From Russia With Love to Seventh Generation Body Lotions

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In 1963, a well regarded NYC art director and graphic designer from the agency Brownjohn, Chermayeff & Geismar – by the name of Robert Brownjohn was hired to create titles for the upcoming James Bond film From Russia with Love produced by Albert Brocccoli and Harry Saltzman. BCG was a cutting edge agency at the time. True to the Madison Avenue ethos of 1960’s, Brownjohn’s idea was to project the opening credits on a very scantily clad dancer/model reflecting the risqué pop culture. He used exhibition projectors to cast the titles on his models skin. It was provocative and cool!

Fifty years later, I get a call from Boulder, Colorado’s newly minted Made Movement Movement Marketing producer Isaac Karsen about a concept they had for an upcoming commericial/online video they were prepping. The creatives had something in mind for a modern application of the Brownjohn technique. Some highly respected ad guys created Made Movement Marketing: David Schiff, Scott Prindle and John Keiselhorst. Also attached is Alex Bogusky as an advisor, investor and partner in this new Boulder agency. Check out his blog @ FearLess – Made in Movement is dedicated to supporting a resurgence in American Manufacturing. This is a group we ALL want to work for so I was happy to a get a call to my production company to explore the idea. Isaac told me about this idea that the creative director John Keiselhorst, and art director Marybeth Ledesma were toying with. The question was how could we project images onto a female figure in a manner that resulted in High Def lettering moving along a model skin. They wanted a modern take on Brownjohn’s concept. CGI was not in the cards; this would have to be in-camera.

We immediately called a local company in we’ve worked with called “Multimedia Audio Visual” These guys specialize in rock concerts, big conventions and have state of the art projection and audio equipment that can put HD images on the sides of buildings. We set up a test day in Denver and I took my 6×6 frame and half frost to stretch across it, along with my trusty K 5600, 800-Watt HMI Joker and a large section of white foam core. Using a book lighting configuration set up, I bounced the Joker into the foam core and then back through the 1/2 frost for a very soft cross key. We knew we wanted to leave the surroundings black and key the model dramatically leaving plenty of contrast for our array of words to play on. I bounced another of my 400 Jokers into another piece of foam core for a tiny bit of fill. Armed with a Nikon D3 and a video camera we were ready to put our model through the paces.

Jim Maxam from Multimedia Audio Visual was assigned to be our projector tech and he quickly showed us that his Panasonic 10K DLP projection system would deliver tack sharp High Def images to just about anywhere we wanted. After a quick tour of his quiver of lenses we settled in on the Panasonic LE 1.5-2.0 short throw lens and suddenly shimmering on the skin of our model were precise and colorful words that she could wrap and bend with body movement. Isaac Karsen the agency producer and Doug and I were relieved to have found a simple solution to the agencies creative. Jim showed us how using a visible hatch pattern we he could size and focus the letters. We took note of how far from the model/spokesperson we would need to place the camera and the lens equivalents and that by placing the projection system off axis to the camera we would avoid projecting onto our seamless backgrounds. We would need a large stage to separate the two.

Doug Millington our executive producer did his usual great job of producing a lean and mean bid and quickly we were in business with this project. For the shoot we booked Colorado Studios in Denver, which is a great place to work out of. The model/spokesperson for the Seventh Generation turned out to be a very impressive young woman named Erin Schrode. Erin brought a ton of credibility to the project with her long history of activism in fashion, cosmetics and sustainability. There was a lot of monologue to cover and my long time, highly capable AD Kevin Donald and I were really relieved to find that Erin was so personable, adept and amazingly facile with her lines. Erin was a great sport as well, she was pretty much limited to a wardrobe that amounted to a micro bikini for our visuals. We needed a lot of body parts to project the chemical names that are contained in conventional lotions and soaps. Toxicity is not necessarily your first thought when applying body care products but the creatives at Made Movement were onto a powerful way to raise awareness in that regard. The concept was to then introduce a new plant based line of lotions and soaps that Seventh Generation was launching that are free from questionable chemicals. Seventh Generation is a Vermont company that has been on the forefront of sustainable and green products for close to a quarter century.

Bringing these chemical compounds to life was the Made Movement art director Marybeth Ledesma – fresh to Boulder from Portland and Widen & Kennedy. She came up with an artful and versatile PowerPoint delivery system that worked perfectly on the shoot day. Her weaving of fonts, colors and program creation was stellar. John Keiselhorst was on set for valuable feedback on the dialogue delivery and the fast creation of our product set. Joining him was the Made Movement Account Services liaison Rachel Steiker.

