Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Expedia.com "Cheryl"

Director – Frick N Frack (Joe Laporte & David Liehn)
Executive Producer – Frasier Glenn @ Ebon Sheep Productions
Producer – Matt Kovacs
Writer- Dan Sorgen
DP – Evan Butka
1st AC – Neil Hausey
Gaffer – Gonzalo Digenio
Key Grip – Orlando Ordonez
Production Designer – Johnny Sposato
Art Swing – Holden Pattie
Wardrobe Stylist – Mark Katigbak
Hair and Makeup – Zdra Jaye
Editor – Erik Vogt-Nilson
Colorist – Elliot Powell
Sound Designer – Kevin Dippold
Script Supervisor – Natalie Brady
1AD John Alzate
2AD Hank Hartnell
PA - Jesse Brotnov
PA – Colette Ussery

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

As a directing team, we were looking for a comedic spot to add to our reel. Something simple but funny that we could shoot on a limited budget. We read through all the comedy spots on Spec Bank and narrowed it down to a few finalists.  In the end, the Expedia spot we chose seemed to be most in line with our style and sense of humor.  The script was catchy and we knew we could make it visually come to life. We also wanted to make a spot for a big brand with cache like Expedia. 

We hope to cement our niche as comedy directors and believe this spot will showcase our talents.  

What was the casting process like?

We casted and shot this spot in the middle of the Co-vid19 Pandemic, so a lot of the normal processes of casting and prep went out the window. The only roles we specifically casted for were our lead actress and our Voice Over actor. We found both of those talent on LA Casting and performed the whole process online.  Digital submissions, remote auditions, photo submissions for wardrobe, etc.

We had a pretty specific idea for what we thought we wanted our main actress, Cheryl, to look like (Frumpy, middle aged, midwestern type). We received a lot of submissions of all types.  It was clear very quickly that the actress we cast was the best fit for us. She had the best script reads and the personality we were looking for in our lead character. She wasn’t exactly what we had in mind for the character (she was actually much younger than we had originally envisioned).  But we quickly changed our mind once we saw her audition tape and it ended up working out great for our spot.

For our remaining supporting characters and background, we cast actors we have worked with before who we knew would complement our lead actress and fill out our office location.
How did you search for/lock a location?

Once again, due to CoVid, we did most of our location scouting remotely.  We only went to view a couple of the most promising locations in person for a walk-thru tech scout. We needed a very specific location for this project, and it turned out to be harder to find than we thought. We were looking for a 90’s style office location with a cubicle farm look. (Our main reference was “Office Space”). Due to the pandemic, a lot of locations were not available.  

We also found out from our location contacts that a lot of those older style offices had been updated and converted to more modern spaces. So, the availability of such spaces was definitely limited. Eventually we found the perfect location in a real estate office that was closed for the pandemic.  Employees were working from home and the office was available to rent for filming. It had the exact cubicles we were looking for and all the office supplies (set dressing) we needed.  We were able to save a lot of money in our Art Dept budget, as well as set-up time because the space was already dressed.

How did you select your DP, crew?

We work with a couple of different DPs for most of our projects based on the look we are going for.  We chose Evan Butka for this because he moves fast but always utilizes good lighting. We wanted a flat, drab look for this spot, so his setup was actually fairly minimal on this shoot. Most of our department keys were crew we had worked with on previous projects. (DP, Editor, Makeup, Sound).  We were able to work with a new wardrobe stylist on this project who we had been wanting to collaborate with and were very happy with the results.

How did shooting go? Any challenges?

The shoot was actually very smooth. We finished ahead of schedule and even came in under budget. As a directing team, we spend a lot of time in prep making sure we are on the same page and have as much planned out as possible.  That way on the day, we can divide and conquer.  Often one of us will be working with the talent, while the other is setting up the next shot with the DP.  We like to think of ourselves as a 2 headed monster. We can cover more ground that way and it proves to be very efficient on set.

Tell us about editing and finishing.

We used an editor and a sound designer that we had worked with before on a previous project. Our sound designer was actually our on-set sound recorder/mixer which was helpful since he was already familiar with the material.  He incorporated some foley sounds of his own to complement what he recorded on set.  Our VO actor recorded dialogue in his home studio and then sent it to our sound designer who adjusted levels and added it to the mix.

