Grown Men Wrestling ♫
This award-winning comedy sketch explores the physical extent of sibling rivalry in the midst of unhinged adulthood. No tears. Only blood, sweat, and brothers. This film is in collaboration with creative agency, Favorite Brother.
It's an odd phenomenon. A family gets together, meals are shared, and everyone enjoys each other's company. Yet, on rare occasions, things tend to get out of hand. That weird uncle starts rough-housing with your cousin. It's all fun. It's all good.
It escalates. It's weird, it's uncomfortable, and it seems to occur during more family gathering than we give it credit for.
Cleveland agency, Favorite Brother, concocted a script around this vague concept. There was comedy to be uncovered in this phenomena. Undoubtedly, we had a lot to unpack here.
Normally, treatments are used to get studios on board with a vision. In our case, this was a passion project. We needed to get creative on how we got talent and crew on board. We found that taking the time to design these documents not only gives the production legitimacy but it ultimately forces us to think about the important details of a production. Things like: What type of location are we looking for? Based on the color palette of the existing furniture, what tones should the wardrobe have? Can we motivate lighting from existing windows? I found that a lot of these production fires can be quickly quenched with a single document. It gives everyone a level of confidence and ensures that we're all making the same movie.
As with most creative treatments, we embedded the script, lighting, color references, and the song genres that we wished to pull inspiration from. Even at this early stage, we had an idea of the melody that this song was going to share. Our final script ended up being slightly different by introducing Tony's wife at the end of the piece, who was wonderfully played by Megan Brautigam.
Traditionally, when prepping for a music video, production is generally given a song as reference. It gives us a point of reference on where we want our story to go in. Unfortunately for us, we were concepting the song's tone and establishing the visuals at the same time. Our writer/director, Aaron McBride, had a rough idea of the melody and pulled together a quick pre-visualization edit. No actual visuals were in this pre-viz edit, but instead featured white descriptive text on a black screen. As the song played, Aaron would show what on-screen action would play at a particular point in the story. This pre-viz tremendously helped guide our sense of pacing early on.
We contacted my good friend, Zach Beaver, to produce and mix the final soundtrack. Zach took the scratch track as reference and later gave the melody an incredible hook. Aaron re-recorded moments with co-director, Mark McKenzie, to make sure that Zach had options to work with.
It can be tough at times finding an authentic location. Whenever we've had the luxury, an art department can take an ordinary space and transform it into something we've never deemed possible. Although our situation lacked this convenience, we continued the search for a location that could check all of our production boxes.
A co-worker's neighbor graciously offered her living room space. It was unusually remarkable. From the minute we set foot into the house, the room was already set-dressed to perfection. From the muted tan and maroon tones, to the eclectic tchotchkes and paintings covering every wall, everything was exactly how we envisioned it.
Up to this point, Aaron originally wrote the intro sequence to take place in the kitchen where their mom was making dinner. We knew our schedule was tight and this scene would add an entirely new lighting setup to our day. To avoid this, we needed to get creative.
After our initial scout, my Gaffer, PJ Mozingo, recommended that we fire up CineTracer and reconstruct the entire room in 3D. It was more of a personal challenge to see if CineTracer would actually help us out in the process. After some tinkering, PJ somehow estimated the measurements of each wall to closely resemble the front half of the living room. This was one of the first times that I properly utilized CineTracer on a production to assist in the overall blocking and lighting. After playing with some camera angles in 3D space, we found that we could do the entire intro sequence with just a single one-take. Our new scene consisted of the following: Tony walks in the front door and calls out to his mom in the other room. Our camera booms down to reveal Tommy in the foreground. We snag a quick insert of Dad sleeping to showcase his presence in the room. Cut back to the one-take and Tommy slugs Tony in the arm.
