Friday, September 18, 2009

How to shoot a course video

Gallo following Bert in Santa Monica. He's riding a skateboard, which went under the fence and nearly over the cliff at one point.

In front of the Troubador on Santa Monica Blvd.

Pat getting a shot of Bert on Hollywood Blvd.

This shot is a no-brainer.

"OK, Bert, just follow the yellow line in the middle of the road, and I'll scream at you if you're about to get hit by a speeding car."

I hope you've had a chance to see our video highlighting the new stadium to sea route. I'm proud of how it turned out, and it successfully captures the energy and spirit of the 2010 LA Marathon.

Here's how the project came together, in 10 not-so-easy steps:

1. Meet with race director Nick Curl and director of operations Stacy Embretson. They suggest some sort of video highlighting the new course. Great idea, I tell them. Inside I'm thinking, "I have NO IDEA what the concept of the piece should be." But my wheels are turning.

2. One week to go, and still no concept. But I meet with my friend Pat Solomon of Newhouse Films. He has some great ideas that we cover over breakfast, like the visual of the single runner heading down the middle of the route at 6:00 in the morning. I'm getting close, but I still need that conceptual framework to plug into.

3. Pat calls. Bad news. He's been booked to shoot a commercial, but he recommends his friend Chris Gallo to help. I call Gallo (most people don't even know he has a first name) and he's available. And he has an editor who can cut the piece. We're getting closer.

4. Now it's Thursday, and we're shooting on Sunday at 6:00 am, when the streets are completely empty and the light is beautiful. Still no overall concept. Just a runner in the streets won't cut it--not interesting enough. Stressing about it. Only four days to pull it together!

5. Another problem--I need just the right runner. Someone with a great stride. How to find that person? Of course, I call Eric Barron, coach of Track Club LA. He's out of town but recommends Bert Whitson. I find Bert's website and send him an email. Even though Bert is a successful investment professional, he agrees to devote his Sunday morning to running with us. I see his photos and recognize him immediately as the guy who consistently blows past me and many others in the track workouts at Santa Monica High. In fact, I've only ever seen him from the back.

6. I decide it's time to call my lifeline and get help on the concept issue. I get in touch with two longtime friends who are creative directors and brief them on the video. By the way, I ask, can you get me some ideas tomorrow? After some nervous laughter, they insist that it's not a problem and they'll come up with the goods. These guys always deliver, but I feel bad about waiting until the last minute and then pressing them to come up with something overnight.

7. It's now Saturday morning. The crew is locked, we've identified the locations we want to cover, but still no concept. Just a runner and the route. Is this all going to fall apart? Should I live with something simple and not overthink it? I can't push the shoot back any further because the website and registration are going up in a week. Our backs are already against the wall.

8. Saturday night. Making dinner for the family. My creative director friends call, "We've got an idea!" They propose the tagline, "A Landmark Every Mile." I immediately like it. Then they talk about structuring the video with some archival footage to emphasize the "Landmark" status of different parts of the course. They also talk about the "Mile 1" graphic, etc. So perfect. Exactly what I needed. We still will shoot Bert in the streets, but now we have a framework.

9. Sunday morning 6:00 am. Meet at the corner of Hollywood and Vine. Still a little dark, but we start shooting. Pat rallies and joins us with his camera. We rip through the shots: Stars on sidewalk, Pat and Gallo shooting from skateboards beside Bert, Mann's Chinese Theater, Sunset Strip, Rodeo Drive, back to Dodger Stadium and finally out to Santa Monica. A whirlwind, but we get a lot of good stuff. We somehow manage not to get arrested for skateboarding down the middle of all these streets.

10. The edit comes together nicely with great graphics supplied by the creative directors. Working even better than I had expected. We get it posted to Youtube barely 24 hours before registration opens. Whew!


Richard Lowe said...

Loved the video and really enjoyed how it came together. Keep up the great work!

michelle said...

I loved it, too! Well done. I'm sold - I'm going to have to sign up.

cindynn said...

I am running the marathon because your video makes running a marathon look like so much fun. By the way this will be my 18th marathon and I am very excited about it.