Matt2 & Vineyard Take Beach Vibe To The Mountains

May 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

by Matt Hodgson Director/Writer

“Endless Summer”— Part 3

Once we had the green light from Lagoon and Coca-Cola we were on the clock. The goal? Take the So-Cal surf/beach vibe to Lagoon—nearly 736 miles away in Farmington, Utah—and do it before autumn hit, temperatures plummeted and Lagoon transformed for Halloween.

Matt Williams (cinematographer) was on the road the next day scouring his old surf haunts from Huntington Beach to Del Mar for surfboards and potential beach locations, then it was up to Burbank to meet with the team at Pro8mm to look at various film stocks and Super 8mm camera options.

Meanwhile I was working with Cameron Gardner (art director) to design the look of our customized surfboards and our locations, then it was off to casting with Jeff Johnson (casting director) and the wardrobe stylings of Carolyn Leone.

A few days later we all converged on the Vineyard Production offices in Salt Lake City. Matt Williams pulled up with a load of surfboards, I had successfully cast the commercials, designed and refined critical aspects of the campaign, and I was now ready for a location scout to determine where we were going to place multiple dump truck loads of beach sand throughout Lagoon.

From the moment I had the idea for this campaign to the moment we started shooting, Matt Williams and I were committed to do everything we could to make this campaign look, feel and sound like a classic surf film. The surf vibe had to be authentic, the fun had to be genuine Lagoon, and we believed that if we stayed true to those two ideals we would end up with a campaign that would be totally engaging and truly unforgettable.

In preparation for the shoot we had dump truck loads of sand placed around iconic areas of the amusement park where we would show kids learning to surf, building rollercoaster sandcastles, playing beach ball and just hangin’ out—all in the midst of Lagoon’s wildly popular thrill rides. We also added authentic looking lifeguard towers, a few cheesy palm trees, colorful beach umbrellas, big overflowing tubs of ice and Coca-Cola, and yes, one inflatable shark… we loved the shark.

As you might imagine, dumping beach sand all over Lagoon was not a popular idea around the park. Even though we were shooting during the week when the park was closed, we were creating a giant mess that needed to be cleaned-up before the park opened for the beginning of Lagoon’s Halloween season known as Frightmares.

Adam Leishman—Lagoon’s Advertising Coordinator was key to getting us into the right places, working seamlessly with Jeff Miller & Brooke Redmon of Vineyard, and Scott Arneman’s production team to get the sand dumped, locations set and then moving all of that sand to our final beach party location halfway around the park. Adam’s tireless coordination allowed us to move quickly and efficiently from one location to the next, shooting as fast as we could to get the shots we needed. It was a massive undertaking, but through Adam’s on-park direction we were able to shoot non-stop for three straight days, and Lagoon was still able to do everything they needed to do, in order to transform the park for an on-time opening of Frightmares.  In case I haven’t said it already, thanks Adam.

Next Post:             Matt2 Goes With Super 8mm For Super Cool Surf Campaign

The All-Star Team behind Lagoon’s “Endless Summer”

May 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

“Endless Summer”—Part 2  by Matt Hodgson Director/Writer

It’s one thing to conceive an emotionally powerful campaign idea, and a completely different thing to realize it.

I wanted to write a quick post today about the team that I have been lucky enough to partner with on this project over the past eight months. These are extraordinary artists and amazing friends, but more than anything I felt like I could trust them to help me fully realize my vision, and because of that trust, I was able to excel as a director and really tell the brand story I set out to tell.

If you work in the advertising, film, events or entertainment you owe it to yourself to get to know the following people. Since I will be referencing them over the next handful of posts I wanted to briefly describe their roles and thank them for their incredible willingness go above and beyond, to help me craft this engagingly memorable campaign.

