Tales from the first Promo

production 5 comments

If you’re following either me (@Rfontaine71), Glynis (@GlynisMitchell) or Montoure (@Montoure) on Twitter, you may have seen our excited posts about how we had convinced an awesome Director of Photography (Brian Liepe), Production Designer (Lisa Hammond, @SetStylist) and Composer (Jesse Plack, @JessePlack) to work with us. This was especially exciting because at this point, we can’t pay anywhere near what they are worth. But they all loved the concept and wanted to be a part of it, so they came on board. Awesome! But…should we ask them to work on the first 2 promos, or would that abuse their generosity?

As the director, I went back and forth…Should I ask Brian to bring his great cameras and lights, ask Lisa to style it up, and Jesse to work on composing music, or should we use Montoure’s consumer HD video camera with me shooting all guerrilla style on the streets of Seattle without a permit, or any production support at all? The promos had to be good, or they wouldn’t actually “promote” the show, and since they are the first thing people will see, they could lose us audience if they sucked. We also had a time goal: we wanted to get the first promo out before Christmas (as Glynis said, another story unto itself), and it was already about Dec. 5. We decided that though we’d need Jesse’s help to compose some compelling music, we could do without the cameras, lights, DP, and production designer. Glynis, Montoure and I would do it all.

Keep in mind that though we’d done LOTS of talking, and seemed to really agree on just about everything style-wise, we’d only known each other about 2-3 months, and had never actually worked together yet. It was scary, because though we were each impressed with the things the others had said and the skills we all brought to the project, we didn’t really know if each other could follow through and deliver. I’m guessing that Glynis and Montoure were especially nervous to see what I’d do, since they had only seen a little of my past work. If I was all talk, we’d have no promos worth showing, and be back to square one. I was confident in myself, but I know that a lot can go wrong on a shoot, because when you don’t have much support, it’s harder to solve problems. And though I’ve done it many times, I don’t consider myself a camera operator; I like to direct from behind the camera, not holding it.

Have I mentioned we’re in Seattle, legendary for the near constant rain this time of year? (Another reason why I didn’t want to ask Brian to bring his expensive equipment out.) Should we wait for a clear day and risk missing the Christmas deadline? Well, the promos are meant to introduce a couple of our lead characters, set the tone for what the show will be, and hopefully raise questions that viewers will want to see answered, so we decided we could shoot Mason’s promo in the rain. Mason is a dark, mysterious character, so the rain would suit him. And we’ve said that the city of Seattle would be a character, so why lie? It rains here.

On the day of the shoot, energy was high, and things came together to allow us to get what we needed pretty quickly-so quickly that though my car was parked illegally blocking an alley, we weren’t given a ticket, sent away by any cops, or beat up by anyone wanting to drive down the street. Gabriel Sedgemore, the awesome actor playing Mason brought a subtle intensity to his performance that didn’t need any dialogue to get his intentions across. He rocked it in like 2 takes, we shot a couple of additional angles to make sure we had good coverage, and that was it. It almost seemed too quick. Could the footage be any good? Is that all? When can we shoot again! When editing, I was even more impressed with Gabe’s performance, and loved how the rain added to the moodiness of the shots. Promo 1 was looking good, but it needed music. Jesse was up. In what seemed to be record time, he let us know that he had composed Mason’s theme. Just like the shoot, I thought “could this be any good, since he did it so fast?” It rocked. He had captured the mood and intention of the promo and Mason’s character, and with a few changes, it was done. One promo down, one to go. Now we just needed to get a place ready to post it.

Glynis took this pic that really captured the shoot...

Posted by   @   January 14, 2011 5 comments
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Jan 14, 2011
6:28 pm

Yeah! Promo stuff is always fun to do.

Jan 14, 2011
7:30 pm
#2 Glynis :

This shoot was super fun and completely guerrilla style. (Sorry, Seattle Office of Film & Music, you know I *heart* you guys!) The three of us were totally soaked by the end; I didn’t dry out my feet for hours. But stuff like that always reminded me of Why We Do This.

PS: those dinky production stills of Gabe and Ralph? I shot them on my terrible, awful, 1st-gen LG Vu. But I love that shot above in the alley, which is Post Alley in Pioneer Square off of Yesler Way, the original “Skid Row”. This has been today’s lesson in Seattle history, Time Travelers!

PPS: I am friends with Henry Yesler (who Yesler Way is named after) on Facebook. He is a cranky old dead guy who complains about city policy. Yay!

Jan 27, 2011
1:30 pm
#3 caitlin :

This is Glynis’ up-tight, over-protective big sister hoping you had permission to tag that wall. ;)

PS. Hi Michael!

Author Jan 27, 2011
2:56 pm

Hi Caitlin! Let me hasten to assure you — while we didn’t have permission, that wasn’t actually paint. It was a can of temporary hair color, it washes right off. Don’t worry, I haven’t led Glynis to a life of petty vandalism!

Jan 28, 2011
1:22 pm
#5 Glynis Mitchell :

My sister: standing in for mom since 1979. ;)

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