Ric headed to NYC to co-direct the Kevin James’ spots for CBS’s Kevin Can Wait featuring former character Doug interacting with the “new” Kevin. Good stuff.
Directed by Ric Serena & Andy Fickman Client/Agency: CBS On-Air Promotions CBS Creative Directors: Matt Hernandez, Chris Cranner & Ron Mulligan Producer: Romi Laine Director of Photography: David Waterston Art Director: Niamh Byrne First AD: Christopher Bicknell Production Company: Moving Parts, Inc. Editor: Ric Serena, Serena Creative Compositing & Rotoscoping – Susan Yoon
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.
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.
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
A few years ago, NBC took a big risk with their live broadcast of the musical, Sound of Music, featuring Carrie Underwood. The gamble paid off with record numbers that justified a follow-up broadcast of Peter Pan and most recently, The Wiz, featuring Queen Latifah, David Allan Grier and Shanice Williams. For the most recent musical, Reddi-Wip came on board as the only presenting sponsor for the broadcast event. One of the branded spots NBC’s Creative Partnerships set out to produce was a documentary-style piece focused on a public school benefit concert aimed at raising money for the arts. The concert, made up of 30 students from around the Washington, DC area, featured music from The Wiz.
This was not my first job with the NBC Creative Partnerships team. Over the past two years, I’ve directed branded spots for The Voice & Sprint as well as Parenthood & Lowes; however, it was my first time working with Creative Director, Joseph Kanellitsas. After a couple initial meetings & calls, we easily agreed on the look and began zeroing in on the approach for the piece. The biggest challenges were 1) documenting the preparation and performance of an event as it was happening, and 2) incorporating the product in a way that felt authentic and did not trump the true heroes of the spot, the kids and the staff that helped provide this opportunity.
Weeks before we were scheduled to document the event, Project Manager, Mallory Norton and I had a call with Sherion & Shawn Cosby, a mother-daughter team who worked with hundreds of children at multiple schools in the area, providing the extracurricular opportunity to learn musical theater. The call put any concerns I had at rest. Their energy & passion let me know they would be great on-camera, serving as the thread of the piece.
From there, Moving Parts, Inc. Producer, Warren Farnes, began putting together the pieces to make for a smooth shoot. As is often the case with travel jobs, we hire mostly local crew; however, I was able to bring Director of Photography, Byron Shah (with whom I’d shot previous jobs for Esquire Network as well as NBC Sports’ behind-the-scenes for the NFL Sunday Night Football open with Carrie Underwood. What I love about Bryon’s approach is his ability to be a minimalist when necessary. We had a lot to shoot in one day and in multiple spaces throughout the school, so it was necessary to limit how much we were lighting the space. Byron and I both tend to use that limitation as a challenge and seek out the most cinematic ways of capturing a given moment.
There were, of course, instances where extensive lighting was absolutely crucial, and we focused our crew hours on those scenes. The biggest example was the stage performance. There weren’t enough lights on the stage to expose all the kids, so our plan was to have G&E spend the morning setting up a lighting grid above the drop ceiling and light the stage evenly with KinoFlos. While they were doing that, we spent our time capturing natural light scenarios throughout the rest of the school.
I had a great AD on the shoot with whom I shared a list of what was absolutely necessary for us to capture.Not just moments, but specific shots I wanted. But capturing a day as it happens also means you’ve got to be willing to adapt. He was able to keep me on schedule, roll with the punches and give me the freedom to change the game plan on the fly when necessary. I really value having a strong AD on set. There are times I have to do it for myself, so I feel like I have a solid understanding of what he/she is trying to accomplish in helping me make my day. However, releasing that responsibility to an AD allows me the opportunity to focus on the creative and be more present in the moment.
The shoot went incredibly well. The kids were absolutely delightful to work with, and the crew moved so efficiently that I walked away knowing we had the makings of a great spot. I was fortunate to be asked to cut this spot as well, which is very helpful in a shoot like this… I knew exactly where all the moments were because I was there.
I’m very proud of how the spot turned out.
The Huffington Post wrote:
The primary advertisers for “The Wiz,” Reddi-wip, is using the format to its advantage by featuring students from the Excel Academy Public Charter School in Hyattsville, Maryland, a public school for girls, taking a crack at a tune from “The Wiz” that appears in a segment that precedes their spot. The tie-in is flawless, the press has taken notice, and this live musical formal could ultimately become a “Super Bowl” of sorts for the client. Future sponsors could use this to their advantage.
