And away we go
After winning the pitch, we huddled with the FEED team and Michael Ventura. The campaign required changes. Of course it did. You rarely go from pitch to production. I say rarely, not never, because it has happened. But not at this pace. We were jumping into production the very next day. Shooting models. Not real people, real FEED advocates, as our initial concept called for. But again, our initial concept was up in the air. WAY up in the air. And not coming down any time soon. So, we shoot. All the while, our minds were wrestling with where to take this. No concept. No solid direction. Full day of production. Nothing backwards there, right?
While we had no concept, Gus (Gustavo Lopez - Gus & Lo) sure as hell knew how to bring some striking images to the table. And he did so while we were flying to locations that hadn't been planned for. So, we had no permits. Not a good thing in NYC. But hey, when you at least know what you're looking for visually, sometime it's just better to beg forgiveness than ask permission. Although, we didn't do any begging. We just packed up and moved on. Quickly.
The mad director at work. Scenes constantly being worked out in his mind. Details tended to. Finesse applied at all the right moments. Again, no concept to speak of, but Alejandro knew how to bring a scene together. That paid huge dividends for us in the long run. Because eventually, WE DID land a concept. And thanks to Alejandro's vision, the idea married flawlessly with the photography and the video.
On to the next location, and the next, and the next, and the next, and the next, and the ... you get the idea.
Lo!!! As in, Lorena Parra, Producer, Gus & Lo. Just a nice moment of levity. And those moments, during the pressure cooker of a production, especially one where your concept is still floating in the ether, are an absolute necessity. Be on point. Be direct with your decision making. But keep it light. No one's going to die on the operating table. Just know that things, at some point, will get fucked up. And that's ok. You're surrounded by people who can handle anything. So, go with it. And enjoy the ride. Because it is one hell of a ride. This sure was.
Aaaah, the great sound debate. This showed up for a moment in DAY 4: READY, GO! Here's a bit more of the backstory. We were shooting stills for print and OLA. We were shooting a video that, initially, was only going to feature a music bed. No ambient audio. Now, we had shared the idea of shooting video interviews of our FEED advocates for the web. And when we actually got some FEED advocates, one we grabbed right off the street, we wanted to grab the video. I mean, we were there. We had time (kind of). Why the hell not? Oh, here's why. Gus & Lo hadn't prepped for sound. Not their bad. We didn't ask them to. But hey, Adobe has like three sound guys on this. Surely they can spare one. Bad move on our part. Never assume ANYTHING on a shoot. Plan for EVERYTHING. So, things got a little tense with the crew for a bit. Which I (Matt) feel like an ass for, because they were a solid group to be around. Fortunately, Dan Cowles, served as the great moderator. He had a significant conflict in helping us. As he should. His job was to capture the moment, the struggle, the drama. But, in his own words, he didn't want to be a dick. Words to live by. The Adobe crew came to our rescue. They were there to film a documentary. Which they did to stellar effect. But I feel like everyone there became more involved in the actual creation of the campaign than they anticipated they would. That says quite a bit about the client, FEED. How can you not want to jump in and turn the Make It Challenge into Make It Work for FEED? You can't.
Hey look! There's Dan Cowles and Lauren Bush Lauren! Two of our all-time favorite folks to work with. Damn smart. Good people. Great attitudes. Can't beat that.
Day 2 of shooting. Before we took to the streets of Long Island City, Alejandro and I regrouped with Lauren. We'd stayed up late the night before, 2 AM-ish, and cracked the conceptual nut. We presented a completely revised concept that integrated our new star, Jon Batiste, still focused on the journey of our FEED advocates, and gave the bag more of a hero status. SUCCESS!!! Lauren loved it. Her team loved it. You may notice a different vibe from Alejandro and I in the DAY 5: RESET video. Much lighter mood. A weight had been lifted. We had creative direction. All hail the creative gods!!! And the tenacity to never give up. You just have to keep opening doors. You have to remain open to new directions And you have to work your ass off. We did. And in the end, it paid off. We produced a much tighter, harder-working concept. And damn! The video really took off with this new direction. Also, Alejandro and I totally coordinated our wardrobe.
Across the river.
Shooting under the Queensboro Bridge.
The one. The only. Jon Batiste.
The New Orleans-bred, New York-based musician, educator and humanitarian is somewhat of an enigma thanks to his diverse mix of influences. Born into a long lineage of Louisiana musicians, Batiste grew up playing percussion in his family’s band before switching to piano when he was 11 years old. He went on to study at the Juilliard School and formed his band, Stay Human, soon after. Now he balances a demanding international performance schedule—which often includes his signature, impromptu ‘love riot’ street parades —- with his role as bandleader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Artistic Director At Large of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, and occasional acting gigs, like playing himself on the HBO series Treme or his most recent role in director Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer.