Rounding out the crew were some really great crew people from the Denver area. Matt Stelling was the key grip and Matt and I have done a number of challenging projects over the years. Matt is simply a creative force that knows how to move the camera, light the set and gets the shot in any environment. Having his name of the crew list is just a huge plus. Matt brought his mechanized turntable to enable us to gracefully and precisely rotate Erin as she danced with our PowerPoint collage. Joining him was our very sage and experienced gaffer Gart Gunberg. My 6x became a 12x book for our key on the stage. Our Alexa camera package came from ACamera. This highly recommended rental company is run by an experienced AC/Camera Operator/Techie named Jason Hornbeck and featuring some great gear from Wyndham Hannaway & Associates. At Acamera’s stage we tested with an Optimo 12:1 zoom to give us a wide variable prime capability. The 24mm-290mm Angenieux Optimo lens was so sharp we certainly didn’t need a case of primes. In fact, we immediately tested various diffusion filters like the Black Promist 1/8 to 1/4 and then a series of Digital Diffusion in 1/2 and 1. The very capable assistant Drew Dutton and I finally settled on a trusty and proprietary German hosiery line which we snot attached to the rear element of the lens with a medium stretch to allow our model to look much more in the realm of glamorous fashion than forensic flesh.

Cindy K Cruz was our make-up artist and stylist. She is meticulous and creative. She made a number of really smart suggestions regarding Erin’s prep for this shoot day, which would entail exposing a lot of her anatomy. Cindy K and Kevin Donald bonded fast with Erin and offered her plenty of support and kudos. Erin Schrode quickly proved herself to be a terrific on-camera spokesperson. She was a tack smart individual and just plain fun to work with. She was just a perfect fit for a brand like this new lotion/soap line she was. The DIT on the job was another very professional Denverite named Kevin Hardy. He managed our rec 709 and our master Log C files with precision and competence. We color corrected the spot at Post Modern in Denver with Rick Gougler who did a great job as usual. A final really nice aspect of the project for me as the director/cameraman was that my son Jesse Royal Carmichael took on the job of scoring the piece. In addition for being a founding member of Maroon 5 he is also a singer/songwriter. For a sampling of his work please go to 1863.com. It was wonderful to see how surely Jesse took command of giving my long-standing go to great editor Brad Wetmore a cool reference track and then came through with a perfect score and rendition for the completed spot.
What comes around goes around …Best regards, Bob Carmichael

Grizzly Bears and Green Screens, Montana 2nd Unit

Grizzly Bears and Green Screens, Montana 2nd Unit

So my producer sister, sweet Katie Carmichael calls me and says “we’ve got this scene in the movie and we need to get a real Grizzly Bear on film to match the blocking of the actors, can you shoot it?” And I reflectively answer in the positive, and then start thinking “a trained grizzly bear” is a perfect oxymoron. Fortunately there is a group up in Bozeman, MT called “Montana Grizzly Encounter”that is a super legit grizzly bear Rescue & Education Sanctuary run by Casey Anderson along with Ami Testa and her adoptive grizzly bear affectionately known as Brutus. They are a great team. Ami literally brought Brutus up in her home from age two weeks old. Both of the handlers were articulate, compassionate and safety conscious.

Nevertheless, when they trailed old Brutus up to our 12×20′ green screen tied down near the beautiful town of Livingston, MT, the set got very quite because Brutus at 900lbs was one bad ass looking bear. I made sure that we had detailed safety meeting as about 15 years ago I was shooting the “Exxon Tiger” and he seriously bit his long time trainer just missing his femoral artery. The point wasn’t lost on me, “trained” animals are never completely predictable. Also, I’ll never forget the size of Burtus’s head which was truly awe-inspiring. He is simply a magnificent beast. We knew he wouldn’t favorably take to a full GREEN Screen BG and floor environment as he evidently likes to shred most things he’s allowed to play with. So we put six feet of surface green out in front of our big green screen and then held our breaths as the door from the trailer was opened.

Just so you know, we had three strands of electrical fence between us and Brutus. We were told not to look him in the eye and during our safety meeting which we had TWICE, we saw that in addition to Ami and Casey who were IN the pin with Brutus they had two other handlers equipped with Pepper Spray as backups. Our Town and Country van was just behind the camera and my 2nd unit crew of AC Scott Dahard and gaffer/grip Chris Gerding along with the veteran producer Doug Bruce were planning on jumping into the empty van in case anything went sideways. We’d even bail on our fantastic Alexa camera suppled by “Acamera Rentals.”

So Brutus comes out of his cage and I’m doing my deep breathing exercise and keeping my eye in the viewfinder. It was a lot of bear but we were very relieved that he seemed content to explore the inside of his little corral of wires and didn’t pay much attention to the green fabric behind him or our lights. One thing we did know and that was the Brutus was capable of doing whatever he wanted should he go there. But Ami and Casey by means of food prompting kept his attention and got him to go easily though his various storyboarded scenes. The most complicated of which called from him to walk along the back set then turn his head dramatically to camera. And damn if he didn’t do all these maneuvers perfectly. We had a good plan that involved the camera height of the A unit camera and matching the lighting angles from the dialogue scenes. It was a very impressive, low key performance by Ami and Casey, who we instantly had faith in owing to their amazing relationship to this animal. We got our shots and yesterday got this email from Katie:

“We saw the movie last night at a private screening in Rome… I was holding my breath until I saw the bear scene which was REALLY great. Luca the editor came up to me afterwards and said that you all did an excellent job ….. Thanks so much for that! The movie opens in Rome on January 3rd…”Lost in America”

And so it goes.