Friday, March 18, 2011

The LO-FI TRANSMISSIONS or: Progressive marketing in the age of commercial indifference.

    Let me begin by saying I am a huge fan of the folks at Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, even before I was given the amazing opportunity to create the ad campaign for their new Spring line. They are a vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics brand made with love by the most talented punk rock entrepreneurs you will ever meet. Their Lip Tar product alone is a wonder. (This stuff does not wipe off, no matter how passionate the make-out session. Trust me.) So, when I was approached by head makeup artist and OCC partner Katie Pellegrino to brainstorm about their new campaign, I was ecstatic, so say the least.

    What I was presented with was an idea for two things:
  • A new “anti-hi def” approach that utilizes the organic nature of analog, and
  • (And this was key to my involvement) It didn't have to peddle the product. In fact, I was told they “didn't care if the product or the makeup itself was in the image”.


 That is when it hit me – what I have always wanted in a promotion – the desire to entertain and enlighten, not to have some overpaid celebrity telling me to drink some sugar-infused water. The new advertising is anti-advertising. (I feel the same way about music videos – Nothing bores me more than a video of a band in a basement or on stage. Consumers today are more savvy. We don’t want to be sold and image – we want to be introduced to the music, to an idea. In my opinion, the best music videos are short films based on the theme of the song...) Thanks to the exhilarating discussion and collaboration with OCC, I came up with this concept for their new campaign:

"Mankind has been nearly erased - the few who remain suffer on a dying planet. In a last ditch effort to seek help, one person is chosen to represent the human race in a series of analog broadcasts sent into deep space - a beacon of sound and vision. But, as the the calls go unanswered, we witness glimpses of the hopeless broadcasts through glitches in our remaining analog receivers."

     OCC and I decided on a revolutionary new advertising platform based on the desire not only to introduce the public to our product, but to show them we genuinely believe the product is a creative force – something that transcends soulless commercialism and genuinely wants to entertain you, all while saying “Hey everyone, here we are! ...Where are you?”

Transmission 27 from Hobbies Odd on Vimeo.

Transmission 42 from Hobbies Odd on Vimeo.

Transmission 101 from Hobbies Odd on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Great Big Sell in the Sky

    While there is a great tide of anti-advertising sentiment flooding our hive-mind, one must also consider the undeniable truth surrounding the act of hawking a product: We want/need things and there are people out there that can supply those things for us. But, growing up on a steady diet of commercial foie gras, I have grown bitter towards the industry as a whole. The idealist years of my 20's provided me with a rabid “fuck you and the Chuck Wagon gravy train you rode in on” attitude towards commercial filmmaking. I had a few offers of hired-gun style directing gigs, but I never accepted until I was approached by an agency representing Trojan© brand condoms. It was this campaign where I glimpsed the future of advertising... As I would like to believe.

     The agency was scouting independent filmmakers to help create spots for a new campaign to raise condom awareness amongst teenagers (A subject very close to my heart, BTW). What was so special about this campaign was the artists were encouraged to submit their own ideas for each spot. Normally in a commercial situation a group of agency folks focus-group an idea until it is drained of all creative vision. It is then handed off to a director to act as a drinking bird toy that goes through the motions while the agency gaggle enjoys their field trip to the studio and “cleverly” re-write the spot while filming.
    The Trojan© campaign was completely different. The artists chosen were given free reign to create their vision with minimal agency interference. (And when I say “minimal” I mean: After the final script is approved, no one other that the artist and the crew are there to make the spot a reality.) This is not only rare, but it is a wonderfully freeing environment for a filmmaker/artist to create something designed to sell a product – an experience not regularly one of artistic virtue.

    I cannot adequately express my appreciation towards the agencies which took a chance on me and my ideas for their product. And, as you can see they are hardly mainstream fare – yet all have had wild success on the internet and edgy networks like Comedy Central.

    However, as rewarding an experience the Trojan© “Evolve One / Evolve All” campaign was, nothing could prepare me for the complete freedom of the intensely progressive campaign for Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics new Spring line: “Lo–Fi”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Soundscapes and Analog Feedback: A Beacon of Hope?

The concept is this:
 "Mankind has been nearly erased - the few who remain suffer on a dying planet. In a last ditch effort to seek help, one person is chosen to represent the human race in a series of analog broadcasts sent into deep space - a beacon of sound and vision. But, as the the calls go unanswered, we witness glimpses of the hopeless broadcasts through glitches in our remaining analog receivers."

     Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics was generous (or crazy) enough to let me run with this idea as the foundation for their new “LO-FI” ad campaign. The product line will be available in Spring of 2011. (If you don't know OCC, you should check them out. They are a young, edgy company that deals specifically in very high quality, 100% vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics. Products that work, beautifully.) It was important to OCC that the images created be “anti hi-def” in nature to compliment the analog themes of their new product line: Lip Tars and Eye Shades with names like “Interlace” and “Beta”. But, rather than jumping backwards to a retro look, we decided to look towards the future. Albeit, a bleak one.

     We were graced with the talented and lovely Jamie Clayton as our model. (What better way to represent the future!) Locked in a Brooklyn apartment with old video recorders, a CRT television and countless analog pedals, receivers and amplifiers, we set out to create some art.... 

    Let's geek-out for a moment: There is absolutely NO airbrushing or post effects used in creating this image. Instead, I used an early early model DV camera (one with two buttons: ON and RECORD) and had Jamie do her thing in front of an old CRT monitor. I then pumped the image from the camera back into the tv, creating “analog feedback.” (The only lighting was a 500W Daylight bulb in a small china-ball, and the backlight from the tv itself.) The resulting echo looked great, but it wasn't Lo-Fi enough for us (“us” being: myself and OCC partner Katie Pellegrino – who also did the tremendous makeup work). So, I imported the footage into my laptop, then fed it back into the television, where I then re-recorded it on the old DV camera. From there, I replayed the footage back onto the tv, where we then took hundreds of stills of the moving images – off of the tv screen. Thats what you see above.

     The next day, I took the video footage and began editing what would become three “transmissions” from our dystopian ambassador. 

   Let's trip-out for a moment: The genesis of this idea stemmed from these intense radio emissions from Saturn captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. I have been listening to these recordings on a loop for over a year now, and have been itching to work them into a project. In me, they have inspired numerous daydreams involving lost races of intelligent beings or warning signals from an alternate multiverse... The OCC campaign provided me with the perfect outlet for such musings, so I used excerpts of the Cassini recordings in the soundscapes I created for the LO-FI Transmissions. What was decided on was this: The “glimpses of the hopeless broadcasts...” would be framed as three random broadcast interceptions at different points in time – and as each progressed, they would get more and more desperate. These broadcasts would represent a timeline for the last gasp of air for planet Earth. But, this last gasp needed breadth. Something more than just the Cassini tapes.

     On the day of the shoot, I recorded Jamie reading some pre-selected text. I then went home and pumped the audio through a series of guitar pedals and finally out through my little Peavey amplifier, where I re-recorded her (now totally distorted) speech. I then recorded some tweaked out E-Bow notes on my '67 Telecaster. When I finally compiled all the audio I wanted, I imported everything into Final Cut Pro and began editing.

     I edited all the audio first, giving myself a time limit of only 20 seconds for each broadcast, and built a unique soundscape for each. Most of the effects present in the final versions were done through the guitar pedals.

  Once the soundscapes were complete, it was time to start having some fun with the video...