Friday, November 4, 2011

OC Fair "Fair Farmer"

Director: Stephen Schuster

Writer: Dan Sorgen

Producer: Steve Owen

DP: Ezra Migel

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

I found this script appealing due to the whimsical nature of the script and the humor I found in it personally. I thought it was somewhat absurd that the farmer grew these deep fried and unhealthy foods on a farm for the fair where as you would normally find healthy fruits and vegetables. The father also intrigued me. The "how" of farming the funnel cakes. Ultimately I think the spot reflects my vision as a director well - absurd and somewhat subtle humor with a mix of the fantastic - the desire to make people laugh.

What was the casting process like?
The casting process is one of my favorite parts in doing commercials. You have the opportunity to meet extremely talented individuals that come close to fitting the part the minute they walk into the room. My friend Yasmin over at Jane Doe Casting did an amazing job at pulling some great selects for me and though there was some great casting choices - I ultimately settled on Daegan and Louis. Daegan came into the room and went for it on every take and from there I tweaked his performance on set so as not to go too hillbilly - just keeping it in the slower speed of farm life. He is also great with inflections in his voice and gave us alot of variations to work with. Louis is a friend that I met on a Alice In Chains video I shot. Great look and super talented and it is always a good combo to have the ability to work with people you have worked with before and know they will give you exactly what you need. I think there is a relationship of trust that can form between a actor and director which makes the shoot that much easier and enjoyable.

How did you search for/lock a location?

I had two friends that were going to help me produce the spot in the beginning but due to scheduling conflicts they were not able to see it through. One of them was with his family for a day out and they ended up at Underwood Farms up in Moorepark. He worked out a possible deal with the farm and then I went up and scouted to see if it could work. That of course was in the beginning of June. The farm was amazing. I found some unbelievable crops to shoot and had alot of details worked out in my head. In the end we shot two months later and all those crops had been cleared and empty fields replaced them. It was a interesting process but I think our team made it work.

How did you select your DP, crew?

Shooting crew? Ezra Migel is a very talented DP that I have known in passing for years. We had actually never worked together before this job and as he was just coming off of a tour for a documentary he had finished, he was going to be in town. We sat down and went over the ideas I had and everything clicked. It felt right. I met Steve Owen, the producer on the spot, through my wife. Ezra brought a few of his normal crew with him and Steve finished out all the rest of the crew - art department, food stylists and catering as well as dealt with all the gear rentals we needed. Both Ezra and Steve were key factors in this spot ever getting shot.

How did shooting go? Any challenges?

Ha. The day started out at 4:30am with clear skies at the farm. We had a crew call time of 6am and talent at 7am. About 545am the fog rolled in and whited the place out. You could not see 10 feet in front of your car.

The fog was the only challenge really - the only unknown. Some days it can last til 2 in the afternoon which would have basically ruined our day.

Ezra and I scouted other possible shots that we might be able to pull while we waited for the fog to clear and each time we found a setup and got ready to shoot the fog moved. By about 730am we actually started shooting. Day went smooth. We had alot of talented pros on set that made the day possible and of course it goes by pretty quick once it starts.

Tell us about editing and finishing.

Dean Gonzalez handled the editing. An amazing editor that I have had the opportunity to work with several times before. Dean and I had cut an animatic based off storyboard frames before so we knew for the most part where things would be going. It was finding the perfect shot for each part and then finessing all those details that Dean is great at.

While Dean was working on the edit, Dror Revach was working on the powder sugar machine. An exceptional 3D/CG artist that has gone above and beyond on every one of my projects he has worked on. We went through a couple of variations and in the end he nailed it - a "believable" and working machine!

Joshua Smith of Hydro74 did the logo for me for the OC Fair. I come from a design/animation/cg/vfx background so I helped with some of the lesser animations but it was Kevin Prendiville on Flame that brought it all together with sky replacements, final composites, and color correction. He tweaked so many details that the viewer may never see.

As I wanted every piece of the spot to better the whole, the final clincher was Mic Brooling who scored the spot for me. I knew I did not want to use any stock music as wallpaper though there are some great tracks out there. As soon as I showed the spot to Mic - he had the same idea for music that I had but much more elaborate. The score is amazing as the guitars work really well for the initial misdirect and then we plunge into a more Danny Elfman type machine sound - bridge into orchestral for the 3 food reveals and then wrap it up again with the guitar. The audio really adds to the humor - it doesnt just fill a void.

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

I think with any project there are things that could have been done differently but the project got finished and its getting a lot of great feedback and in the end THAT is all that really matters to me.

Any other thoughts.

A big thank you to Dan Sorgen, the writer on the project, who allowed me to interpret his script and to Specbank for making that connection possible.