Our editor was able to turn around a 1st cut very quickly which was helpful because we shot 2 alternate endings.  After watching both options, we were able to decide which direction to go in and then started refining the cut. We did a couple more passes and tweaked along the way, but the edit stayed fairly true to our original script and storyboards. We also worked with a colorist to help us define the overall mood and feel of the story.

Once all the post work was finished, our editor put everything together into a final cut.

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

I think we are both very pleased with the way the spot came out (especially on a limited budget). I think we successfully brought the script to life and are happy with the performance we got from our actors. I don’t think we would have done much differently.  We found a great script to work with, planned well in prep, and executed on our shoot day.

We hope you enjoy our commercial for Expedia.com. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

CA Lottery "Mega Dream"



Live Action:

Director: Maciek Sokalski
Writer: Dan Sorgen
Director of Photography: Taylor Harris @taylorharrisbgf
Live Action Producers: Lisa & Laura Bunbury @bunburysisters
Art Director: Tim Gray
Assistant Art Director: Lindsay Woodcox
Gaffer: Mark Christian @chark_mristian
Key Grip: Tyler Startzell @tstarfilms
Makeup: Alexis Oakley @alexisoakley

Post Production:

VFX Supervisor: Maciek Sokalski
Tracking: Mike Bettinardi
Edit/VFX: Paid Time Off @get_pto
FX: Joao Rosa @joaorosa1986
Color: Gabe Sanchez @gabe_jl_sanchez
Sound Mix: Austin Roth @austin_pow3rz

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

I think this script was a really fun take on the conversation we've all had in our heads. It usually goes something like "If I won 500 million dollars I would get a ...", but what I liked about this guy especially was that it captured the big kid inside all of us at the same time. It was just a great concept with a fun tagline and I happen to be handy with visual effects, so felt I could do it in a high-end way that satisfied my vision. I'm really proud of the way it turned out too.

What was the casting process like?

I was lucky to have a great producing team that was able to streamline casting for me while I helped iron out all the tech challenges. Our hero in the tub was exactly the look I was going for as far as demeanor goes. Luckily he is was somebody I knew and is a successful stand-up comedian, so putting him shirtless on set for a few hours seemed to pale in comparison to being on stage. The girl with the bubble was somebody close to me that I knew had time to get the bubble right as it was very integral to the shot being successfully executed. 

How did you search for/lock a location?

The location really came down to the price for us. I needed a 3 wall green screen stage and when looking for those, they have a lot of additional costs associated with them. My producing team was able to find Greenery Studios which really worked with us and felt reasonable for the prelight and actual day of the shoot. 

How did you select your DP, crew?

I chose my DP because he had extensive experience with gimbals and walking with them in a clever manner to reduce motion on the Y-axis. He was mostly working on car commercials at the time and welcomed the challenge I presented. The question I had was, how can we get this to feel like a Steadicam shot but on a lower budget? He rose to the challenge and we got some great takes. The rest of the crew were seasoned guys that he worked with and nailed the lighting reference I gave them. I was lucky to have them. 

How did shooting go? Any challenges?

The biggest challenge was that the move was specifically timed around the choreographed action of the talent in specific sections. The problem was that there was no way to really rehearse until everyone was on set the day of. I was able to quickly breakdown beats into digestible portions and we just built upon each one. We rolled on rehearsals and once we got a good take, I played it back for the talent to tweak certain things in performances to get the most out of everyone. 

The second biggest challenge was getting the bubble to not pop and stay in the frame. So I needed the DP to not keep our hero in the tub framed up, but shoot through the bubble and track it as it was moving at the right pace. On the day we only had time for about 8 takes after rehearsals and only 3 of which were usable. Of those, there was only one real winner with another take being a 2nd option should something pop up on the editorial side. 

Tell us about editing and finishing.

Since this was all one move and shot at 6k with a 4k center acquisition, I had the intention of pushing in and out. The first step was to figure out what the final framing and timing would be. Then, having the framing figured out gave us opportunities to ignore some aspects of the frame in VFX as it would be off-screen. That is where time and energy were saved. The spot was very visual effects heavy and integrating the live-action and CG plate was probably the most consuming of it all.  

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

I think with any project you just don't know, what you don't know. I can't say I'd do anything differently but staying positive and being able to pivot was always the key to making this or any project work out.