Posts Tagged: CBS

Kevin Can Wait

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

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

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.

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.


To DP or not to DP.

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 AllisonTim AnguloSalvador BolivarTom CamardaJohnny DerangoChuck OzeasByron 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


Hear That?

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.

It did.

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 Lefnerand 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.