Monday, March 26, 2012

USC Moment #2 - A "Rendezvous" with Destiny

So, YES, it has been a while since I've blogged and YES I think I said I would finish this list of "Top USC Moments" before I graduated .... last year.

BUT, I have been busily navigating the lush jungle of post-grad life as of late.

Actually, it is more like a a desert where not only do you not have water, but you owe a bunch of water through elaborate water loans as well. That's a pretty good summation of post-grad times.

Now, see, that sounds all kinds of depressing ... which is exactly why I aimed to finish this list before graduation, when my idealism and hope were at their peak. But the only thing I hate more than student loan debt is not finishing something I've started, so we're going to go all the way back to Fall 2009 to look at my #2 Top Moment at USC....

For those who don't remember 2009, please view this highly informative video

So, in late 2009, in the midst of Tiger Woods' sex scandals and Bill Clinton's clutch performance, I had the privilege of being selected as a finalist in the 2010 Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmakers Contest with my unflappable Muncie-Indiana-native producing partner, Josh Compton, for my commercial pitch - "RENDEZVOUS".

For those who don't know me at all or have never read this blog, I can safely say there are three things in this world I truly love and believe in: God, America, and Coca-Cola.

Exhibit A - Here's me striking a not-uncommon pose while traveling in Europe in 2005 -

(That and my Coke cooler, Coke t-shirt, Coca-Cola toothpick dispenser and about two decades of acidic high-fructose corn syrup congesting my insides add up to the fact that I enjoy this beverage)

Needless to say, being given a budget to make an actual COCA-COLA COMMERCIAL was going to be a dream come true.

But I'll say this... after getting the team together this production became a NIGHTMARE. Not because of the team (quite the opposite - they were awesome), but we had a very ambitious commercial and had woefully little time and resources to get everything together.

Plus, putting a large scale production together is stressful enough on its own. But then imagine that there are 6 other large productions going up, and one of those productions is helmed by two very good friends with whom you share a lot of mutual friends willing to help.


But we scraped, scrounged, hustled, and muscled and just barely got everything together in time to start the three day shoot in early December. Like, we finally locked the location for Day 2 in the middle of Day 1.

So far this all sounds rough, not really "top moment" material, but the second we started "Rendezvous": DAY 1, my three weeks of Hell became three days of Heaven.

Every bit of work that we had done paid off. I was able to stay 100% focused on bringing the script to life with my brilliant DP Jon and amazing AD Li.

Even though I had directed before, this was the first time I got to enjoy the full experience of pure directing. See, making my 508 was just as much about survival as it was directing. During 'Rendezvous', I had a monitor to watch, a producer to put out fires, an AD to organize everything...and all I had to do was tell the story. Which, after weeks of begging for food and sweating it out on money and locations, was just so much fun.

Our cast, headed up by Josh Keeler, was great and really rolled with some punches as our student production marched forward with all the fun and excitement that production has to offer. Just a few pics from the shoot are here -

(more pics here) Another thing that was great about the shoot was directing felt good. It was still stressful and difficult but it was great to oversee a production of that size and not spend each night weeping in the shower. Apparently, I had gained some level of comfort in the director's chair.

I was very glad for the opportunity and was disheartened to hear that Coke was going to discontinue the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmakers Award for some "Sprite" bullshit.

But, gotta say - even though I didn't win it all (post-game wrap up here) - I felt very lucky to be included in the last (?) Coca-Cola Filmmakers competition.

And I'll forever remain proud of my Coke commercial because it was the culmination of things I really care about: Coke, America, film, and hidden right-wing messages.

So please enjoy the fruit born of my #2 Favorite USC Moment - "RENDEZVOUS"

And thanks again to the crew that made it possible! -

produced by josh compton
cinematography by jonathon barenboim
assistant director li lu
production sound sean wright and chris pratola
production design katy echols
edited by mark newman
sound design mike tounian
composer rob gardner
casting director louise abnee
location manager john paul henderson