AUDL's New York Empire 'Lil' Babbitt' promos
I wanted to create a series of on-air promos that would draw attention to the New York Empire star player Jeff Babbitt. One key element was that the ads needed to treat ultimate like any other sport.
Spike Lee's early 2000s Nike ads with a puppet version of Penny Hardaway called Lil' Penny came to mind. Mind you, it's not easy to create a fine-looking puppet —much less one that could walk, talk and hold a cell phone. Puppet maker Charlie Kanev had to create a unique design and puppeteer Jessi Riese (from the Swedish Marionette Theater in Central Park) had to operate him proficiently. DP Andy Poland pulled out some tricks and we ended up shooting three promos in one day with a skeleton crew. Post Editor Andrew WK Betsch put it all together and filmmaker Barry Bangs provided the unique voice of Lil Babbitt.
This shoot was a challenge. The script was based on a fever dream of a bike messenger seeing her own death in a painting at an art gallery. How to make it come to life? Spend many months casting. Become part of the messenger scene by joining alleycat races (turns out, I love alleycat racing and even finished top ten in one race). Schedule shoots based on the availability of DP Shachar Langlev and actress Joanna Schubert. Find a friend to connect me to a good props manager. Work with racer Dominican Chris to get shots in traffic (he rolled film while rollerblading). Track down all the indie artists I loved and get them to sign releases.
Four years after that fever dream this film played at festivals — and even won a few. Whew.
NYC Bike Messenger Footage
For Kaya we wanted the camera to always be in motion. Shachar and I came up with four primary methods: 1) Racer and cinematographer Dominican Chris carried a camera while rollerblading 2) Luke Stiles, another alleycat shooter, piloted a motorized scooter through traffic with DP Langlev on back and the camera balanced with a monopod 3) borrowing from the Coen Brothers and Sam Raimi, we positioned the camera on sticks in the back of a Ford Explorer and lowered the tire pressure to 20 PSI to prevent the camera from shaking and 4) using rigging, we secured the camera on top of the Explorer by going up through the sun roof.
This collage is some footage we gathered but didn't use. The resolution is low: this was shot mostly in 2010 and 2011 before we could get up to 4K or higher.
The concept here was simple: we wanted to make a modern-day version of the 1980s English sitcom The Young Ones. Of course we had to set it in hipster Williamsburg. There were some other differences: we didn't have a budget or backing from a TV station. So we made this on loans and savings, found an affordable quasi-homeless man's studio, built a stage, cast the actors and came up with the props.
We also tried, and failed, to be ahead of the curve by being behind the curve. What this means is in 2007 The Office had taken sitcoms by storm. Its use of single camera faux-doc style was, almost overnight, and deservedly so, very fresh and appealing to audiences. We went with a traditional three-camera studio set instead. Did it work?
At least one of my friends and writers on the show who went on to some success writing comedy in Hollywood, said that it all word have worked if we had a good laugh track. Now they tell us.