Down on the tracks with Jon Batiste. This was our first location. Fortunately, no trains. Always a good thing. Jon broke out his harmonophone, well, he took it out of his FEED bag, and just did his thing. And if you've never seen Jon Batiste do his thing, check it out. The man is literally made out of music and positive energy. We shot stills and video here. In fact, some of our very favorite stills were captured here.
Jon and Lauren chatting it up, then taking some time to get down. Jon is actually a long-time supporter of FEED. In fact, he showed up to the studio with instruments in his own FEED bag. He's played at FEED Suppers and generously donated his time, talent, and music for this project. He did so on his one free day during an insanely hectic schedule. Dude is an A+ human being.
Post-interview with Jon. Seriously, there's nobody else on earth like this guy. I (Matt) tried my hardest to be a pro. I usually am with celebs on set/location. But Jon's energy and spirit are utterly infectious. I hugged him at least four times. Total pro.
Thanks Dan. Your support, good nature, sense of humor, and hints of wisdom were invaluable.
Thanks Gus. So glad Alejandro and I hit it off with you and Lo right out of the gate. It was a great collaboration and partnership. Let's do it again some time. Also, let's go back to the Gypsy restaurant. Absinthe, anyone?
Ok, back to work. New venue: Adobe offices in Times Square. Beige interior. But spectacular views. C'mon Adobe, you can do better than beige. You're frigging Adobe! But I digress. Here, we're prepping for a client feedback call. More changes? Yes. But the right execution won the day. Alejandro was graceful on the call with Lauren. Stood fast, held true to our vision. But listened and provided options. He made all the right moves. Well played, sir.
Grinding. Grinding. Grinding. We we're actually supposed to have an additional shoot this day. No way that was going to happen if we were to meet our deadline. Lauren and team were entirely understanding of this and wanted to give us as much time as possible. The trust between GLKMA (Gus, Lo, Kanan, Matt, Alejandro) and FEED was solidifying. Developing trust between creatives and client in that short timeline/intense experience is quite an accomplishment in and of itself.
Sometimes you just have to stop and take it in. Breathe deeply. Catch yourself. Be in the moment.
Makes for a significantly richer experience.
Finessing the edit
Getting the story straight
Work in progress
Followed by: Amazing presentation. Sigh of relief. Client bonding. Tears of joy. Embarrasing amount of hugs. Beers. Many beers. Many, many beers. Stolen pillows from the Adobe offices. It was Alejandro's idea.
Just to wrap things up
Alejandro and Matt would like to thank FEED+Adobe for bringing this Make It Challenge to life.
Thank you Megan Dale for coming up with this bold endeavour, and for being on top of absolutely everyting during the project.
Thank you John Caponi for you immensely calm demeanor, moments of laughter, and reassuring words of wisdom.
You're a rock.
You're a rock.
Dan Cowles, we already thanked you. But thanks again anyway. You and the crew you assembled kicked so much ass.
Michael Ventura, thank you for being the "phantom CD." Thank you for the perfect amount of guidance among all the creative teams and the judges. And thank you for being so damn cool. I was hoping some of it would rub off on me. No dice.
Gus & Lo, wow ... where to start? Thanks for collaborating with me and Alejandro from the very beginning. Don't think either of us will forget when the two of you came back to chat with us and Lo asked, "So, how long have you two been working together?" Alejandro replied, "We just met." Both of you had that get the eff out of here look on your faces. That spoke volumes. Thank you for the support, amazing attitude, and immense talent. You're a phenomenal team.
Kanan - our powerhouse designer, our secret weapon - thank you for jumping right into the madness and pushing the envelope.
Finally, Lauren Bush Lauren, Tascha Rudder, Jenny Johns, Lindsey Swedick: Thank you for the moments of candor, the calm during the storm, your collaborative nature, and your trust. FEED is your baby. You went out on a BIG limb, trusting two guys who had never met, figuring things out as they went along, and ultimately, that trust allowed us to push each other into a much better direction. Light years better than where we were after the pitch. So, thank you. Really, THANK YOU.
That's all folks. Hope you dig the work. Hope you love the videos. Hope you support FEED. It truly is such a simple and brilliant way to do some good in the world. And, look damn good in the process.
Alejandro & Matt