Posts in Category: film video

Ric Serena directs “Making of” films for NBC The Voice’s music videos

Ric was asked to Direct a series of spots with a fast turn-around to highlight the creation of  NBC The Voice’s top 4 talent’s music videos, sponsored by Chase’s Freedom Unlimited card:  Adam Wakefield, Alison Porter,Hannah Huston, and Laithe Al-Saadi.

With extreme deference to the the other production team creating the music videos, Ric was able to create unique pieces that stand alone and share the personality and excitement of the different musical artists, while getting us excited about seeing the final product.

Check them all out here:





Nickelodeon: Danger & Thunder

Check out Ric’s latest directing gig for Nickelodeon: a promo for the cross-over shows between Henry Danger and The Thunderman’s.

Perfect mix of polish and fun.


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Directed by Ric Serena

Nickelodeon’s Danger & Thunder


PS: As an added bonus, I was asked to grab BTS of the day. Good times watching Ric work.




CBS ACM Awards promo directed and shot by Ric Serena





Ric’s unique talents as both Director and DP were put to use creating fun, driving promos for CBS’ airing of the ACM Awards. I think the following BTS shot (by Cliff Lipson) beautifully illustrates his ability to engage with the talent, (Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley) even while juggling two roles and a setting sun on set in the Neon Boneyard in Las Vegas.





Director’s cut for CBS and the Academy of Country Music Awards. The spot features hosts, Luke Bryan & Dierks Bentley. Client: CBS Promo Produced by Moving Parts, Inc. Music courtesy of Emoto Music, Santa Monica First AC: Ian Barbella Color Grading by Sparkle Shot on Red EPIC with Zeiss CP2 lenses Location: Las Vegas Neon Sign Museum Director/DP: Ric Serena

Ric Serena: DP reel

MANMADE: craftsmen on Esquire

I’m not gonna lie… my husband is a REALLY talented guy.
His lifestyle pieces go beyond honest and thoughtful; they make you want to be there.
It probably stems from from the fact that he truly cares about his subjects (whether it’s a person, a product or a place) and will spend countless hours figuring out the best ways to tell their story (on budget and in time) in a unique way.

That’s why I was thrilled (and thought him the obvious choice) to be tapped as Director for Esquire Network’s MANMADE pieces.

Sharing other artisans’ stories… it’s obviously his passion as he’s created several award-winning shorts as personal projects. Check out his Ahrtuh-zen pieces: Dave Lefner and Jeremy Thomas where he explores the process behind their art and CZAPPA: a discussion about what it takes for one man to be an artist. In each of these pieces, like in MANMADE, the artist and their work helps dictate the story. Layering stills to show linocut in Lefner, using the deliberate pacing of the artisan and his craft in Thomas, and building stop motion segments to honor the builder in CZAPPA.

True, the MANMADE spots were different as each piece had to meet client needs as well as tell the story, but that’s also what makes them so great. To create compelling, creative stories in a quick, commercial environment, now that’s special. Ric is able to help these artisans share their craft and present them all in unique ways – just like the artists they’re portraying.

I know I’m biased. I not only get to see the beautiful end product, but also all the time, care and expertise Ric puts into each project – for the client, the subjects, and the creative team working with him.

…and maybe it’s just me, but I think it shows.

MANMADE: RISING SUN: Brought to you by Esquire Network & Samuel Adams, this sixty second on-air spot features Mike Hodis, owner and designer of Rising Sun & Co, as he discusses the importance of craftsmanship.


MANMADE: DEUS: Brought to you by Esquire Network & Samuel Adams, this sixty second on-air spot features Michael Woolaway, Design Director at Deus Ex Machina, as he discusses the importance of craftsmanship.


MANMADE: WHYRHYMER: Brought to you by Esquire Network & Samuel Adams, this sixty second on-air spot features designer & woodworker, Brandon Morrison, as he discusses the importance of craftsmanship.



Presented by Sam Adams & Esquire Network, these sixty second on-air spots features Michael Woolaway, Design Director at Deus Ex Machina, Mike Hodis, Owner and Designer at Rising Sun Denim and Brandon Morrison, Owner and Craftsman at Whyhymer Furniture, as they discuss the importance of craftsmanship.
Directed by Ric Serena
Creative Director/Writer – Patrick Condo
Produced by Moving Parts, Inc.
Producer: Brett Marx
Director of Photography: Chuck Ozeas
Edited by Jack Douglas (Rising Sun & Wyhymer) & Ric Serena (Deus)
Post Production Sound Mix by John Kelly
Titles by Chris Arens
Location Sound: Durand Trench



At the Barbershop

On a recent shoot I directed for Esquire Network and Schick, it became very clear to me during the location scout that the concept presented to our production team at Moving Parts, Inc. was one that required a highly stylized approach on a limited budget.  Part of accomplishing that goal meant communicating, as clearly as possible, what we were trying to accomplish so the entire team was on board before we ever hit record on the cameras.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t any money in the budget to hire a storyboard artist, so I took on the task of drawing boards and constructing an animatic of the spot to present to everyone during our tech scout.

