Closing on a highly productive stretch, I’ve been contemplating the perennial adage ‘no man is an island’ of late. And while Donne’s sentiments at the time were likely far more rooted in the metaphysical, the statement nevertheless translates as effective business advice. Cliché? Well OK, perhaps a tad trite. Ill-founded? Not by a long shot…and as a freelance professional, it’s stout wisdom worthy of adherence.
That said, when I first set out on my own back in 2011, after a long staff producing stint, the notion of avoiding ‘the island’ seemed daunting. But over the course of my varied Donnybrook adventures, I’ve learned to adopt the cooperative spirit and embrace networking as a necessity. I’m certainly better off, and thankfully busier, for it…maybe even a smidge less lonely in the process.
In recent months, I’ve been fortunate enough to kindle newfound CoOp’s with the likes of Philly pharma-force Evoke Health and respected ratings maven Nielsen. I’ve also just wrapped another effective effort with Schott Productions, on behalf of Novo Nordisk, co-producing an inventive campaign for the Danish drug-makers. So as I reflect on the first few years worth of freelance achievements, I’m grateful for the strategic partnerships forged along the way. Collusion takes company, so here’s to many more creative undertakings as I continue to build Donnybrook’s diverse ‘setwork’. Onwards…
Let’s face it, this winter sucked…plain and simple. Brutal weather, miserable commutes, and lest we forget another ‘Storm of the Century’. It’s enough to make a fella abscond with his 5-year old to greener (and sunnier) pastures. As a matter of fact, it was exactly enough. So with my NY stint for ‘Deadbeat’ recently wrapped, I took advantage of the timing and set off for Phillies’ Spring Training with my little man. Carpe diem, right. As it turned out, it wasn’t any harder for Chase & I to trade the frozen tundra of the Northeast Corridor for the sunlit palms of Clearwater than it was for the Fightin’s to trade J-Ro11 to the Dodgers! Not that I’m totally on board with the latter decision, mind you.
Energized by the high-temps and crystal clear conditions, we took in the pre-season opener at Brighthouse Field against the dreaded Bomber’s from the Bronx. And even though the game ended in a tie, which is allowable in Grapefruit League play, we still enjoyed front row seats behind home plate, fed our faces with hot dogs and pretzels (as any self respecting fans should), and finally departed late in the day, armed with plenty of spring-themed souvenirs for our favorite girls back home.
Now having finally taken the trip myself, I’d encourage any fellow baseball enthusiasts out there, whether parent or perpetual bachelor, to make the trek at some point if possible. They say that there’s nothing as inspiring as spring baseball, and it’s true. But unfortunately, it’s the October baseball that will be depressing for Phillies phans this season. Nevertheless, we’ll all still dare to dream, and come playoff time it will be up to the finicky baseball gods to dictate the fate of the mighty Fightin’s!
And because this getaway has me reminiscing already, here’s a quick throwback ad for the Phillies Majestic Clubhouse Store, shot in 2010. It features a mini version of Chase, as well as several friends and family cameos, all of whom were happy to lend a hand…for the free Phillies swag, of course. I managed and coordinated the spot, with Sue Redmond @ Rubberband Producing. Watching it still brings back a wave of nostalgia…and little man still has the Chase Utley blanket. We ‘share’ it, of course.
I don’t know what it is about Bill Murray. Perhaps it’s his turn as Herman Blume, in the pinnacle Wes Anderson effort ‘Rushmore’, one of my favorite on-screen performances. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s the best sort of celeb, when it comes to respecting his fans. Or heck, it might just be the fact that by all outward appearances, he seems like a really swell guy! And while I’ve never had the privilege of being on a set with him, he’s undoubtedly one of my favorite living actors.
So at least once annually, when life affords me that much needed holiday sponsored hibernation, I make damn sure to treat myself to a solid dose of ‘Scrooged’. Joining the elite ranks of cult Yuletide classics like ‘Elf’ and ‘Christmas Vacation’, ‘Scrooged’ is far and away the most irreverent reinvention of the original Dickens narrative.
This year’s respite was no exception, witnessing a healthy portion ‘Murray-ment’. So now, as I venture back out in to the great unknown that is 2015, at least I’ll have the sardonic wit and sensibilities of Frank Cross fresh in mind. Caveat collegae…
In a timely twist of fate, I’ve found myself surrounded recently by ghosts, severed fingers, petulant blobs, and even the occasional DeVito or two. Originally slated to UPM the period feature ‘Treetop’, in the City of Brotherly Love, I instead returned to NYC to manage Hulu’s sophomore season of ‘Deadbeat’, for Lionsgate, when the aforementioned philm initiative fell through.
