Wednesday, March 31, 2010
UWP Commercial in Berlin - Production Notes
If it takes a village to raise a child (African proverb) - then it takes a global village (virtual & local) to make a 60 second commercial.
The idea all started when I saw the Sony PlayStation spot “Double Life”, I felt something of the same style could be adapted: a well-written prose, many diverse people talking, in different settings, film in dynamic shots. I pitched to Sebastian Hesse in Berlin and Leonardo Victorazzi in Brussels about doing an Up With People (UWP) Europe commercial with this style. I thought this could work very well, as it is a program about many diverse people having the global education experience – I envisioned many faces and voices in different settings, speaking meaningful lines – something relevant and timeless.
Pre-production officially started the first week of March in New York, and production was to take place three weeks later on location in Berlin. The script is like the foundation of a house, crucial to a project - I needed to work with a writer who had the UWP experience. Andrew Lanham, an alumnus studying Master in screenwriting in Texas came in as the copywriter. We worked together over the weekend via Skype, and by Monday morning Andrew got the script done.
I have never / Felt summer and winter / In the same month
I have never / Made a brother / In Mexico / And then helped him build his home
I have never / Overcome stage fright / In front of three thousand Thai children
I have never / Had Kimchi for breakfast / Or Surstromming for lunch
I have never / Known how much / There is to find / Not written in a book
I have never / Lived for a week / With a family/ Who couldn’t speak my language / And known the meaning of the word / Zusammen (subtitled: together)
I have never / Learned so much / Laughed so hard / Felt so strong / Or seen such heights
Soon after then, Christine Paluf based in Connecticut who had worked as a UWP staff came on board as the Art Director. We spent the following days on Skype brainstorming visual ideas for the script. Sebastian Hesse, the UWP Europe Alumni Representative had a strong vision of the program and was the Creative Director. Danni Nielsen, also a UWP alumnus has a band in Copenhagen and participated by composing original music. It was starting to come together before my flight to Berlin.
The city of Berlin turned out to be the perfect location for the UWP commercial. So much history yet so much future, it is a coming together of east and west, dynamic arts and music scene with vibrant young people. Many UWP alumni flew in from various European cities to participate for shooting day. For the rest of the casts, we were able to recruit Berlin residents, both local Germans and international people. As they tell me, they wanted to participate because it was a meaningful, a cause they believe in. I hired Dimitri Hempel, a talented local cameraman whom I knew through a program I participated in 2006 in Italy, European Social Documentary via ZeLIG School. Jasper Brandt joined as our soundman. Sam Muirhead, New Zealand native who lived in South America and now living in Berlin worked on the editing. Michael Stuber, a Swiss based in Boston did audio post, keeping the diverse voices but unifying the sound. Between the cast and crew, this project was represented by over 17 nationalities: Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, USA, Russia, China, Ghana, Senegal, Brazil, Peru, New Zealand - a true taste of what UWP could be like.
I learned a lot throughout the whole intense production, particularly on production day: I thought I was prepared enough, yet even more could have been done in terms of production coordination, schedule and cast management, the need for an Assistant Director. It was a realization of skills I lack, the art of delegation of responsibilities, leveraging resources and people that are available. It was a test of leadership, keeping my vision yet accepting other people's views. I learn with each bigger project I do - I am getting better at directing. Above all, I am humbled and grateful to all the people who contributed. The UWP commercial is something we are all very proud of, and I hope it will be relevant and timeless.