Director – Jonny Lumbley
Writer – Doug Tracy
DP – Max Gutierrez
Producers – Jonny Lumbley & Doug Tracy
Editors – John Charter & Colin Woods
Music – The Lodge (NY)
Casting – Jonny Lumbley
Production Designer – Fernando Marroquin
Wardrobe – Vanessa Chafen
Hair/Make up – Sara Armijo
Set Sound – Jonny Lumbley
VO Artist – Dave DeAndrea
Graphic Artist – Jean Yarjour
Why this script/concept? And how does this reflect my vision as a commercial Director?
I initially saw an email Spec Bank had sent out in regards to an ad agency looking for a director to direct a concept for a charity they represented. I immediately wanted to jump at the opportunity to work with a real ad agency, so I went ahead a looked at the creative.
Now, when I read “charity/PSA” from the get go, I was a little nervous on where we were going to stand creatively and how much a public service announcement could show off what I could do. However, the moment I read the script I knew there was gold in there....I just had to mine it. Typically I had been strictly looking to go down the comedy route for commercials, but I saw this as an opportunity to really showcase my theatrical side. I wanted to approach this from a different angle. First off, I didn't want it to have the typical commercial look. I wanted people to get lost in this spot and for that I had to create a film like experience.
Now the second thing I wanted to do was not only make this cinematic, but make the experience very real for the viewers. I wanted it to become so real that viewers would become uneasy by the topic and that right there is the part that makes this spot so strong and persuasive. By selling the realism of all of this, in turn, is what pushes donations to the charity. So, I conceptualized a vision of how I thought this should look and after speaking with the writer I quickly realized I was going to be able to push way beyond the boundaries of the typical advertisement.
Looking back on the completed spot, I think it shows my ability as a commercial director to tell a very in depth story in a very short amount of time. It also shows my ability to have the viewers become lost in the cinema of it all, but then be persuaded to support the cause/product immediately! All in all, I think this PSA (of all kinds of spots for it to be) has become one of my most powerful pieces and may help define an additional side to my work that I never thought possible.
What was the casting process like?
It was unbelievable! I was really worried that the parents were going to be apprehensive in allowing their children to audition for a spot of this nature, but I was happily surprised when I saw the amount of applicants I received on my ad that I posted through LA Casting and how much their parents fully supported the cause.
I was even more worried about how the response would be for the lead molester role, but I was very fortunate that I had some very dedicated actors that believed in the cause that submitted. It was really fun getting to work with so many young and talented actresses during the audition too! You have know idea how many little future superstars we have running around out there! But it came down to 2 girls and, to me, the 2 girls that I chose were phenomenal! And rightly so, when you take a look at their powerful performances we captured on film. The man that I chose to be the lead molester was also nothing less than perfect! He is a serious method actor and I needed him to fully commit to this role so that the viewers would be revolted by him, even to the point of hating him! Now, hopefully every time they see this man walking the streets they won't hate him, but you can see how real he made the character.
Donations hinged on the perfect casting for this spot and I think we captured what we initially set out for. As a Director, I could not have asked for anything better from these incredible actors/actresses.
How did you search for/lock in a location?
There was a production designer, that is a great friend of mind, that I had been looking forward to working with for a very long time. I gave him a call and discussed my concept with him and how I wanted it to look and he started thinking on locations right away. About a week later, I got a call from him saying that “He had found the perfect location!” I said ok and we went to scout it.
We were looking for a creepy dark basement and in LA, those aren't that readily available. And, on top of it all, we had basically no budget...just my pocketbook! So, he took me to this artist warehouse/set design rental place that he had recently become very close with the person that owned it. We arrived over there and spoke with the owner about the project and I talked with her in depth about the cause. She graciously agreed to allow us to rent the place for $100 because she believed in the cause and she firmly believes in supporting art of all kinds.
Now this place is ridiculous...they have tons and tons of flats (set walls) to choose from that are left over from the old All My Children sets. The 2 of us were like little kids in a candy store scouring the place for the right materials to build this! Yes I said it, build it! This was not an actual basement, but a set that we built in the middle of a big open warehouse. Every aspect of this was a complete fabrication and I have to tip my hat to the utmost degree to the ability of this amazing production designer, and every hand that went into the actual construction, for pulling this off. I bet you didn't know that was a set until I just told you? Haha.
How did you select your DP/crew?
Well, I touched on the production designer, but I can never say enough about him so I had to mention him again. By the way, anyone looking for a rad designer call Fernando Marroquin!
The first selection of the crew was a no-brainer and that was my DP, Max Gutierrez. He is by far the most talented DP I've seen out there! I don't care that if he doesn't have all the Academy Awards that some of these other DPs have, he is just as talented if not more! Just Google the guy and check out his work! I was fortunate enough to be friends with him through working numerous other jobs together and we had both been wanting to work as Director/DP together for a long time. When it came to freebie projects I wanted to wait for the right one and I think this was the exact one to do our first job together in those respective roles. There will definitely be many, many more together from this point forward!
The editors I had set aside for this were key, both of them incredibly talented and you'll see their work everyday on TV, you just don't know it because commercials don't have credits. But Colin Woods and John Charter, wow...I can't tell you how amazing they are. Everyone else in the crew came from people I have worked with daily on other jobs. Everyone of them is extremely talented at their role on set and from the final product you can see that I'm not lying.
How did the shooting go? Any challenges?
The shooting went great! But then again, I had a ridiculous DP so I figured that would go on without a hitch. The actors/actresses were nailing their performances and the lighting was perfect, so I can say that from a Director's POV I was in heaven!
Everyone, from every department, took the direction I gave perfectly and they absolutely killed it on this spot. The only challenge we had, and it wasn't much of a challenge, was the fact that we had to alter our initial vision on how we were going to light the set. Initially the DP and I had discussed having some skinny basement style windows that we were going to use to motivate our lighting, but due to the materials that we had to build the set, this changed. Not having the set exactly how we first conceptualized it, meant that we had to kind of re-imagine our lighting tones and how the rooms light was going to be motivated. Now I wouldn't put this too highly up on the challenge column because Max (the DP) is a master at lighting and one of the best in the business! So, we chatted about it a bit and came up with a nice solution that I feel may look even better than we initial envisioned!
Tell us about editing/finishing?
Editing was easy because I had 2 guys that are top notch in the biz manning Final Cut. I've worked with them a ton and they knew my original vision going into this. I always sit in with my editors as well, unless they're just doing some tiny tweaks that we discuss later, because I feel that as a director it's my job to bring this altogether. I've seen so many commercial directors basically shoot a ton of footage and hand it off to an editor to basically direct in the cut. Now, I would've had an awesome spot if I would've left it up to these guys, but I just believe that a director's complete vision should be the final one seen and you can only do that if you're in the grind making it happen.
The color was also simple, Max is an old school kind of guy with lighting and he has things looking almost perfect the second it's shot. When it came to the music, we had an awesome sound house out of NY donate their time and resources to help the cause. I had tons of sound bites that they had given me to choose from, so when we began the edit I already had the music planned out. From there, we just cut it together and had them master it.
In retrospect, is there anything you would've done differently?
Usually I always, without a doubt, say yes! But in this instance, I can honestly say no. I feel great about how this came together and I don't think I could've asked for a better product. That is all a direct reflection of all of the incredibly talented people that worked on this project! They made my job easy and helped me bring this script to life!