Teaming once again with fellow DGA conspirator Michael Chandler, who was also attached (as 1st AD) to the ill fated ‘Treetop’, this big apple run has been an entertaining ride. I had binge watched Deadbeat’s pilot season once I learned of the opportunity, a luxury afforded me by hulu’s batch release strategy, and was invigorated by the strength of the final few episodes. Starting on a strong note, and wisely upping the involvement of Lucy DeVito’s Sue, the second season picks up once again on the lonely shores of Brooklyn’s East River. But to discover where things go from there, you’ll have to tune in to the Season Two launch in the Spring.
Tyler Labine kills it as Pac, a stoner medium that wages consistent psychic warfare with Cat Deeley’s buttoned up celebrity clairvoyant Camomile…yeah, like the tea. I’d actually had the pleasure of meeting Tyler a year or so back, at a convention Q&A for ‘Tucker and Dale vs Evil’. He’s proven to be as much fun to work with as I’d anticipated during that brief encounter, and is easy going and enjoyable whether on set or off. The show’s creators, Brett Konner and Cody Heller (the writing duo behind FX’s ‘Wilfred’), are both as acerbic as one might assume, and a total blast to be around on a daily basis.
Hulu will launch Season Two on April 20…and if the date 4.20 doesn’t have any immediate recognition for you, then you’ve likely lead a tedious life on the straight and narrow. No worries, someone had to clue me in too.
There are always certain clients that you make an extra special effort to accommodate, and enjoy working with. For me, Michael DelPolito, the Creative Producer at StayWell in Yardley, PA is high on that list. So when Del came to me with the need to pull together a PSA, focusing on Water Safety & Awareness for the American Red Cross, I jumped at the chance to add to our growing list of successful collaborations to date. After all, I just couldn’t let things remain this woefully outdated! And while competing production commitments made it impossible for me to travel to Texas, to Field Produce the project, I assured him that Donnybrook could handle all of the prep & coordination logistics nonetheless.
In what’s becoming less of an anomaly, and more the status quo in general of late, the scheduling restraints and demanding location logistics made for an ambitious undertaking. But by leveraging the well respected Red Cross brand, we were able to secure the complete cooperation of Sea World San Antonio, and maintain the project’s inherently quick turn around.
Sea World was great, and the week long shoot simply would not have come together without their tenacious support. Equally integral in the project’s success was Entourage Modeling and Talent Agency, where Cindy and her team of casting professionals kept composure while filling all principal and background roles with equal spirit. Del and I were also happy to enlist MP&E’s services once again, for all essential grippage and grunts…this time, taking advantage of their convenient Austin-based locale. In the end, Donnybrook managed to help Del keep his head above water…minor sunburn not withstanding.
I don’t golf. I never have, and save for a foggy bachelor party recollection, years ago, my endeavors on the green have been solely of the ‘mini’ variety. So when a regular agency client of mine came to me with a tight deadline, and a creative concept that necessitated marching a full film crew (and half a living room) on to an unsuspecting course, I rated the potential for success as anything but a ‘fore’gone conclusion…ba-dum-chh! Hey, for what it’s worth, I almost chose that as the title of this post. Mercifully, cooler (and less corny) heads prevailed.
At any rate, mission critical to a successful undertaking was finding a golf course that would even consider allowing this to take place. Enter frame right the fine folks at Westwood Golf Club, in South Jersey. Through a delicate combination of intentionally vague disclosure, and the locations lack of experience hosting film crews, the gig came together better than I’d hoped. But the clincher was renowned sports network DCPN offering up their ace commentator Wes Heywood for the cause. He may be a poor man’s Howard Cossel, but he was stroke perfect for our singular needs on this one. And even though we were summarily shuttled to the club’s 19th hole (yup, count that, 18 plus one), a fairway typically reserved for practice swings and the occasional armchair politician, it all came together in the end. So if all’s truly well that ends well, then score this one a success…no mulligan necessary.
While still in high school, I toiled for a short stint as an overnight stocker, courtesy of my local supermarket. And while it’s not necessarily my pinnacle employment memory, there was something uniquely covert about having the run of a store that was completely off limits to the public. Well in perfect #TBT, or more appropriately Wednesday in to Thursday, fashion, I recently had a chance to run amok once again during an overnight commercial shoot in the unassuming PA ‘burbs. The obliging green grocer this time around was the Swarthmore CoOp, and the contemporary corner market proved to be an impeccable backdrop, and an extremely film friendly location.
This episode of Donnybrook After Dark was in support of the ‘Grow Up’ campaign, for non-profit Generation Opportunity. Teaming once again with longstanding agency ally Jamestown Associates, my crew and I took to the aisles to produce a comedic commentary on the current state of the National Debt…frozen food, veggie, and organic aisles alike. And Swarthmore’s tasteful and artistic end caps will make for a great place to vfx in a variety of GenOpp’s alarming stats to boot.