Matthew Williams, cinematographer

For years Matthew Williams and I have been joined at the hip, which has probably done much more for me than it has for him.  Matt is an amazing cinematographer, but beyond being brilliant behind the lens, he is also an invaluable collaborator, artist and friend. Matt understands light like no one I’ve ever met, he’s a brilliant storyteller and his scope of experience is unparalleled—Matt has shot everything from Super 8mm to IMAX , and has received national and international recognition doing it—just try and find that level of expertise at any production company anywhere in the world. If you haven’t worked with Matthew Williams you’re missing out on an unforgettable creative experience.  To learn more about the genius of Matt Williams visit www.matt2.net or www.williamsdp.com

Jeff Miller, executive producer • Brooke Redmon, producer, Vineyard Productions

The new “Endless Summer” campaign really required every minute of my attention, given the tight turnaround, and I needed a production company who would catch the vibe of this new direction and then do everything in their power to help me realize it.

Jeff Miller of Vineyard Productions had just helped me with a creative pitch to Victoria’s Secret, he was helping me take next steps with some screenplays I had written, and it just felt like the right thing to do to turn to him in this moment of chaos and know that he had my back. As it turned out Jeff Miller and Vineyard producer Brooke Redmon allowed me to focus solely on the project and they took care of the rest. When they saw the scope of the project and the required attention to detail, they were right there with solutions and talented artists who could really help me achieve this stylized concept. I can honestly say that I’ve never been so freed up to focus on directing and crafting my vision… but that’s the Vineyard way. Vineyard produces everything from IMAX to Features to Commercials.

For more information on Vineyard Productions visit www.vineyardfilmproductions.com

Carolyn Leonewardrobe stylist

I remember telling Jeff & Brooke that I wanted this campaign to sing from a fashion standpoint. Because Lagoon is a real family oriented park, we weren’t going to fill the frames with bikini clad beach babes. Every frame had to be tastefully designed, and every stitch of clothing needed to add to the emotion of campaign. The colors, the textures, the layers, were all super important in helping us create a hip, cool, organic and somewhat nostalgic surf vibe. So when they introduced me to Carolyn Leone I was absolutely ecstatic. I showed up with my color palette and design swatches and she showed up with armfuls of fashion mags so that we could identify our wardrobe styles. Then we dove in and identified specific styles for all six cast members. When I met up with Carolyn and our cast that first morning of shooting I couldn’t have been happier with the way they all looked—it’s a pretty cool when your expectations come to fruition. Thanks Carolyn.

For more information on Carolyn Leone contact www.vineyardfilmproductions.com

Scott Arneman—art director/prop manager

Prior to working on Lagoon 2011 I’d never met Scott Arneman, and I really had no idea how hard I was making things on myself. Scott is unbelievably talented. It was so cool to be in production meetings with him and be able to tell him what I really wanted, and then have him say, “Cool, I’ll figure it out.” On the Lagoon 2011 campaign, as you’ll see in future posts, we had to customize our own surfboards, we had to cover certain areas of Lagoon with sand—to make it feel like an extension of the beach, we needed a sandcastle version of one of Lagoon’s big-time thrill coasters, a So-Cal beach-style lifeguard tower, a totally art directed beach party and the list goes on and on… and Arneman was always there with exactly what we had discussed.

For more information on Scott Arneman contact www.vineyardfilmproductions.com

Jeff Johnson—casting director

Working with Jeff Johnson on Lagoon’s 2011 campaign was one of the real joys of the pre-production process. I had never worked with Jeff and his team before, again Jeff and Brooke from Vineyard were instrumental in hooking us up. I had very specific looks in mind as we began our search for this ensemble cast. I’ve spent a lot of time in casting sessions all around the country, but this experience was truly enjoyable and effortless. Jeff really caught the vision of the campaign from my detailed concept swatches, storyboards and breakdowns. By the time I showed up at the casting session he had already done significant pairing down. I remember only spending a couple of hours in the initial casting session—two days later I was in looking at a short list of amazingly talented actors in a callback. It all moved extremely fast, which was imperative, and I was super pleased with my final selects.

For more information on Jeff Johnson contact www.vineyardfilmproductions.com

Jeff Tillotson — colorist @ Lightpress

One of the most enjoyable phases of any project we work on is the time Matt Williams and I spend in Seattle with renowned colorist Jeff Tillotson @ Lightpress. Jeff is brilliant. Allowing Jeff to spend time “color sweetening” a film transfer is like allowing Midas to turn anything he touches to gold. Jeff is always on the cutting edge when it comes to working with color, and the creative collaboration and energy the three of us share is amazing. It’s an incredible experience and I love every minute of it. I highly recommend a visit to Lightpress.

