What was your process like at the concepting stage? Your films require the viewer to connect-the-dots somewhat, which is a rewarding experience.
I wish I had a great story about concepting on this one, it just sort of grew organically. Puma’s Creative Director, initially approached me about piggy-backing on an upcoming catalog photo shoot to make a simple stylebook video. He also asked me if I had any set-design ideas that would visually help show Puma’s playful attitude toward sports. I did a sketch of the set with all the doors and stairs. We had a quick talk about all the possibilities of what could be going on inside all these rad little spaces and then the project started to grow. From there I made a scale cardboard model and took it to Company Inc. Sets in Ventura to get it priced out. I submitted a rough budget for the shoot and about a week later I had a contract and a check for half the production costs. I really never expected it to actually happen so I had a bit of a panic attack when I realized I was going to have to figure out how to get it done for the rather modest budget.
This is the first thing I’ve done that I didn’t personally get to build or decorate the set, but It was important that the set didn’t fall over or collapse and kill anyone, so it needed to be made by pros. I’m used to just being able to keep things inside my head, but for this one I had to talk to a lot of people each day. The crafty kid’s fort aesthetic that I wanted was really hard for the construction guys to do and even harder for me to articulate. They are used to making kitchens that look like real kitchens and to get beyond that requires some unlearning. If I wanted something to be uneven I’d have to give them a measurement for how uneven it needed to be, preferably in inches. A month later, at around 3 AM, we were unloading these giant letters off of semi trucks and on to a soundstage.
Obviously, a lot of coordination and synchronization had to go into filming the action in these films. How did you go about planning all the action with the actors and camera crew?
Since I was piggy-backing a photo shoot, the first half of the day went to the Photographer, I had to shoot each scenario in the second half of the day. As soon as the Photographer wrapped I had to get the actors and crew all sorted out and in place. I had to make the actual filming as simple as possible so I shot it with a Canon 5D mark II at F8 and 800 iso so I could use cheap and easy low wattage Source 4 lights like you’d use for a play or a small concert. I set up all the lighting on an overhead grid going through a dimmer board and I only had to aim it all once and it was more or less in place for each shoot, the only things that changed were the lighting cues. I’d spend the first half of the day with the AD and Jib Operator and we’d do a walk through while the photographer was shooting. Then as soon as we were ‘on’ we’d bring in the actors and build each shot in stages from the beginning until everyone learned what to do and we could get it all in one take. I had to stay next to the jib operator and keep him following the action while the AD would cue the actors. If you listen to the actual audio it sounds really crazy with all of us yelling instructions. It only took a couple hours usually to get the choreography down. I cast actors who were friends or friends of friends and are directors, comics, artists or musicians so we had a lot in common a really great vibe on set.
There is a sort of visual compartmentalization in the narrative of these stories, both in the selective lighting, and the different layers of action and rooms within the Puma letters. What benefits do you think this approach lends to a film?
Puma as a brand doesn’t take itself so seriously, they treat sports like play rather than competition. So aside from being visually interesting, I wanted this piece to work the same way that you actually remember a good time. Usually you just remember a meaningful fragment of what happened and usually it’s mentally stylized to the point that what actually happened is almost unrecognizable. A lot of the time it’s that fragment we remember that keeps us going back for more. Each compartment is meant to feel like one of those fragmented moments, but in case you aren’t really engaged or active in the sport then it’s at least nice looking and quick enough to keep you watching.
How long did this whole project take from concept to delivery?
Two-and-a-half months. Roughly one hour to draw the initial set. One month to build and design the interiors of the set. One 24-hour day to deliver and assemble everything at the studio. One day to pre-light. One day to dress and change the set for each film. One half day to shoot each of the four films. One month of post.
Did you script the films along with the music or was it decided later, in the editing stage? It really “narrates” the action of the films well quite well.
The music wasn’t decided until after the first day of shooting. I’m not sure where I heard the song originally, it was in my ‘please use this’ playlist and it was so perfect that it scared me, I couldn’t imagine any other song working. I just assumed it was from an ipod commercial or something big because it sounds so familiar. But it turned out to be a one-hit wonder from a little known 60’s band from the midwest called ‘The Shag’. I really love the way it starts out like some sort of DFA remix and when it hits it a surprise that it’s not electronic.
Who was responsible for the illustration and art direction?
All the illustration, artwork and art direction was from Justin Krietemeyer and Steve Harrington of National Forest with help from Andy Holder. They were initially hired by Puma as graphic designers to layout the catalog, but since most of the design of the catalog was going to be dependent upon the set design it was a great opportunity for us to work together. We have a lot of mutual friends, but we didn’t know each other until this job. We come from a similar background so it made communication honest and easy. If you go to a great Hollywood Union-type set designer they will be focused on giving you exactly what you ask for. A great graphic designer will ignore what you ask for and give you what you need. I made them a model of the set and a minimal sketch of each film’s action and they exceeded all of my expectations. They even dipped into some of their personal work. The process had continuous back and forth and I had to be very open minded to let the best idea win. In addition, I had a crew of set decorators as well, who were used to making perfect commercial kitchens. The crafty kid’s fort aesthetic really was something new and very taxing for them, so we all had to pitch in to get it done. Everyone ran pretty much around the clock designing, outputting, coming to set to art direct the photo shoot, then back to painting, cutting and gluing things for the next day.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you’re excited about?
Honestly, I’m excited about all the projects I get, big or small. I’ve wanted to be doing this for a long time, and I spent the last couple years begging people for work, so it’s a rush whenever a new project comes along all by itself. It kills me when a cool project comes along that I have to pass on because I’m in the middle of something else. Right now I’m working on a music video for the launch of ‘Lego Club TV’ and I’m up for another dream project that I can’t talk about, but hopefully it happens and I get to spend a few days shooting giant balloons out in the desert.
‘The Games We Play’
Director – Jared Eberhardt
Cast (In order of appearance) – Rikki Fowler, Sergio Cilli, Michael Hsiung, Jerod Partin, Kevin Lenhart, Tommy Cunningham, Erica Blasberg, Carrie Gross, Kyle Hindin, Josh Forbes, Eric Ledgin, Johanna Frisk, Max Aria, Fred Abramyan, Gayle Steffens, Nicole McDonald, Annet Mahendru, Joel Stubbs, Earl Moore, Ethen Jimenez, Addy Richley, Max Richley, Isaac Weber, Erin Kirstein, Alicia Amie, Tara Macken, Mark Schoenecker, (most of the crew ended up in there somewhere as well)
Produced By – Jared Eberhardt & Imari McDermott
Original music by – The Shag ‘Stop and Listen’
Art Direction – National Forest, Justin Kreitemeyer, Steven Harrington
Art Department – Sara Newey, Laurel Hitchin, Justin Trask, Christy MacCaffrey, David Lafond, Matt Carey, Jonathan Miertchin, Matt Carey, David Lafond, Sadaf Azimi, Vanessa Lam, Andy Holder
Construction – Company Inc Sets, Bill Horbury, Reno Spear, Patrick Spall, Miguel Burris, Paul Carr, Dayne Oshiro, Beth Goodnight, Jonny Hirsch, Christopher Pippen, Andy Holder
Wardrobe – Gena Tuso
Makeup – John McKay, Nathan Dwell
Hair – John Ruggiero, Sandra Jahannia
Choreography – Ginger Gonzaga
Assistant director – George Nessis
Second Assistant director – Sendeu Flippin
Gaffer – Chris Dale
Jib Operator – Lou Duskim, Mike Pusatere
AC – Jaxon Woods
Key Grip – Chris Hyde
Lighting Board – Diego Garcia