Service, Texas Style

Every so often, you get a client and an agency with the confidence to place their trust in a single vision.  In Dallas, Texas, I found exactly that.

We knew we wanted to portray moments of service.  Moments in a hospital that felt unique and intimate - not drawn from the healthcare commercial handbook.  To get these, we were given unusual freedom of access and subject matter which made all the difference.

I'm as proud of my collaborators as I am of the final piece and, though it was a tight schedule, we never had to compromise a shot.

Producer Meredith Witte pulls the MVP award for both shepherding the project through her agency as well as demanding the highest quality during post-production.  Without her belief and insistence, our crazy idea of using only sound effects for the "musical score" would never have gotten off the ground.  Nor would we have discovered the real Friday Night Lights!

Jeff Kim, as always, delivered sensitive, high quality images with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of skill.  I'm just glad none of us walked away with a haircut from the helicopter.

Keeping the train on the tracks was Shane Kalman, AD extraordinaire and staunch defender of zionist rights (the best AD is one with a gun).

And of course, pulling the whole thing together, was my producer, Stephanie Haberman, whose attention to detail, sensitivity to people and aesthetics, and genuine enthusiasm for "doing it right" have made her an indispensable partner.

Unexpectedly, this has become one of my favorite new pieces.  Thanks guys!

Don Julio Tequila

The greatest of swords are forged in the deepest of fires and, sometimes, the same can be said of films. This project for Don Julio Tequila wasn't the easiest of productions but, emerging on the other side, it's become one of the more satisfying.

Teaming again with cinematographer Jeff Kim, a master of light and shadow, editor Eric Wais, an impassioned advocate for pure narrative, and producer Jason Haymond, our level-headed, good natured ambassador, we were able to organically weave the idealized life story of the real Don Julio and his obsessive pursuit of the perfect premium tequila into an unusual film.

Shooting amongst fertile fields of blue agave and in repurposed mud brick barns, our production team succumbed to the magic (and the food) permeating Jalisco, Mexico, resulting in a piece that feels more cinematic than commercial, more passion than propaganda.

I learned that the best taco stands are the ones open until 3am and tequila distilled outside of Jalisco is simply called mezcal.

I learned that pipe tobacco is non-existent and the policia are admirably entrepreneurial.

And I learned that the indigenous peoples loved circles and that, sometimes, every so often, the best-laid plans really do yield the best results.

The Trial of Barnaby Finch

The most rewarding projects often have the most unusual origin stories.

Barnaby Finch is no different.

This short began as an exercise in "branded entertainment" at the Sundance Channel. Their idea was to give advertisers a unique taste of what they do best - original, independent cinema - by gifting them with a (very) loosely branded (or sponsored) film.

Enter humble (my production company/studio). The only guideline was to use a "split-screen" in the storytelling. Where to begin…?

I knew we needed to see the two potential life paths in parallel - if alternate - worlds, which meant they had to maintain temporal unity. Basically, we needed to stay in the same location. But how would that work - how could that work once an even mildly dramatic choice was made?

The solution: T. J. Jameson! The fast talking, hilariously arrogant blowhard interviewer grabs the narrative by the horns and guides us down the same hallways regardless of our hero's choice. Whether an intern or the new vice-president, Barnaby was bound to be given a tour of his new office, letting the environment remain constant while the details escalated into increasing absurdity.

A narrative solution doubling as life metaphor - check!

As a new business model for humble, I took the unusual step of working with a co-director, Sam Stephens, whose background in visual effects gave us a foundation for some of the more inventive and surreal environments Barnaby would encounter. As an interlocutor, Sam brought a sensitivity to the storyline that helped refine and enhance the madcap pace we needed to hit in order to cram six pages into two minutes.

As engaged and supportive as Sundance was of the storyline and vision, their largesse didn't extend to the budget, forcing us to make hard choices in an attempt to squeeze every last drop. Fortunately, we had the very thoughtful, artistic and calm cinematographer, Jeff Kim, on board as well as the skilled and experienced production designer, Elizabeth Jones, whose department worked into the wee hours turning lead into gold for each of our many environments.