For more information on Jeff Tillotson and Lightpress visit www.lightpress.tv 

Cameron Gardner—art director/illustrator

Cameron is a truly integral part of my creative process. Besides being an amazing art director he is also an extremely talented illustrator, which allows me to get my ideas visualized in detail so that a production can move forward. In a situation like the 2011 Lagoon Campaign, where we had to switch gears from one concept to another and then react in an extremely tight time frame, Cameron’s contributions were invaluable.

For more information on Cameron Gardner visit www.designcgs.com

Next  Post:             Matt2 & Vineyard take the Beach to the Desert

Matt2 creates “Endless Summer” for Lagoon & Coca-Cola

May 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

“Endless Summer”—  Part 1  by Matt Hodgson  Director / Writer

There’s always a lot of excitement around the launch of Lagoon Amusement Park’s yearly ad campaign and this season is no exception. In fact, as Lagoon begins to celebrate its 125th year in business and launch a new, one-of-a-kind surf-themed coaster named “BomBora,” the feeling around Lagoon, Matt2 & Vineyard Productions is down right heady.

We really dig this new campaign; we’re giddy about our creative approach and the team we assembled to bring it to life. Nothing was left to chance; everyone on our team really worked to finesse every detail from pre-production through post and you can see it in the final commercials. They’re nostalgic, they’re hip, they’re a lot of fun to watch and when they’re over you want more.

Pretty amazing when you consider that we brought the campaign to life in three short weeks, including idea development, pre-production and shooting in Utah and Southern California.

A Change of Direction

From early August 2010 to the second week of September we had been developing and prepping a completely different campaign for 2011 that was heavily steeped in visual effects. But when I received the news from Lagoon that they would be launching a new surf-themed coaster for 2011 and that they wanted it to be the focus of their campaign, I had to scrap everything and start over. With only three short weeks before the weather turned from a balmy Indian summer to chilly fall temperatures and rain possibly snow, we had to move fast.

I remember telling Lagoon’s Marketing team that I’d be back in three days with new fleshed out creative campaigns that we would need to decide on immediately, with Coca-Cola’s approval, or we would miss our shooting window. We were really in a tight spot. To make things more difficult, no one at Lagoon could show me what the new ride was going to look like, because it was still in development. I was charged with creating a campaign around a new, one-of-a-kind, surf-themed coaster that no one knew anything about.

The Ideas Flow

For a day and a half I immersed myself in everything “surf,” trying to get a handle on how to mesh the Lagoon experience with the surf vibe, and do it in a way that would result in compelling messaging for Lagoon while communicating the essence of this new, one-of-a-kind surf-themed coaster.  Amid a flurry of really cool ideas, I kept thinking that this campaign needed to focus on two things: 1) what affect would this cool new surf-themed coaster would have on this 125 year-old park, and 2) how would it make Lagoon attendees feel?  With those questions in mind it didn’t matter what the ride looked like… because it wasn’t really about the hardware at all. The new campaign had to connect the fun free-spirited vibe of surfing with the non-stop fun of the Lagoon experience, and it had to do it in an engagingly hip, memorable way—that’s when it hit me. I wanted to create a campaign of classic looking surf movie-like commercials that captured the nostalgia of classic surf films, that also had a cool stylized 2011 vibe—all choreographed to a tune that would convey the idea of sun-drenched days on the beach, surfing and riding roller coasters. A tall order to be sure, but we did it!

After sketching out some rough concept swatches I called Matthew Williams (Cinematographer) for his initial impressions and he was totally into it. Matt grew up in So-Cal surfing and making 8mm surf movies, so this was a concept that hit close to home and he saw the potential immediately. Cameron Gardner (Art Director) had the same enthusiasm for the concept and together we dove in to designing the look of our custom surfboards and concept frames. Then our amazing association with Vineyard Productions began as Jeff Miller (Executive Producer) and Brooke Redmon (Producer) bought into the creative whole-heartedly and began assembling what can only be described as an all-star production team.

