Thursday, April 4, 2013

NY Lottery "The Car"

Click here to watch on YouTube.


Director – Jonny Lumbley
Writer – Aron Fried (Ad Agency - DDB New York)
DP – Jake Sarfaty
Producer – Jonny Lumbley
Editor – Chris Weller
Sound – Jonny Lumbley & Chris Weller
Casting – Jonny Lumbley
Production Designer – Jonny Lumbley
Wardrobe – Jonny Lumbley
Hair/Make up – Mallory Schweiger
VFX – Travis Baumann
Post Producer – Beau Genot
Colorist – Sebastian Perez (Tunnel Post)
Talent: Lead – Harry Ostreem
Dad – Gregory Franklin
Onlooking boys from left to right – Ryan Roque, Cameron Curry, Billy Fridley

Why this script/concept? And how does this reflect my vision as a commercial Director?

I had previously worked with Aron, and DDB, on another spot for the NY Lottery and this particular script was one that Aron had been holding on to as sort of his masterpiece. He told me about it when we were working on the first one, but we wanted to see how we worked together to see if I'd be the right fit to bring his favorite concept to life. Needless to say, we hit it off great and working together was nothing less than perfect! So, he told me in full detail about the idea and I thought it was genius! It really challenges you to think of a traditional idea from a completely different perspective! It was a project that I really wanted to jump on and he thought I would be the perfect person for it, so we started pre-pro right away.

I feel that this spot really sums up my style of commercial directing and I'm so thankful Aron allowed me to make it. In regards to my style, I like to shoot these kinds of spots in a very simple manner so that the viewer is more focused on the concept/dialogue, as opposed to cinematic camera moves that may disconnect them from the reality of what is going on. Now, believe me...I love creative and cinematic camera moves, but I feel my comedy is more about that connection with the actors and their environment. It allows me to really work with the actors and it requires me to get the best out of their performances because we can't hide behind any artsy photography.

In regards to my storytelling style, I like to take things that we can all relate to and deliver them in a witty way, by first leading the audience down one hilarious path and then hitting them with an off-the-wall punchline. This spot does all of that! I have to give credit to Aron again on the creative and I can't thank him enough for letting me bring this to life!

What was the casting process like?

When I went over this spot in my head the first person that came to mind was a really good friend of mine, Harry Ostreem. The guy is unbelievably animated and I felt if anyone was going to sell a spot that has absolutely no dialogue, then I need an actor that can nail the physical comedy. He was perfect as you can see!

The other actors came through a casting I posted on LA Casting. I was looking for actors that could be your true American family and they would be the ones that see this guy going to work everyday outside of their home. I also thought it'd be funny to bring in a friend to the scene that was witnessing this for the first time. I think the family characters did an amazing job of giving Harry a very dead pan, uninterested look, while Ryan (the friend seeing this for the first time) did an amazing job of looking at the rest of them like “Seriously? Is this guy for real?” That to me is what makes this spot! I mean, Harry is just killing it out there as our focus point and then their reactions just send it over the top! Awesome job to all of the actors on this!

How did you search for/lock in a location?

Well, when you're working low-budget the location is always a thorn in your side. Especially due to the permit laws in LA! And, because everyone out here knows how much they can get for a location fee, you are usually slammed with the max!

Now, I was looking for a typical American home (white picket fence, nice porch, cute front yard, etc.), so I figured finding something like this was going to come with a hefty cost. I also needed a street that wasn't that busy since we were shooting across it during the day. I started driving all over LA and I also put the word out to everyone I knew in regards to what I was looking for. It just so happened that my DP's girlfriend lived in a house that was right next door to a cute little All-American home. So...I drove over there and figured I'd talk to the owners to see what we could work out. The family was absolutely amazing during our conversation and the husband settled with me on a location fee of a top-shelf bottle of Jack Daniels Single Barrel Whiskey! NO JOKE! Haha, and what was even better was the fact that we were able to stage the crew, crafty, catering and talent holding in our DP's girlfriend's yard next door! I seriously could not have asked for anything better! We were also on a super quite street in Venice, so we got away without having to permit...which was AWESOME!

