notes, back and forth. There were at least 4 to 5 rounds of this until we got it just right. She's good like that. Then I turned to Carlos "Storm" Martinez, an aikido buddy of mine, who did sound editing for such films as the 2010 Oscar winning short film God of Love. Like my editor, I wasn't present to walk him through post sound. It wasn't necessary. He did 2 cuts with notes and it was done. I worked with colorist Donato Boccia who was referred to me by Kyra for my short film Grey Dawn. Again, I wasn't present. He gave me 2 samples and that was it.

In retrospect, is there anything you would have done differently?

More coverage. It wasn't necessary for a 30 second spot but it never hurts.

Any other thoughts.

The original spec didn't have the parents running away, screaming, abandoning their children. I thought of it and ran it by Daniel Gray, the copywriter. He thought it would be funny so I did it. And Keith Johnston as the Dentist improvised the "You want some candy" line in the end.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

SiriusXM "Fountain of Youth"



Credits:

Director:  Paul Yates 
Creative Director:  Daniel Gray
Cinematographer: Clive Lawrie
Producer: Darry Tuchman
Editor: Paul Yates
Colorist: Pudding
Audio Post: HeyPapaLegend
Audio Mixer: HeyPapaLegend
Art Director/Warddrobe - Renate Schulz
Old Man: Alan Barsdorf

Why this script/concept? How does it reflect your vision as a commercial director?

I loved this script because it required a strong performance from my lead and it had a subtle and smart humor that is hard to find in commercials. The concept was also very character-driven which I like. 

What was the casting process like?

The casting process was quite unusual because it required us to audition elderly men who had to dance for us. We saw A LOT of older men dancing for us so at times it was quite funny. It was a challenge finding someone who was elderly but still had a youthful energy about them. I think we succeeded in finding the perfect person with Alan. 

How did you search for/lock a location?

We needed to find an old age home that had a lot of character. We literally just searched online for retirement homes and went to see them. We got lucky with our location (The Nazareth House) as it wasn’t listed on many sites but we somehow stumbled across it. The building is over 100 years old and has amazing props and furniture (like the porcelain bulldog in the beginning of the spot) so we didn’t have to do too much set decor/art direction. A lot of it was already there!

How did you select your DP, crew, etc.?

I got my DP’s name through my producer who showed me his reel. I was looking for a cinematic look for the ad and Clive’s reel really had some beautiful shot stuff. He also is just a really nice guy and we were on the same page with alot of the ideas. The rest of the crew I found through friends and my producer. 

How did shooting go? Any challenges?

Shooting went well. We didn’t go over budget or time and managed to get all the shots we wanted. The main challenge was really nailing the performance. Alan, the lead, struggled (understandably so) to evoke that energy and emotion with every take and as the takes progressed there were more and more breaks in concentration so we really had to try and manage that as much as we could. 

Tell us about editing and finishing.

I edited the film myself with the help of a friend. The main challenge was really being ruthless with the material and identifying what was and wasn’t important to include. You have to work really quickly in a commercial to establish the scene so it was tough to balance that with making sure we didn’t have too much in there. We also found the song being played in the beginning in post so it was great to see how that brought the film alive and I tried to match the rhythm of the edit to the song as well. 

In retrospect, is there anything you would have done differently?

In hindsight, I would have given myself more time with Alan’s performance. I should have let Alan work through the scenes a bit more to find that authenticity instead of having to cut around things in post. All in all though I think Alan was great and I’m happy with the final product!! 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tide to Go "Couple"


Click to watch.


Director:  Mark Nickelsburg
Creative Director / Copywriter:  Shiraz Gani
Creative Director / Art Director:  Barbara Graetzer
Production Company: TinyGiant
Executive Producer: Veronica Diaferia
Cinematographer: Benji Bakshi
Producer: Stacey Wilson
Post Production: Nice Shoes
Colorist: Lenny Mastrandrea
Audio Post: Sonic Union
Audio Mixer: Brian Goodheart
CAST:
Couple:  Matt Marr and Karl Ramsey
Church Lady: Lynne Marie Stewart
Pastor: Alan Abelew

Why this script/concept? How does it reflect your vision as a commercial director?