The Perfect Solution

Three days later, as promised, I returned to Lagoon’s Marketing team with a super cool campaign direction, an ingenious way of executing it, and a perfect little tune by (the then little known group) the DRUMS, titled “Let’s Go Surfing” to tie it all together. Both Lagoon and Coca-Cola loved he idea and approved it on the spot. Our “Endless Summer” campaign direction was now a reality, and we had about two weeks to pull it off.

Over the next 10 days I will be posting the entire story behind the production of Lagoon’s 2011 “Endless Summer” campaign. It’s a story worth telling because it highlights the genius, talents and efforts of some amazingly talented filmmakers, artists and musicians who I feel privileged to have worked with.

Finally, all of this would mean nothing if it weren’t for the incredible team at Lagoon—Dave & Kristin Freed (Lagoon’s Owners), Terry Capener (Lagoon’s Vice President/General Manager), Dick Andrew (Lagoon’s Vice President/Director of Marketing & Group Sales) and Adam Leishman (Lagoon’s Advertising Coordinator/Go-To-Guy) are truly the genius behind the success of this campaign. Their vision, trust and willingness to empower me and my team to craft this campaign is a reflection of their passion for fun and an amazing business acumen that has guided Lagoon to the success it has enjoyed.

Thanks to all of you!

Tomorrow’s Post:             The All-Star Team Behind  Lagoon’s “Endless Summer” 

HODGSON’S STOP MOTION VISION OF SUMMER HITS THEATERS FOR COCA-COLA & LAGOON

July 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

With a full slate of summer blockbusters rolling out over July 4th, it was the perfect week for Coca-Cola and Lagoon Amusement Park to hit the cinema with stop-motion visions of sizzling summer fun and icy cold refreshment created by Matt Hodgson (director/writer) and Matthew Williams (director of photography). The spot titled, “Stop-Motion Refreshment” was one of the final extensions of Lagoon’s wildly successful 2010 Campaign, which is scheduled to run in theaters and on broadcast television throughout the summer.  The spot features a variety of iconic Lagoon summer moments all shot stop-motion using the Full Frame Canon 1Ds MKII and the High Speed Canon 1D MKII. Exclamation point Coca-Cola refreshment moments were shot high speed (super slow motion @ 120 fps) on 35mm film with the Arri 435. Light painted titles were created as the perfect compliment to the campaign’s stop-motion vibe.  The entire campaign was choreographed to the unforgettable sound of Bitter:Sweet and their hit song titled, “The BOMB.” Shana Halligan, lead vocalist and lyricist of Bitter:Sweet rewrote some of the song’s original lyrics to fit Lagoon’s 2010 theme. TJ Nelson, fresh off a project for Nike Snowboarding, edited the Lagoon/Coca-Cola spot, with Matt Hodgson directing/producing, and Matthew Williams dialing in final color sweetening for the cinema. Final Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound Mix performed at Big Idea Music, by Chuck E. Myers and Jake Bowen, prior to completing their work on Pixar’s Toy Story 3. Final DI and theatrical film prints were made under the direction of John Price, director of studio operations & Teresa Dickey GM/VP at Cinema Concepts in Atlanta. Hodgson’s “Stop Motion Refreshment” commercial for Coca-Cola and Lagoon Amusement Park was created under the direction of Coca-Cola USA in Atlanta.

HODGSON, WILLIAMS & NELSON TAKE NEW APPROACH FOR POST ON LAGOON 2010 CAMPAIGN

April 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

Part 5: Post Production

With 11,000 stills and an amazing music track from Bitter:Sweet, Matt Hodgson (Director/Writer) and Matthew Williams (Director of Photography) were looking at the Post Production phase of Lagoon Amusement Park’s 2010 campaign in a whole new way.