While the free-flowing caffeine, graciously sponsored by our hosts, certainly helped with the voluntary insomnia, so did the fact that the shoot ended up being a heck of a lot of fun. Crew, client, and talent alike were energized for the duration, and by sun up we’d succeeded in capturing ample assets for an entertaining and informative spot.
A super-sized thanks to my good friend Ann Gillette, for yet another miraculous 11th hour casting assist. May your miracle well never run dry. And to the perpetual movers and shakers over at Expressway, many thanks for the provisioned grip heads and gear…especially given that it was none other than Philly’s own Starsky & Hutch team of Dave Greenplate & Phil Tartaglione.
There are certainly less enjoyable, and far less aesthetically pleasing filming locales in the US than Santa Barbara, dubbed by many as the American Riviera. So when the central Cali-coastal town was selected as the backdrop for Congressional hopeful Justin Fareed‘s intro TV campaign, it was collectively decided to shoot as much of the beachside oasis as possible.
In his ‘Determined’ TV :30, Fareed uses his athleticism to his distinct advantage, offering that the approach to Congressional success will mirror his determination in football and in life. With Forrest (or Lola, pick your pop-culture poison) induced fervor, the spot features Justin running in, through, and out of town…and then tirelessly running some more. And it does an admirable job of connecting Fareed to his constituents through a series of waves, head nods, and horsebacked hat tips in the process.
Local fixer Rob DaFoe did a fantastic job of laying the advance groundwork for this geographically expansive undertaking, and Steadicam Op David Shawl captures the fluidity to perfection for Director/DP Steve Perrong. A huge shout out of gratitude is also due Ray @ Santa Barbara Grip & Lighting, for his tireless efforts and support, as well as the Santa Barbara Film Commission for its graciously offered latitude and assistance.
The spot was voiced by conservative celeb Bruce McGill, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with on numerous occasions now. A gentleman and a scholar, Bruce brings his A-game every time. And thanks as always to Kevin @ Mai Tai Studios in Burbank, Bruce’s preferred VO partner in crime.
I was recently brought on board to help production manage a global IPO Roadshow campaign for IMS Health, working in tandem with Exton, PA based production house Paksima Productions. Executive Producer Jamila Paksima and I have known (of) one another for quite a while, but we’d never actually collaborated directly on a project to point. It turns out that Jamila is every bit the force of production nature I’d heard about, and the project was a perfect fit for her challenge oriented and thrill-seeking approach to producing.
The assignment called for ENG style field shoots in no less than 5-countries, spread across multiple continents, time zones, and cultures…at times, in simultaneous fashion. I had a few key production allies in the mix to lean on, with DP Steve Buckwalter and Producer phenom Tracy Schott along for the ride. I’m better off for knowing Alexa Danner now as well, a seasoned NY production head that I met for the first time on this project. I was also able to re-enlist the key aesthetic sensibilities of Israeli Cinematographer Alon Grego, whom I’m once again indebted to for his consummate professionalism and versatility. And it was nice to have an excuse to collaborate with the resourceful fella’s at Prime TV in the UK again, a vendor I was first introduced to while filming on location in London a few years back.
A key takeaway for me in all of this is just how small the planet can feel with technology and ingenuity in the mix. Partial reliance on integrated communication tools like Skype were vital, as was the ability to think outside of the box with regards to ambitious expectations and timelines. It’s safe to say that nothing is terribly unorthodox when it comes to 11th hour production travel needs, and it remains true what they say…where there’s a will, there’s a way. Many lessons learned, and mission accomplished.
A few other critical production peeps that came to my foreign and domestic rescue – Mark Gambol @ MG Pictures, India Film Services, Sabrina Vogel @ Kameramann in Basel, and freelance Producer Linda Epstein in Jerusalem.
It’s been one heck of a crazy year, and one which maintained a rather frenetic pace. As 2013 winds down, I’m looking forward to nothing more than a recuperative stint in a pop-culture induced vegetative state. OK, maybe with a sprinkle of 2014 strategizing thrown in for good measure.
And no holiday sponsored vegging would ever be complete without a hefty dose of beef, & cheese…and ‘Elf’. Since released, this instant classic has become a staple in any self-respecting household, and has no doubt carved out a perpetual place on anyone’s ‘Best of’ holiday films list.
Having personally worked with Will Ferrell many years ago, as a (literally and metaphorically) hungry production assistant on the set of SNL, I can attest first hand that the man is a comedic genius. He might suffer from multiple personality disorder, and sure he wreaks vicarious havoc by keeping the crew in a constant state of hysterics, but the man is a consummate professional…and hands down one of my all time favorites both on screen and off.
So this holiday season, I encourage you to grab a 2-liter of Coke, a bottle of syrup, and unwind with a good ol’ fashioned Buddy the Elf singalong. Your ‘throne’ awaits, so go elf yourself…make ‘Elf’ your new favorite!