I think I read every comedy script on Spec Bank and this was my favorite! Written by Shiraz Gani, it’s a gem that works on multiple levels. It has conflict and the joke is structured perfectly by setting up an assumption and then pulling the rug out. Like any great advertisement, it’s simple, clear, shows the product benefit, and is perfectly on brand. For a comedy director this kind of script is a playground for creating characters, working on all the fantastic subtext, and developing the visual language that’s going to support the story and make it even funnier. And when the idea is so strong, there’s a freedom to experiment and try out funny ideas around without being afraid that the concept will collapse.

What was the casting process like?

Through my work in comedy I knew Actor Gary Anthony Williams and producer Stacey Wilson, who are both connected with the Groundlings.They introduced me. And what a brilliant cast! You might recognize Lynne Stewart from her role as Miss Yvonne on Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and as Charlie’s mom in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Then Matt Marr and Karl Ramsey are brilliant as the couple. They created distinct personalities and a interpersonal dynamic that I think all couples can relate to - so that we care about  what happens to them. They also had to be angry but weary at the same time, so there has to be a little bit of, “I can’t believe we have to deal with this again, especially on our wedding day.”  And at the same time being a little measured for fear of it getting out of hand and ruining the day. Then for Lynne, she had to be believable before and after the reveal. The audience can’t feel like we cheated in the misdirection. At the end you have to go back and think, “oh, she was just a stickler for appearance,” and have her performance work for that too.

How did you search for/lock a location?

I couldn’t afford a scout or pay a substantial location fee. And since I don’t live in L.A. my search included literally clicking through every church I could find on Google Maps in the LA area and looking at the street views. Stacey helped out a ton by visiting many of the places as well. Architectural qualities, being able to shoot in three directions, noise levels were all factors. I had very specific features in mind, the most important being the steps leading up to the doorway where the confrontation takes place. The church lady standing above the couple gives her character the dominant position. We finally hit the jackpot with St Albans in Westwood. They were incredibly supportive. It has this great patio which looked beautiful from all three camera directions and that nice row of arches as a background for the couple’s walk at the beginning. It also made staging, blocking and crew logistics very easy.

How did you select your DP, crew?

The DP, Benji Bakshi, was recommended by a mutual friend, director Dave Green. Benji was incredible, talented, efficient, he lit the scenes beautifully, and I liked that he did not just tell me what I wanted to hear. He got involved early, and pushed me to expand the budget for additional crew and lighting gear. I balked at first but it’s honestly not worth doing a spec spot if it doesn’t look like real work. And in the end he was right. The weather changed all day long and he and his crew were able to control the conditions beautifully because they had the necessary team and equipment.

How did shooting go? Any challenges?

The shoot was a joy. That’s a credit to the cast, Benji, producer Stacey Wilson, and the entire crew. I could focus completely on the actors and we had a lot of time to improv, try to find just the right emotional tone and even test out alternate lines.

Tell us about editing and finishing.

I think it’s important to make a spec spot look like a real commercial and luckily some awesome folks donated their time. Lenny Mastrandrea is the head colorist at Nice Shoes and, well,  the images speak for themselves. Then we had Brian Goodheart at Sonic Union who did a perfect job on the sound mix. The only unexpected thing was adding a little sky replacement in the first and last shots.

In retrospect, is there anything you would have done differently?

Because there’s always things you want to differently on every job, it feels really strange to say that this was a rare exception that exceeded my expectations. I met Shiraz Gani and Barbara Graetzer, the creative directors who came up with the concept, months before we actually shot. We had a lot of time to develop the script, continually revise the boards, search for cast and location, think about the who the characters were and really talk through every detail. Stacey, our producer, came on board about three months ahead of time.  By the time we got to the shoot, we were incredibly prepared and then the cast and crew took it to the next level. You rarely get that opportunity.