How did you select your DP/crew?

The first thing is always my DP and Jake was the only guy I even thought of for this. He is awesome and super fun to work with. We have worked on tons of projects together and I think there is a special connection there that allows us to work seamlessly. He gets my humor and understands that, even though we want to make this pretty, we have to keep it simple. Long story short he nailed it! He brought on an incredible gaffer and key grip as well, so I can't take credit for those guys...all I can say is that they were awesome and equally as fun to work with.

My hair/make up artist, Mallory Schweiger, was a girl that I had worked with on several national spots and she was excited about this project due to the hilarious nature of the concept and to help me further round out my reel. She's a true pro and I'm so thankful she was a part of this! The crew was small, but effective and we had to keep it that way so that we wouldn't have to drop a ton of bills on a permit.

Now, on this particular spot we had to think past just the set crew because we had a pretty climactic finish that I couldn't really afford to do on my budget. That meant bringing in a VFX artist that could make our car look like it actually blew up! Yeah, spoiler alert there, haha...we didn't actually blow the car up. Well, not that particular car used in the shot at least. Anyway, the person that was going to make this happen was Travis Baumann, a great friend of mine that I have worked with on some other projects and one of the top VFX guys in this business. I was very fortunate to have him on this and without him, I don't think this spot would've had the same impact!

We also needed an editor to pull all of this together, Chris Weller (who I'll elaborate on more later), and a colorist, Sebastian Perez (Tunnel Post), to make this all pretty. Those guys made my life easy and this final product is a testament to their talent as well!

How did the shooting go? Any challenges?

The shoot was super fun! It was pretty straight forward too, so we didn't have any problems when it came to actually shooting this. I was also extremely surprised because our actors were so good that we got a lot of this in a very minimal amount of takes. It was also great having Aron on set, especially since this was his baby and it was amazing seeing how happy he was with how everything went. There were honestly no challenges on this, just an awesome day of shooting and a lot of fun doing it with some incredibly talented people!

Tell us about editing/finishing?

The editing was actually a little tricky. It was very simple in the fact that we didn't have very many cuts, but we had to make those cuts perfect so that we wouldn't break the vibe of the spot. I knew I needed an editor that really got my humor and I knew that person also had to be very funny themselves, so I turned to a close and ridiculously talented friend of mine Chris Weller. We nailed a first cut in a few hours, but I always like to sleep on it a few days, then readdress it over and over, and so on. I have to make sure it's still funny after that initial reaction phase. Over the course of a week or so we were able to hone in on the final cut. It took some serious tweaking and conversing back and forth with Aron to make sure it was perfect, but I think we got it right in the end!

In addition to just the visual, we had to really address the sound and more specifically the sound effects. We spent several hours really getting those sound effects right. They had to be subtle, yet effective and I can't stress how awesome Chris was at placing in these sound bites we selected. After all of that, we were still left with the plate shot of our car at the end and we had to turn that shot into a mind-blowing finish. I don't want to give away exactly how we did this because I feel like VFX artists are magic and magicians never reveal their secrets, but I can tell you that it took some creative conversations with Travis (our VFX artist) to figure out how we could make this explosion look real. I didn't want a cheesy explosion at the end that looked fake because I felt that would discredit the entire spot. Instead, it had to be real and nothing less than epic! In conclusion, we were able to composite some real elements together with a few VFX tricks to make a very real and memorable ending. From there, I was able to bring this over to Tunnel Post and Sebastian Perez for coloring to make it pretty! And that he did! 

In retrospect, is there anything you would've done differently?

I would've really blown up the car! That would've been sick! But, I was on a budget...and when I say budget, I mean my low-budget bank account! Haha...but I can say, Travis made me not regret not being able to afford the real explosion. I can't tell you how many people actually think we blew the car up and even though I've revealed that little secret here, only the people that read this interview will know the truth and I'll let everyone else think the thing really exploded...I'm keeping my mouth shut! All in all, I think this spot really showcased my comedic style and it came out as close to perfect as it possibly could. I can only hope I did complete justice for Aron's intelligently creative masterpiece!

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