With this new blocking approach, all characters were now established and all important characters were in the living room! There was no need to leave that space for an additional setup. CineTracer gave PJ, Aaron and myself a bit more confidence on the overall blocking. It also gave PJ and I the opportunity to place our talent near the North-facing window to place our key light frame left. We now had confidence in our gear list and peace-of-mind with our schedule. CineTracer proved to be an incredible tool for future productions, allowing us to visualize things well ahead of time.
Lighting + Rigging
The efficiency in which we worked was ultimately thanks to the overhead Quasar-rig that PJ and Key Grip, Billy O'Boyle, constructed. The rig featured a single Speed C clamp that was gripped to the room's overhead beam. Huge thanks to Ryan Keeper for hooking us up with that Speed C clamp. This rig was mounted directly above our makeshift wrestling ring, completely out of harm's way, allowing several mounting points coming off of the speed rail. The soft Quasar fixtures, acting as a tungsten motivation from the interior practicals, were fully dimmable and bi-color, giving us full flexibility. This allowed our brothers the freedom to roll around created one less obstacle for them. For our intro sequence, we pumped an M18 through the North-facing window and hazed the room significantly. As always, keeping the haze levels consistent from shot-to-shot was a challenge.
We filmed everything on the Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6K with basic Canon L Series zoom lenses, slightly diffused with 1/8 Black Pro Mist filtration. It helped round off our highlights with a slight edged-bloom. During our wrestling sequences, we operated handheld from the EasyRig, paired with the Serene Arm attachment. The EasyRig allowed us to remain mobile and shoot from the hip whenever the two brothers would wrestle in a complex position.
My personal favorite setup of the day concluded with the performance shots of Mark and Aaron. These moments were chalk-full of comedic timing from Aaron and Mark. Aaron and I envisioned this scene to be equally awkward as it was comedic. We deemed it necessary that we establish the two of them as odd, out-of-place individuals. Aaron hit the local thrift store to source both of their neckties, strategically choosing a muted red/brown color tone that vibed with the rest of the room. Mark's badass thunderstorm guitar strap speaks for itself.
PJ and Billy concocted a sliding rig for Mark to be pushed in on from frame right. They attached a plywood platform to the top of our Dana Dolly plate. Grip arms were cardellini'ed to the plywood base in order for Mark to be pushed into frame. This idea alone generated such a unique introduction to our musical characters. With this added story beat, visual comedy was generated and not a single word had to be spoken for laughs. Huge shoutout to those guys for piecing this rig together.
Cut for Time
I enjoy being on set where the floor is open to creative innovation. If you trust your crew's perspective and know when to pull on the reigns, opening the floor to creative collaboration uncovers new ideas that we might not of discovered otherwise.
Our helmet rig was an excellent example of this. Prior to production, PJ conjured up the idea of rigging a custom POV helmet cam from the perspective of both brothers. It would put the viewer "inside the ring" with our characters. Instead of embracing the basic GoPro-helmet-cam, PJ suggested having full control over the camera's focus and iris. He began drilling into his motorcycle helmet and rigged a Sony A7sII camera body, focus gear, and Teradek transmitter, strategically placed around the helmet. This was all powered off of a gold mount battery plate. With the awkward nature of the A7sII being mounted on the side, the challenge was to take all elements of the helmet and balance each side properly. The massive 280wh brick, including a single threaded CineMilled counterweight, helped offset the camera. The Teradek signal was fed to a SmallHD DP7 where PJ was able to hold focus on talent.
Over the years, this rig has been incredibly under-utilized. It's to the point where I feel the need to concept something entirely new around this POV setup
Unfortunately, these shots were cut from the final edit. I hope that by including these frames, PJ will receive the credit and recognition he deserves from such a unique build. Kudos, my man. These GIFs do not give this rig justice.
An Award Winning Comedy Sketch
At the 2019 Cleveland Addy awards, our quirky little sketch-comedy film took home a Gold Addy. We were proud to have it recognized.
And, in a way, it was just another ploy to get that jingle stuck in a few more heads ♫♫.