by Joe Harris, Comedy Director
A year or so ago, a good friend of mine, renowned Creative Director and copywriter, Kevin Sutton, had a rejected broadcast script. But the creative on it was so solid and the vision was so clear that I just had to get it done anyway.
Directors often need the work they want to attract on their reel, with such a competitive market these jobs aren’t always on deck. I took it upon myself to do this one for the reel. Kevin’s writing is always spot on, but I had to alter it to fit the production parameters, and to change the name of the client.
As I do with every job, I took the script, wrote my treatment, stated my vision, and sent them to my colleagues, DPs, gaffers, set dressers, the whole gang. While I waited for responses I reached out to some talent and started hunting down the right location.
A few days before shooting, I lost my location. So, I punted, then I lost my DP, crew, and talent. It fell apart and I was furious. I woke up in the middle of the night with a weird image in my head. My old friend Kevin Howard, longtime acting coach and casting director, and I worked together on a campaign for Ted’s Pain Cream and he was “Doctor” Mallard. I think Kevin is incredibly brilliant. He has a fast mind, impeccable experience & execution. I envisioned him acting in the spot as a character soaking wet holding this shower filter doing his smarmy giggle.
That was it! I was back in the game.
I stripped all the none essentials of production and got down to basics: funny actors, simplicity, and performance. I sent Kevin #2 the script and treatment. I asked him, “Wanna sit on a toilet and stand in the shower in an ugly suit? I’ll buy you a sandwich and some gas!”
He was in.
Then I reached out to two of the most talented comedic improv actors I know, Sallie Bowen & Bonnie Criss. They’re staples for local laugh group Comedy for the Internet & the famed Four Day Weekend. I professed my admiration, sent them the script & treatment and asked, “Feel like a free sandwich and some gas?!”
They were in!
Cast, crew, gear, location, date, lunch! It’s all set.
Then I lost my DP again, but this time I was determined to succeed. I consider myself a risk taker, I like to go against the grain, I was in a punk band! So, I just kept everything as is, sent the call sheet to the actors and ordered lunch. My gaffer, Brendan Varty, arrived at my house and started dragging lights out. My friend, Danny Neely, also with Comedy for the Internet, arrives with his audio kit and then the talent arrives.
A few people asked about the camera and DP and I said, “It’s all here.” We do the usual and prep and shot set ups then I pull out my iPhone 14Pro. “Y’all ready to do this?!” No one really said anything. We just went to work. Ideas started flying. People were laughing, water was everywhere. We finished early and it was a wrap!
I did the edit, sound design and color correction myself. But like the drummer of a band, an audio mix can make or break a spot. I begged my friend, Nick Patronella at charlieuniformtango to help and he saved the day with a fantastic mix.
I’m usually the least talented person on set, and certainly in this case that was true. Without the support of a great crew and cast, this work wouldn’t have seen the light of day. I guess the takeaway is the only way you fail is if you quit.