Tuesday, August 19, 2014

NY Lottery "Nightmare," ShareBuilder.com "Control," Tabasco "Hurts So Good"

Click to watch NY Lottery "Nightmare"

Click to watch ShareBuilder.com "Control"

Click to watch Tabasco "Hurts So Good"

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

Director (ALL): Chris Akers
Writer (Sharebuilder): Dan Sorgen 
Writer (NY Lottery): Aron Fried
Writer (Tabasco): Andrew Lincoln
DP (ALL): John Orphan
Producer (ALL): Buffalo 8 Productions, Luke Taylor
Editor (ALL): Eric Gross
Production Designer (ALL): Wade Morrison
Hair/Makeup (ALL): Marina Coria 
PA (ALL): Allen Aceves 
1st AC (ALL): Jenna Hoffman 
2nd AC (ALL): Dominique Chen 
Steadicam Operator (Sharebuilder): Mike Nelson
Gaffer (ALL): Ovidio Jimenez 
Key Grip (ALL): Francisco Esparza 
Best Boy (ALL): Matt Arner 
Sound Recordist (Tabasco): Dennis Schweitzer 
Sound Recordist (Sharebuilder/Lottery): Luis Molgaard 
Sound Recordist (Lottery): Pete Orlanski 
Sound Mixer (ALL): Chris Parker
Colorist (ALL): Cody Cuellar (Lite Post)

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

These scripts are all based on character comedy. To me they are funny because they are grounded in reality. The concepts are not broad necessarily, just twists on seemingly simple and universal concepts that people can really relate to. 

What was the casting process like?

The casting process is always important, but for these spots it was especially tough because I was looking for very strong, specific actors who would need to carry each spot. The spots depended on actors who were grounded and could portray sincerity, humor, and confidence truthfully. The concepts and the situations were funny and I needed actors who would not be too broad and allow the situation around them to deliver the comedy. Finding the right actors was difficult, but I exhausted all possible avenues (posted breakdowns on numerous casting sites) and even went through my entire network of acting friends to see who might be right for the spots. It took me many phone calls, meetings, and 2 full casting days to find the right people, and even then I didn’t find one of the actors to the very last slot on the last day. 

How did you search for/lock a location?

Anytime you do something on spec, finding the right location is probably the most difficult thing to lock down. For me especially, it was near impossible. I was shooting 3 spots over 3 days, so besides having to find all the locations that would be perfect for each spot, I had to find locations that could be scheduled and used efficiently within those 3 days. In order to get all the spots done in that amount of time, we had to find 1 location that could work for 2 of the spots. And we had to do all of this on a budget, which made it that much more challenging, because really good locations can cost money, so we really needed to be smart about the order we shot things and the days we scheduled actors, because all of that can easily hurt your budget. 

How did you select your DP, crew?

I took a lot of time finding the right key crew. First was finding the right scripts from the right writers, and Spec Bank was a huge help with that. In narrowing down scripts, I was able to really focus in on ones that would serve my voice, as well as be relatively logistically easy to shoot (no big stunts or crowds etc.). I found John, the DP, through my friends. He shot something that a friend of mine was in and I loved the look and his comedic storytelling ability. And he is very experienced in the commercial world, which was very important to me. I also sought out a strong producing partner, someone who could bring solid, experienced crew, but was willing to do so on a budget. I actually put out an ad on Mandy.com which helped me clarify what I was looking for an gave me a lot of choices. Luke and the guys at Buffalo 8 were a great find. They are hungry and constantly looking to grow their business and do interesting projects so we just hit it off right away. From there, Buffalo 8 sourced most of the rest of the crew from people they’ve worked with in the past. 

How did shooting go? Any challenges?

I believe very strongly in preparation. Doing the work before hand allows the shoot day to be the easiest part of production. Yes, of course, there are always challenges on set, but if you’ve done the right work before hand, those challenges are almost exclusively about how best to achieve a shot, or how best to serve the script. And you’re free to really attack those challenges with a clear and creative mind. You don’t want to be worried about anything else on set. And as I mentioned earlier, we had a very limited window to work, and we had to be very efficient and focused. Because we all put in a lot of good work before hand, and I had great people around me who were all supporting the shoot and working hard, we had a very smooth 3 days. 

Tell us about editing and finishing.

It was very important to me to finish this commercial as professionally as possible, I really wanted to send it through a high level post-production process, just like a regular network commercial. Yes, I could probably save some money if I edited, sound mixed, and colored them all, but there are really talented people who do those things for a living, and are really good at them. So why not let them bring their expertise to my project. Commercials are nothing if not extremely collaborative, and good post-production people can really bring out the best in a spot. I followed a similar process as I did when finding key crew and casting: I exhausted my personal network and professional job posts all while looking for that magic combination of experience and hunger. I was lucky enough to find Eric who is an extremely talented comedy editor, and John (DP) recommended Cody (Colorist) while Chris (sound mixer) was a Buffalo 8 recommendation.  

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

Yes. Always. It’s called “learning”, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

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