“It was such a weird time for us,” Hodgson recalls. “Normally by the time we’ve got the music figured out we’ve already done a Best Light in Seattle with Jeff Tillotson at Lightpress and we’re in LA working on the edits and the visual effects, but this year with a scaled back production budget and a campaign idea that was going to consume a vast amount of time on the Post end, we felt like we needed a solution that would give us the flexibility to work on this night and day, without consuming our budget.”

Over the period of several weeks Hodgson and Williams sifted through the mountain of stills in order to choose selects for the hero sequences. Then with a beta version of Lightroom 3… even though the usual warnings of using Beta versions came up over and over, LR3 (Beta) had so many improvements, I had to take the risk over my existing LR2 version… so we were able to quickly create looks and experiment with different color treatments for the campaign. Lightroom 3 allowed me to work faster and with their “sync” feature, I could do a test and sync a hundred photos in a few seconds and test it out with their new time lapse feature, without ever having to edit a sequent to see how it played. With Lightroom 3 we didn’t spend valuable time dealing with a host of technical and orginazitional issues. Then this mountain of  photo sequences had to be exported and brought into FCP 7 where the color automatically shifts from “computer color space” to “television color space,”  so that brought another level to the complexity of this many still photos, but since I could see the shifts and understood what happened in the conversions, I could go back and make different corrections where needed, right in the same room.

“I was literally color sweetening sequences as we were editing to keep up with the pace, and I know we couldn’t have done this in a traditional editing workflow, but then again this was not a traditional edit for a television spot,” Williams said. When all was said and done, we did the final color pass in Apple’s Color program which was impressive in its ease and workflow… more like I’m used to in a bigger color suite, and this whole overall approach gave us tons of creative freedom to try out new looks without spending a lot of time and money we didn’t have on this one.”

After spending time cutting rough sequences together and experimenting with “test” color options in Lightroom 3, Hodgson and Williams decided that the best way to approach the actual editing, was to simply do it themselves. “We knew the material so intimately, we knew how much finessing we were going to want to do to the images once we had edited spots, and we knew we didn’t have the post budget to spend two or three weeks at a facility, Hodgson said. “So we approached veteran editor TJ Nelson to see how he would feel about doing the cutting and color for the campaign on Apple’s Final Cut Pro 7—and to say the least, he was all over it.”

“We really thought this was the perfect project for TJ,” Hodgson said. We had all these beautiful images, the cool Bitter:Sweet tune and a solid vision of what we wanted the campaign to look like, but we were so close to the material that we needed a fresh editorial perspective from an editor who was willing to dive in and do whatever the project called for and that’s exactly what TJ did.”

Together the threesome crafted a campaign of 15 spots (five :30s and nine :15s) that Lagoon will begin airing on April 26, 2010.

“This campaign represents a lot of firsts for us,” Hodgson said. “It seemed like we were always experimenting, always trying to push ourselves and we had a blast doing it. The campaign just exudes fun, and that’s what Lagoon is all about.”

Campaign Credits:

Lagoon’s 2010 Advertising Campaign was conceived, written and directed by Matt Hodgson |  DSLR Photography and 35mm Cinematography by Matthew Williams | Art Direction by Cameron Gardner |  Film Transfer by Jeff Tillotson at Lightpress |  Editorial by TJ Nelson |  Color Correction & Color Sweetening Matthew Williams and TJ Nelson | Producer Brent Feulner | Audio Production by Chuck E. Myers at Big Idea Music | Music Composition/Lyrics/Vocals by Bitter:Sweet

Director Matt Hodgson Pairs Lagoon Amusement Park With Bitter:Sweet for 2010 Ad Campaign

April 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Part 4: The Music

A key component to moving forward with the edit phase of Lagoon’s 2010 Campaign was finding the right music. “I had a cool music idea in my head as we were shooting, but no actual track, said Matt Hodgson (director/writer). “So once we had some hero still sequences to play with I spent a lot of time trying to match the idea in my head with an actual piece of music. After weeks of playing different music tracks against the rough cut I discovered the unforgettable sound of Bitter:Sweet, their amazing tune titled, “THE BOMB,” and the rest is history.”

