Mizuno Mezamashii

It wasn't until my second call with Mckinney's superstar creative team, Will Dean and Robyn Gunn, that I realized this was a special project.

"What?" I said, thinking I'd heard them wrong.  "Did you just say you want this film to be 'dark and arty'?"  What commercial agency talks like that?

"Yep," they confirmed, "this is all about a feeling."

A month prior, the very talented DP, Thomas Scott Stanton and I designed a special running camera rig with Gary from Doggicam Systems.  Attached to the runner's body, the rig extends the lens down and behind the runner's feet resulting in dynamic, kinetic images of legs pumping through rapidly changing environments with the runner remaining frame-registered in the center.

McKinney saw this unique footage and loved it.  Their goal for Mizuno's first running commercial was to communicate the feeling of the "perfect run" - that euphoric, transcendent high when your legs feel they could run forever and your mind is in a deep state of calm focus.  They called this feeling "Mezamashi" and wanted to represent it in an innovative way.

"Dark and arty," I said, "I can do that."

So our humble team got to work, pulling together a crew to travel to Atlanta where we would capture this "dark and arty" film.  Starting with the eccentric and capable producer Janice Biggs and the up-and-coming cinematography star, Alex Disenhof, we rounded out our motley crew in the ATL with veteran AD, Kimberly Daniels (who I was thrilled to reunite with having successfully worked with her 4 years ago on my ASAS project).

Given the meditative, almost zen-like nature of the final piece, the overall composition had to live mostly in our minds while we shot, making clear collaboration critical.  Fortunately, Will and Robyn (ably facilitated by Naomi Newman and Brian Fox, the most enthusiastic agency producing team I've ever met) became real creative partners and true friends over the course of the project.

Though the days were grueling (including a midnight-oil table-top shoot in my hotel room at 4am), the footage made it all worthwhile.

Once home, I teamed with often opinionated and often right editor Eric Wais and was given the unprecedented luxury of time and trust to assemble our cut.  Combining our running footage with some candid interviews with Mizuno execs (who love to run), we also cut together a couple mini-docs to help explain the concept of "Mezamashii".

love in the time of mechanical reproduction

right before motorola launched their ipad killer, the "xoom" tablet, i partnered with their ad agency, ogilvy & mather, to make a documentary focusing on the "passion" and "process" of its creation. our team traveled to chicago, deep into the beating heart of the motorola empire, to interview key engineers, marketers and project managers as well as tour their state-of-the-art facilities and capture the magic of building a new piece of technology. i came away with two distinct lessons:

1) no matter how detail oriented or technical the job, passion lies firmly rooted in the eye of the beholder. this dude is psyched!

2) "state-of-the-art" technical facilities actually look like MacGyver's messy garage. if anyone ever says you don't need an art department to shoot a commercial because "you're just getting documentary coverage", simply smile politely and walk away. even a "verité" mess needs to be art directed.

after many hours with the hyper-thoughtful and extremely skilled editor, carlos almonte, and my favorite colorist, emery wells, we ended up with this short film which immediately disappeared into the ravenously content-hungry maw that is the advertising world.

but the more i started paying attention to the moto (and droid) campaigns, the more i started asking myself an odd question: are advertisers reflecting a cultural desire to be a robot?

the question might sound strange but consider two unrelated but recent campaigns:

i haven't a clue what who this is supposed to appeal to. cyberpunk frat boys? disco-hopping sci-fi fans? is there a segment of people aspiring to robotic perfection? even if i don't understand these, at least they're still tongue-in-cheek fun, all about the par-TAAAAY!

the droid campaign is a different matter entirely. ok, so the iphone has effectively owned the clean, white humanistic design territory making the opposite direction - dark, mysterious and sexy - the obvious choice for a droid campaign. but just because apple has effectively conveyed an easy-to-use, distinctly human interface and tone, should droid emphasize a complicated and robotic aesthetic? don't believe me? check out this commercial where the user (that's YOU) turns into a cyborg after using a droid:

this is not metaphor. dude actually turns into the terminator (and let's be honest, it's definitely a dude). am i missing something? are there, in fact, large groups of people running around wishing to be Robocop? well, actually... hmmmm.

IKEA final final... finally

way back a year ago, when my friend lars asked if i wanted to help his creative team shoot test spots for an ikea pitch meeting, i had no idea what to expect. he pulled out a couple fresh-from-the-hopper scripts and asked me to come in for a conversation.  our last collaboration having been so fun, i thought: "why not?"  plus, my grandmother loves ikea so i thought it'd earn me a double share of cookies come christmas time.

(grandy's cookies modeled by my super-cool neighbor and jewelry designer, lindsey).

the next morning, the conversation turned out to be not-exactly-but-very-much-like a pre-pro meeting so, needless to say, i brushed off my hangover and we hit the ground running.

while the production was one of those "you want what, when?!" type of deals, the creative written by mara evans and art directed by raul mandru was solid and charming.  the two storybook yarns (which would've felt very much at home on prairie home companion) valued narrative and tone over egregious product porn (sadly uncommon these days).

with my trusted cinematographer, aaron phillips, and an amazing new find, the energetic and innovative production designer, rachel macintosh, the production team moved mountains to get these films done (in the midst of a blizzard no less).

but it wasn't until tim wilson at go robot and emery wells of katabatic (another incredible find) edited and timed the final pieces that the potential inherent in the original scripts finally emerged.

though we shot these a year ago, the final grading and finishing was only just completed last week.  i'm proud of the results

oh, and ogilvy won the account.