Any other thoughts.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. As of today, the spot has over a million views on my director page. It’s been featured in Time, Adweek, Fortune, AOL, Huffington Post, and even on several news broadcasts because opposition to same sex marriage is still very much front page news. The comedy comes from upending the viewer’s assumptions and it’s terrific that progress is hopefully moving faster than our expectations. There’s a laugh in the wonderful sigh of relief both for the on-screen couple and for the audience.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Lowe's "Chainsaw"




Credits 
Producer/Director: Michael Leary
Writer: Dan Sorgen
DP: Derek Korogodsky
Assistant Director: Tony Lopes
Sound: David DeLizza
Key Grip: Daniel Innovate
Matt Kozar: PA
Make Up: Jessica Lembo
Behind the scenes Photographer: Matthew Salamone
Editor: Michael Leary
Colorist: Evgeniy Yavtushenko

Cast 
Lowe's Spokesman: Jim Crumley
Lowe's Salesman: Leer Leary
Woman: Liz Chuday
Kid on Bike: Bennett McMullen 


Why this script/concept? How does it reflect your vision as a commercial director?

I have always felt I was strongest in comedy, and as I developed my style I found myself influence by the Looney Tunes cartoons I grew up with. I always found that type of cartoonish violence funny, and it seems to influence my style in the scripts I choose and the style at which I direct them. When I read the script I instantly loved it and had a vision for it right away.

What was the casting process like?

I had actors that were interested in auditioning send me self-recorded auditions online. I was flooded by a lot of actors who put a lot of effort into their auditions with props and creative editing. It was difficult to narrow down the final choices but I ultimately went with my gut and I am VERY happy with the final choices made. 

How did you search for/lock a location?

The script ultimately had two locations, and the first one required a spokesman from Lowe's. I knew it was going to be a big challenge getting an actual Lowe's location to allow me to shoot inside for a spec, so I decided to shoot the spokesman in the parking lot of a Lowe's around the corner from my house gorilla style. I was able to shoot far enough away where any employees would most likely not ask questions or interfere. There was a time during the shoot where a Lowe's truck with employees stopped about 50 yards away and watched us for a minute. They eventually drove away to our relief. I think they may have thought we were shooting an actual spot or promo for Lowe's. By the time they came back to the store we were out of there.
For the second location, Matt Kozar who is always a PA on my shoots, offered his parents' house to me. Their house and neighborhood was exactly what I was looking for. 

How did you select your DP, crew?

The DP Derek Korogodsky is a friend of mine who has extensive experience in commercials, music videos, and short films. He is always on board to help me and expand his reel. We shot the spot on my Black Magic 4K production camera in DNG raw. 

The rest of the crew are good friends of mine who are all involved in  production and volunteer their time to help out on my spec spots. They are all very professional and bring a fun and positive vibe to set. On spec spots, I feel stress needs to be left at the door. With all of the pressures of productions for clients, I always like to be sure spec shoots are as fun and relaxed as possible. It always helps the creative process and ensures the cast and crew who are doing you a big favor will have an enjoyable experience.

How did shooting go? Any challenges?

The shoot was probably the smoothest commercial shoot I have ever done. There are usually challenges and issues on every shoot but this one stands out to me as one of the best. I think a big reason for the production going so well was the amount of time I spent on the pre-production process. Everyone knows how important pre-production is and how it can drastically affect the outcome of a shoot(especially with little to no budget). I made sure to plan it meticulously, which had a huge impact on the 2 days we shot.

Tell us about editing and finishing.

I transcoded all of the raw footage to Apple Pro Res and edited the spot in Adobe Premiere CC. Most of the sound fx we recorded on set and any remaining sounds were downloaded from a foley website I belong to. I had the spot colored by Evgeniy Yavtushenko, a Brooklyn-based editor and colorist. 

In retrospect, is there anything you would have done differently?

If I were to do anything differently, I would go back and create a treatment and have professional story-boards created. I story boarded it myself and as my crew will tell you, I am probably the worst storyboard artist of all time. :) Besides these two aspects, I am very happy with the entire process.

Any other thoughts.

I just want to thank Dan Sorgen for creating Spec Bank and for writing a great script. I also want to thank the cast and crew for helping to create a spot I am proud of.