Formerly the title song for NBC’s “Lipstick Jungle,” “THE BOMB” appears on Bitter:Sweet’s newest album release titled “Drama.”  Bitter:Sweet features the talents of Kiran Shahani (Composer/Producer, and member of the group known as Supreme Beings of Leisure ) and Shana Halligan (singer/songwriter, whose father is Dick Halligan of the 70s rock group Blood Sweat & Tears). “When I first heard “THE BOMB” I absolutely loved it,” Hodgson said. “The tune featured this very cool, eclectic mix of instruments that you don’t normally hear together, and then on top of it all was Shana Halligan’s mind-blowing voice.”

While the instrumentals were a perfect fit with Hodgson’s vision, the lyrics needed to be tweaked to more closely reflect the Lagoon experience and their message. “I honestly thought there was no way Bitter:Sweet would tweak their lyrics, so initially I was just trying to acquire the rights to the song’s instrumentals,” Hodgson said. “But the more I listened to Shana the more I knew we needed her voice on this campaign.”

Days later Sanne Hagelsten of Zync Music in New York had a call set up for Hodgson and Halligan to discuss the new lyrics. “Shana was so great about wanting to make this work and so willing to rewrite lyrics that would take this campaign to a whole new level,” Hodgson said. “The funny thing was, most of the original lyrics already fit Lagoon’s message, so it was a fairly simple rewrite, and Shana nailed it, both in terms of the new lyrics and the resing. Shana was so cool  to work with—the consummate professional, and she and everyone at Zync Music, Canshaker Productions and North Star Media went above and beyond to make this work for us.”

The Lagoon version of “THE BOMB” will begin hitting airwaves April 26, 2010 when Lagoon launches its 2010 advertising campaign.

Bitter:Sweet’s music has also been featured on “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Sex and the City,” “Desperate Housewives,” “The Devil Wears Prada” and  “Duplicity” starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. Bitter:Sweet’s music is available on iTunes.

(Matt’s relationship and understanding with music, being a musician and composer himself, has worked as an advantage over the years in crafting creative campaigns that have been put together with strong music elements from artists, like Kenny Loggins, Take 6, Rockapella, The House Jacks, and Sonnet).

PAINTING WITH LIGHT & IMAGINATION

April 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Part 3: Different Approach, Different Tools

Because of the promotional nature of Lagoon’s 2010 advertising campaign, capturing iconic imagery wasn’t enough. Hodgson wanted the promotional offers to have the same stop motion energy as the imagery that surrounded them.

“I have always been fascinated with the  concept of Light Painting and I really felt like this was the perfect opportunity to use it,” Hodgson said.  “We had gone to such lengths to capture stop motion image sequences that had a fun, frenetic energy, and I wanted the offers to feel just as fun and organic.”

Hodgson, Williams and Gardner spent a number of evenings on the park testing various light sources until they discovered the right combination of light sources and color.

“We really did a lot of experimenting with different set-ups, sizes and powers of flashlights, and LEDs as well as different gel colors and opacities until we achieved the line thickness and texture we wanted,” Hodgson said. “We also quickly realized that this couldn’t look like a bunch of guys out waving flashlights in the dark. We knew we needed real artists who could draw and redraw imagery in the same space in the air with precision and accuracy.”

Enter Cameron Gardner with a troop of amazing illustrators who performed the daunting feat of writing words and drawing images backwards in the air, for long periods of time, on freezing cold evenings in October, November, and then again in March.

“Directing this team of artists that Cameron had assembled was such a cool experience,” Hodgson said. “It was freezing cold, it was late at night, Matthew Williams was jamming to figure out lighting balances and proper exposures, I was directing Cameron and his amazing troop of artists as they painted imaginary lines and images in the air, and then we would all run to the camera to see the end result. It was a total creative experience that brought artists from a variety of different disciplines together to make these titles that were absolutely the perfect compliment to the stills sequences we had shot.”

When all was said and done, we netted 96 set-ups and generated over 11,000 DSLR stills. “We were super happy with the imagery that we had captured, but at the same time we were overcome by the mountain of images we needed to dig through to find our hero still sequences,” Hodgson said.

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