As always, this is the result of the contribution of many. I’m grateful to work with a solid team that provides the resources necessary to tell the story as I see it.
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.
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.
That is the question.
I’ve been in love with visual storytelling for as long as I can remember. I love directing. I love editing. And I love shooting. As my career began shifting from editing to directing, I would often shoot my own projects mostly because I hated asking others to give their time and creative resources up for little to no pay. Kia Kiso, a friend and colleague, helped me get over that mindset, convincing me there were DP’s willing to give their time and resources because they believed in my prospect as a director.
And as my directing career progressed, I was given the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented directors of photography including Tyler Allison, Tim Angulo, Salvador Bolivar, Tom Camarda, Johnny Derango, Chuck Ozeas, Byron Shah, & Jake Zortman. There is nothing like creatively gelling with a DP on set, completely in sync with one another as to the final look of the piece.
I still shoot on my smaller, personal projects, not only for budgetary reasons, but because I like to stay knowledgeable of the photographic process, to better help me communicate with the camera department when I’m on larger jobs.
I recently put together a reel of my camera work to send out on the relatively rare occasions I’m called to shoot. I struggled with what to call the reel. In my opinion, my work and skill sets are nowhere near the DP’s I’ve worked with. My lighting skills are limited as I fancy myself more of a documentary style shooter. Initially, I settled on “Shooter’s Reel,” however, a few of my favorite DP’s responded with the note that it should be listed as my DP reel, even if I’m not necessarily pursuing that path.
I’ve gotta say… that felt nice.
I love shooting. But even more, I love collaborating. They both have their place in the future of my work. I’m certain of it.
On that note… here’s my DP reel:
A collection of footage Ric Serena has shot on a few projects over the years. Music by Matt Bowen http://mattbowenmusic.com
We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.
- George Bernard Shaw
I didn’t graduate from film school. Not that I discredit the institutions, it just wasn’t the path I chose. So, when I’d earned enough money to produce & direct my first short film in 2000, I justified the expense as ‘my film school.’ Yes, I shared the aspirations of every other short filmmaker that it might break through the masses and reach the coveted accolade ‘Academy Award Winning Short Film,’ but I also hoped it would provide me some insight on filmmaking.
I learned that I had a lot to learn. I began to learn on-set protocol. I began to understand the art of strategic scheduling and how to earn confidence from your cast and crew. But MOST importantly, I learned the value of post production sound.
Prior to this shoot, I suspect I associated post sound with mixing the dialogue against the music. This changed with an enlightening opportunity to work with my friend, Dave Barnaby, who was beginning his career as a post production sound designer. He opened my ears to an element of cinema that most low budget filmmakers aren’t privy to. This was more than adding sound effects. More than dialogue clean up and ADR recording. This was about telling the story, reinforcing themes, building a better film…with sound.
In the eleven years since Dave and I first collaborated in the corner of his employer’s storage room, he has been a staple of all my work. One of my favorite collaborators, I often say that Dave is the most talented filmmaker I know, and in our circle, will most likely be the first to win an Oscar.
As Dave and I continue to grow, he has introduced me to other talented individuals who’ve helped make my projects sound great. Durand Trench has been my location sound recordist for the past 3 years (peace of mind that’s worth it’s weight in gold), and Dave’s regular mixer, Ethan Biegel, mixed my short documentary, The [ahr-tuh-zen] Project: Dave Lefner, and has consulted Dave on many of his own mixes of my work. And Kent Verderico flat out blew me away with his recording of USC’s marching band for the Hawaii Five-O promo last October.
Last week, I had the opportunity to work with mixer, Paul Robie, for the first time on my recent comedy, SWALLOW. I was introduced to Paul through a mutual friend and we’d hoped to collaborate. Paul did an phenomenal job with the mix, and it filled me with great joy to know he and Dave were now connected on a creative level. But as I sat in the mix session, I couldn’t help but smile when I realized it wasn’t the first time Paul, Dave and I had collaborated. Over a year ago (before having met him), Paul mixed a Criminal Minds’ Superbowl spot that I produced & edited (and hired Dave to Sound Design). The spot was directed by Bill Brown.
And the music in that spot? Well, it’s Quiet Lights, the band of my close high school friend, Marcus Smith. Coincidentally, it was also Marcus’ music that Dave was “mixing against dialogue” back in 2000.
Hear that? It’s the beautiful sound of collaboration.