The other big challenge was creating a specific look for the barbershop beyond what the practical location had to offer.  Producer James Uribe did a wonderful job of bringing together a top notch team for the job.  Hats off to Keith Mitchell and his team for dressing the space beyond recognition and to to DP Byron Shah and his team for lighting us the perfect mood.  On top of that, we had to create the bathroom set in the existing barbershop, against the existing mirror, which require a few flats and a dramatic lighting shift.

Combine those elements with an excellent cast curated by Esquire creatives, Omeed Boghraty and Jedd Scher, and we were able to shoot every frame I boarded on schedule (on a hot day, in a space with no AC and all windows blacked out). Not every frame made the final cut as the script changed a bit, but the animatic process helped the shoot move efficiently.

On a side note, Generation Gap, the barbershop quartet, was a fun addition on and off camera, providing entertainment to the crew in between takes.

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Powerful SuperGirl spot

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.


The Premise:
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.

Creative Roles:
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.

CZAPPA: TV Repairman and Artist

In the ten years we’ve lived in Burbank, California, I must have passed ARC TV & Repair over one hundred times.  The handful of art pieces in the front window always caught my attention, but I assumed the artist was a friend of the shop owner.
After Jen wrapped up her HOMEGROWN photography project, showcasing small business owners in Burbank, she received a phone call from Bill Czappa, owner of ARC TV & Repair, asking if he could be included in her next round of photography.  She returned to our office after shooting with him and urged me to meet him and consider shooting another [ahr-tuh-zen] project installment on him.
I didn’t have lofty expectations for the end product when I made the commitment to shoot a short piece on him, mostly because I didn’t know how much time I would be able to commit.  However, during my first b-roll shoot with Bill at his garage studio, we got to talking unofficially (I didn’t have location audio with me that day because I hadn’t intended to shoot interviews), and Bill mentioned that he’d always thought Van Gogh had it easy compared to some artists, including himself.  With this passing comment it became very clear the direction and tone the documentary would take.  I was hooked.
In the month that followed, I spent a few hours here and there with Bill. At his garage studio. At his repair shop/gallery. For one of Bill’s recounts about a gallery experience, I wanted to come up with a clever way to visually tell the story.  His retelling was lengthy and required quite a bit of trimming to make it fit.  Because I only shot his interview with one camera, I didn’t have the luxury of a second camera to cut away to.  In addition, I felt like cutting to random b-roll during this story felt unmotivated.  So I took a cue from Bill and decided to use a “different material” than video to tell the story.  I decided to tackle stop-motion animation for the first time in years.  With our awesome intern, Odessa, we cut characters and shapes out of construction paper and created a rudimentary animated sequence to accompany Bill’s humorous art gallery story.
There is nothing like watching an animated sequence come to life.  The icing on the cake was hearing the sound design from my long-time collaborator, Durand Trench of Sasquatch Sound.  All of us were in his office laughing like children.  I have a feeling it won’t be our last animation.
The next step was a crucial one and somewhat fortuitous.  I had been editing the film with no music.  It’s been an exercise of mine recently as I try to avoid temp love (the notion that some producers/directors/editors fall in love with their temporary score so much that they’re unable to appreciate the novelty of an original composition), and I wanted to provide the composer an opportunity to come at it with a fresh perspective.  For this project, I asked Paul Bessenbacher (PB) of Emoto Music to consider scoring the film and gave him the first right of refusal.
Near the end of my picture edit, PB released a track from his then forth-coming solo piano album titled, Equilibrium.  On a whim, I played the track against a section of the film and was blow away.  Everything worked.  Timing.  Tone.  Moments.  PB had independently and coincidentally created the perfect piece for a film he’d never seen.  From there, PB provided some of his other existing tracks for me to place against my sequence to help him determine the tone I was going after.  I was willing to forsake my exercise at the request of the composer, especially considering it was his music.  Eventually, he composed an original score that differed significantly from the temp music he’d provided earlier (save that initial piano track, Bloom, which we both felt was perfect for the film).  I will admit I had a brief moment of temp love the first night, but it only required one more listen of the new score to appreciate the creative approach and cohesiveness it brought to the film.  The musical collaborative process is one of my favorites in filmmaking, and I’m fortunate to work such talented composers like PB.
We went back to Bill’s garage studio to record some additional sound effects for the soundscape of the film, and from there Durand tackled the mix.  This was his first mix for a theatrical setting, and he nailed it.  Sidney Lumet wrote he hated the mix process.  I’d have to disagree with him.
Passion projects can be a bit tricky.  There is a balance you must strike between making something the best you can make it and respecting the  time of your creative collaborators.    At the end of the day, you want have something you all can be proud of.  I think CZAPPA is a prime example of achieving that goal.