Matt Campbell kept us on track while Christopher Marsh assumed the nearly suicidal role of line-producer. With only two weeks of prep over the Christmas holiday, we somehow managed to seamlessly pull it all together. (We were so frugal with out shot list that, by my informal count, there are only two angles not in the final cut).

After painting actor's bodies in black oil, watching Shiva groove to James Brown, and traipsing our excellent actors down hallway after hallway, it was all finally in the can. Which meant the real work was only beginning. Enter Megan Brennan, editor extraordinaire who's cut some of my favorite work for years now. Slowly but deliberately, we slashed the edit to the two-minute mark, keeping the pace fast and tight. Frames mattered and we sweated each 24th of a second.

Too often music gets short shrift. Coming at the end of the process (literally one of the final stages of post-production) the money is usually all dried up. But a surreal, modern-day fairy tale like Barnaby Finch needed a theme and score to bring it alive. Fortunately for me, my good friend, composer and virtuoso pianist, Jim Morgan, offered to lend a hand. And I'm forever grateful. I can't imagine this edit without Jim's score anymore than I could imagine watching this story without the performances of Ben Roberts and Eoin O'Shea.

With extra finishing favors from The Mill and Sound Lounge and the tireless efforts of post supervisor, Sue Romweller, the piece was finally ready for air. Phew!!

As if this posting isn't long enough, here's a little behind-the-scenes video of the production process for those curious (or for my family who still isn't sure what I do for a living). It's a little heavy on "message" but still interesting...

P&G "Everyday Effect"

I really enjoyed making this one.

It started a number of months ago when my new friends over at the Grey Group came to me with a very thoughtful, anthemic P&G script. As (Creative Director) Denise O'Bleness explained, the idea was to focus not on any one household product but on the overall impact these "everyday" items have on the quality of people's lives. They called it the "Everyday Effect" and wanted it to be beautiful, lyrical and real.

Some stock footage had already been sourced but when Denise began referencing Malick's Tree of Life, I started salivating at the thought of creating equally lush, naturally beautiful images. Sorry, Terrance, we cribbed you!

Supported by Denise's formidable agency producers, Todd Scheifele and Nina Roussarie, a plan began to coalesce. Together with my trusted line-producer, Jason Haymond, we assembled our team and honed in on our NJ based locations.

I was pleased to bring onboard the incredibly talented cinematographer, Andrij Parekh, who I'd been meaning to collaborate with ever since he shot my buddy John Krokidas' short film, Slo-Mo, about a hundred years ago. Working with true anamorphic primes at 48fps on an Alexa, I was not disappointed.

The images were made even more beautiful with the help of our production designer, Tyndall Arrasmith, who went above and beyond to create the right look, going so far as to build a fake nursery to get those dormers "just so".

After three days of shooting, we wrapped in the beautiful, if politically misguided, Woman's National Republican Club where ethereal floor-to-ceiling windows silhouetted a touching scene of ballet mentorship.

The shoot was invigorating, the piece turned out beautifully and I'm grateful for my new friends. I'm a fortunate man.

NFL Hall of Famers

When the good folks over at Digitas asked me to tell the stories of 20 NFL Hall Of Famers for GMC, I was honored but didn't have the heart to tell them I wasn't a football guy and didn't know any of their illustrious names.

Turns out, it didn't matter.  All 20 Hall Of Famers were generous and friendly with their time, totally unfazed by their sports legend status.  They each told unaffected and personal stories of overcoming obstacles in their lives and I was moved time and time again.

My favorite story came from Steve Tasker - special teams hero for the Buffalo Bills.  Steve is well-beloved by many a football fan and, after hearing his eloquent, witty and riveting story, I began to understand why.

I worked on this series of films (slated to air as part of GMC's "Never Say Never" campaign during the NFL season) with the expert editor, Gerald Zecker, the freakishly talented illustrator, Chris Mauch and the inventive and patient animator, Adrian Letechipia.  Post-producer Bridgette Spalding kept our little ship afloat as Anna Prebula and Marc Gottesman from Digitas kept us focused on the bigger picture.

By the end of our journey, I was transformed from an indifferent football philistine into a gridiron guru.  Alright, maybe not.  But at least I now know how to catch a long bomb (in the end zone).