Monday, July 14, 2014

Smirnoff "Neighbors"


Production Company: 5ive By 5ive Studios, LLC


Nerdy Girl: Dana Chapman
Cool Girl: Katie Peterson
Female Wrestler: Jessica Pike
Student #1: William Sterling
Student #2: Jason Rosenwatch
Student #3: Jason Sensation


Director | Editor: Richard J. Lee
Executive Producer: Richard J. Lee
Producers: Jeannine Sturtevant, Stacey Crawford, Felicia Davis
Copywriter: Eric Hansen
First Assistant Director: Kevin Brennecke
Second Assistant Director: Dedric Washington
Cinematographer: Alex J. Rodriguez
First Assistant Camera: Michael Blue
Second Assistant Camera: Chris Miller
Gaffer: Joffrey Mason
Best Girl: Michelle Erdman
Electric: Christopher Lamb
Key Grip: Craig Massie
Grip: Jeremiah Magan
G&E Swing: Matthew Perry, Joey Schmitz
Production Designer: Rebekah Barr
Art Director: James Barr
Art Production Assistant: Denny Greene, Shelley Starrett
Production Sound: Kile Stumbo
Script Supervisor: Kristin Rapinchuk
Hair | Make Up Artist: Kristi Hesselberg
Hair | Make Up Assistant : Sarah Morales
Costume Designer: Maranda Nichols
Still Photographer | Craft Service: Claire Scarisbrick
Driver: Tom Cliff
Production Assistants: Ivon Millan, Frederick Alfonso, Philip Reese, Ronald Gray, Zach Perry, Rupali Wilson, Mike Budd
Post Production Sound Design: Henry Correa
Color Correction: Alex J. Rodriguez

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

Eric Hansen, the Copywriter, created a very funny script where it dealt with perceptions and inhibitions.  When I was looking for a project to work on, I knew it was for me.  It had all the attributes that I was looking for: comedy, a little sexy/flirty, and a lot of outrageous.  While visualizing and also in pre-production, I dug how I was finding way to heighten the reality and just go all out on everything.  As a director, I want to try to make every frame visually interesting while making the audience laugh and sometimes, for a moment, go WTF.  When you get bombarded with 15 to 20+ commercials in an hour, I think that is a way to be memorable.

What was the casting process like?

Casting for this project went in three phases, we had a general casting call posting on Breakdown Services and LA Casting for our two leads.  After well over 1000 submissions, we narrowed down to the top 40 and had video submissions.  From those video submissions we were able to choose the ladies for call backs.  We casted the Cool Girl, Katie Peterson first.  She fit the role perfectly and has an amazing comedic timing.  The hiccup was we were not able to find that right combination or sultry and nerdy for the Nerdy Girl.  One of our producers, Felicia Davis, contacted some agents and there were able to direct us to Dana Chapman, who blew us away with her screen test.  The final phase was finding the three male students, the female wrestler and background, which was done once again through Breakdown Services, LA Casting and we added in Model Mayhem.

How did you search for/lock a location?

We were on a three month long location scout.  Shooting in Los Angeles, the one thing I knew was I did not want it to look like Los Angeles.  LA complexes generally have a bland white medical lifeless look and feel to them.  I wanted a Chicago or New York City vibe, two toned, sconces, pillars, and in general craftsmanship.  I wanted the location be a character in itself and make the audience wonder what other crazy things have the nooks and crannies of these walls seen over the years.  

We contacted multiple apartments, hotels, and condos, but nothing had the look or feel that I wanted.  In the end we probably looking at over 100 locations when we decided the best course would be contacting and visiting standing sets around Hollywood.  One week before beginning of production, our bet paid off and we found our location at the Herald Examiner in Downtown Los Angeles

How did you select your DP, crew?

Minus three projects, Alex J. Rodriguez has been my Cinematographer for the past nine years.  His attention to detail is incredible and because of working together for so long, we have developed a shorthand that saves us infinite amounts of time.  As for the rest of the crew, they have been people I have worked with one way or another over the past years and I have been able to see first hand the talent and creativity they graciously bring every time to every project.

How did shooting go? Any challenges?

Minus running behind slightly because of technical difficulties beyond our control, this was one of the smoothest running sets I have been a part of.  

Tell us about editing and finishing.

Editorial process with quick and easy.  We had storyboards and script notes that helped making the choices in best that much more easier.  We cut the project in 4K and the timeline was editorial for 1 1/2 weeks, A day of V.O. Recording, and two days of Sound Design done remotely.  Color Correction was a single 12 hour session.

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

Had more Red Bull on set.  LoL.  No, the thing I would have done differently would be in pre-production with the location scouting.  I wish I had trusted my gut and looked at sound stages first.  It would have saved us months of looking at locations that I knew in my gut would not work, all in the sake of trying to save money.  Now with that statement, I am not saying just to spend and waste money, but sometimes, you have to weigh the value of your time versus how much you are going to save and figure out for yourself if it is worth it.

Any other thoughts.

The one key wisdom I would part with is always, Always, ALWAYS, have a tech/pre-rig day.  Yes, it is an added cost, but having a day were the crew can pre-rig lights, where camera can run tests, run blocking and solve problems, is invaluable.  One might argue that you don’t have the time for that luxury or that you don’t need it.  Well, make the time.  And yes, you do need it.  Everyone does.  The tech/pre-rig day allows you as a director to experiment, lets your cinematographer paint his light canvas and ultimately increase the quality that will be put up on screen and impress the client and agency that will hire you the next time.

Personal Website:

Technical Details:
Aspect Ratio:  4K Digital Capture
Camera:  Sony F55 CineAlta Camera
Lenses: Zeiss Ultra Prime

Dolly Provided By: Chapman-Leonard

Post Workflow:  Adobe Premiere CC | Speedgrade CC