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Intern Wrap-Up

We were so sad to see Odessa go, and just as choked up when she sent in this blog post.  Wishing her HUGE success in whatever she tackles in life.

A few words to remember her by…

Over the past four months I’ve been interning with Jen at Ric at Serena Creative. During this time I’ve learned a lot about different aspects of film and photography. During my first few weeks here I was able to go on set for a Survivor Promo shoot with Ric. I also spent a great deal of time working on a documentary. This was where I learned the most of filming and production on a smaller scale. I was able to spend a lot of time with Ric watching him work and learning from how he went about executing this project. It was great to be able to work so closely with someone who’s very talented and knowledgeable.

Ric and I also worked on a short animation. I had never done anything like that before and it was cool to see the process. It was also fun to figure out how to make it fit into the film. Problem solving is something that I enjoy and being able to partner on this and work to create something that turned out really well was awesome. I also find that a lot of film and photography requires creative problem solving and this challenge is really fun.

I was also able to assist Jen on a ton of photo shoots. We shot out on the trails of Griffith Park, in more urban locations around LA, in studio, and on location at a corporation. I got to see how Jen worked in all these different situations and how to think outside of the box. We were able to get shots that were unique even on location without any props. Jen’s eye picks up on all the cool things around her and knows how to translate it into an awesome photo. The time I was able to spend with her taught me a lot about how to look at things but also how to be practical and efficient.

I spent a lot of time on the production side of things, but I also got to do a lot of work in pre-production. One of my big tasks was working on researching things from potential sponsors for projects to other companies in the industry. This was a really important skill to learn because it taught me how to be organized and build a project from the ground up.

To round things out, I also did some post-production work and assisted Ric with editing. I learned some of the basics of using avid and feel more comfortable approaching a picture editing project now.

Overall, my experience interning at Serena Creative was AWESOME! I learned a lot and had a ton of fun. Jen and Ric taught me a lot and made sure I got what I wanted out of the experience. They are by far the best people to work with and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.


Water and Fire

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to direct two very different shoots for CBS.  The first was an underwater shoot for a Survivor promo, promoting the show’s 30th season premiere.  The concept handed down to us from CBS was that Survivor’s new season would divide teams up by white collar professionals, blue collar workers and “No Collars” which the show defined as self-employed entrepreneurs.  My job, with the production support of Moving Parts, Inc., was to capture underwater footage of three individuals (each representing the visual stereotype of the Survivor teams) making their first plunge below the surface.  Our day of casting made for an interesting experience considering I was asking actors to perform as though they were submerged.  The session was more about getting a vibe from the actor about his/her comfort underwater.  At the end of the day, I was certain the three actors we chose to represent white collar, blue collar and no collar would be up to the challenge a lot of fun to work with (which is always important).
For our underwater pool/tank, we used Acton Scuba Services, which provided a deep enough drop for us to get a full body plunge in the water.  My DP, Tom Camarda, and I decided on Alexa and planned to shoot both 96 and 120 fps throughout the course of the day.  Watching an expensive camera go underwater is a scary thing, but the team at Hydroflex had the camera outfitted properly and made for an efficient set.  The camera team was on point and adapted really well to the variables of water, talent and light.  In addition to the standard wide shot, I was aiming for the illusion of happy accidents… finding focus on items that go rogue once the actor is underwater (shoes, boots, briefcase papers).   Everyone picked up on this desire immediately and it was just a matter of running the action a few times until all the pieces fell into place.

Thankfully the water was warm.
Before I asked any of my actors to jump in, I made the plunge myself to get a sense of what I was I asking for and how difficult it would be to maneuver underwater fully clothed.  I’ve never met warmer waters and our actors agreed it was more pleasant to stay underwater than it was to come back out into the breezy desert air.  Plus, if there’s water on set… I feel the need to jump in.

Also, hats off to our propsmaker, Charles.  He made a last minute decision to use tyvek for the white collar actor’s briefcase papers.  It allowed us to have the fluidity of water under paper without the material breaking down after one or two takes…. clouding up the water.Survivor_underwater
It was a great day and the client was very happy.  And where does the fire come in?  That will be for another blog.