There are some shoots where you plan every shot, every detail, and work your hardest to achieve that look. Then there are shoots like the Supergirl “Powerful” promo where you can’t know exactly what you’re going to get, so you need to plan on a macro level and trust your talented team to know what ultimately is needed to build a spot.
CBS invited 400 moms and daughters to attend a sneak preview of their upcoming show, Supergirl, on the Warner Brothers lot. Our production team worked in tandem with the CBS Creative Directors and WB Event coordinators to ensure that we could shoot a promo of the event, all the while making sure that attendees never felt like they were there for anything but a premiere screening.
My role as a director on these types of assignments is frontloaded. Because I can’t be everywhere at once during the event/shoot, the most important job I have is to orchestrate where and when our team needs to be, and make sure everyone is on the same page about what we’re trying to capture. Because we were shooting a 4 hour event for a :30 second promo, one would think “we’ll definitely be covered,” but when it comes to capturing the human emotion in a real setting, you have to roll a lot to capture those few moments that make the spot stand out.
Melissa Benoist and all the moms & daughters were energetic and enthusiastic to say the least. Melissa’s excitement and gratefulness to all who attended was not an act. I was incredibly impressed by her engagement with the girls even when she was being swarmed. It shows on camera, but only because it was real.
And the team I had made capturing the emotion of the event entirely possible; because once we started rolling, I knew everyone had the end goal in mind and could work independently. Romi and her production team at Moving Parts (including Wendell and Jake) always do an incredible job of handling the logistics of a shoot so that I can focus on the creative. Andy & Lombardo (our two Assistant Directors) not only help me stay on schedule, but were so good with all the families that there were times it felt like our production was part of the entertainment. I can’t credit them enough, because when you’re trying to get powerful reactions from real people in a short time, it all comes down to your brief relationship with each individual. I learn from the two of them often.
Our DP/Operators, Kim & Brian, and their ACs, Ian & Chris, were able to move so quickly in an ever-changing environment – crowded with excited families – and still capture the cinematic look we were going for. The majority of the footage was shot on the Sony F55 (one camera dedicated to 60fps), but we moved to a Sony A7S during the actual screening to capture the audience’s reactions under very low light. And our sound team, led by Stan, pre-planned with the location to make sure we were able to get the best possible audio at every stage in our shoot. He’s also meticulous about providing the best guide track to the cameras (which are often times ALL over the place) and back up audio files that sync’d in post with no hiccups. It’s often undervalued the role a great sound department has on set, and shoots like this are all the more challenging.
But my biggest hero in this piece was the CBS editor, Brian Retchless. Because post-production had such a short turnaround, Brian was on set with us (quietly observing), to get a sense of the order of the day’s events so that when he sat down with the footage it wasn’t quite as overwhelming. As an editor myself, sometimes it’s hard to watch someone else’s cut of your material. It’s healthy for sure, but still hard, because I have ways of doing things that may not be consistent with another editor’s. It’s not bad… just different. And then there are times like this, when another editor brings SO much to the table that I’m able to sit back and say, “s/he did this way better than I would have,” and it’s a great feeling. In this instance, Brian knocked it out of the park.
I am just one component in a craft that requires the skills and voices of many, and when I have a team that I can trust, it makes the job a lot more fun.