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By antiform

On 02, Aug 2017 | In | By antiform

Work in process

One of the hardest things in the world is getting feedback, right? Having your idea/grand vision scrutinized, torn apart and finally burnt to stumps is the toughest – and also most common thing to happen to you in the creative industry. Here’s the tale of the one time I let go – and tried to stay afloat as I went with the flow.

This actually yet another promo for radio content. Which is usually my favorite, as mentioned earlier. The case this time around was that the content was sport events – namely Tour de France, WC Athletics, and EUFA Womens football. Big, headlining events that are usually assosciated with TV-broadcasts.

NRK was not airing these on TV – we only had rights for radio, while our competitors were doing the TV broadcasts. So rights to images were a problem, and also making sure – without a doubt – that the conveyed message would be “listen to this on radio”. But how do you communicate sports and and namedrop norwegian athletes without showing any real footage?

I wrote three pitches, which all involved a whole lot more “production hell” (phrase of the week as of 02.08.17) than I was eager to get my self into. Summer was closing in as well, so scaling the ambitions to something realistic was also important. I wasn’t too eager go out and produce any of the pitches to be honest, as I didn’t feel any of them a 100%. But I decided to pitch with an open mind, and let the feedback influence the eventual next draft.

The one draft that got the most positive feedback featured a dude at the barbeque, forgetting his steak while listening to a climaxing radio broadcast. Around him kids, pets and robomowers where running amok, causing all kinds of mayhem. There are a couple of things you should avoid when shooting a promo on a thight schedule, among them ABC – animals, boats and children. I remember thinking I should include a boat on a hanger parked in the street somewhere in the background just to complete the list.

Anyway, feedback from the client was that they liked the dude listening to radio, and that was pretty much it. To add to that, he should be in a hammock – and smiling. Throughout.

So that’s how the pitch ended, with the client feeling satisfied with which direction things where heading, and me being left with a script consisting of a smiling schmuck in a hammock. Tough day at the office.

But at least I (still) had the good grace of the client, and hadn’t (yet) written myself into something I couldn’t pull off. Meanwhile, one thing everyone was agreeing upon was that the audio side of the promo would have to consist of archived radio broadcasts from earlier sporting events. NRK’s commentators are as good as they come at delivering athmosphere and excitement in the audio medium, so I had a handful of excellent clips from earlier events that I edited together. With supporting music I cut together an escalating, commentator driven soundtrack which I got approved. The clips came from all over the place, Tour de France, football matches from four years back and the likes, but they all built on eachother, going from soft spoken to full excitement as goals where scored and finish lines crossed riding bicycles.

But a dude in a hammock listening to excited commentators isn’t really a complete promo for television, is it? I had noticed that people liked parts of the mayhem caused by the kids in the original pitch, so while this whole article is about letting go of your grand idea, recycling and re-pitching elements of that initial pitch is playing by the rules, I think.

I rewrote the childrens mischiefs to be more sports-associated, and took a chance on removing the hammock from the dude. Instead, he was gonna be the “should-have-been-paying-attention-but-got-lost-in-sports” dad we all know – and love. So while kids where making football courts with wet paint in the backyard and using the china as discos, dad would be in complete oblivion. I went back to the client feeling pretty nervous from not following orders, but nonetheless holdning a new pitch in hand. Having already approved the soundtrack, they got how the rewritten story would work in conjuntion with excited commentators on the soundtrack.

Even after having gotten approval, I wasn’t over the moon as I wasn’t 100% sure of how to end it all storywise. It was also a fairly complex script with lots of things and actors involved, most of them unruly kids. I showed the rewritten pitch to a colleague and she suggested a happier ending, with dad joining in as a footballer at the end. I added that to the already 20-something long shotlist, under the section called “if we in the unlikely event have some spare time, let’s shoot these”.

I’m a graphic designer by education, and an introvert computer nerd by way of being. Going on set to direct 10 kids and a main actor whose merit list includes “Coyote Ugly” is on a different continent than my comfort zone. But I decided again to – in the words of Jordan Brady – respect the process, trust the script and not the least, trust my excellent DOP Tor Scheide.

Come day of shoot, the kids were excellent, the guy hired to keep them in line was on point, and my assistant director was lovingly bossing actors and crew around. Tor Scheide suggested excellent alternatives to my pre-decided shotlist.

Just in time before we were letting the kids go (as we finished all shots including them at the beginning of the day) I decided to shoot the bonus shots, where grumpy dad becomes involved dad. The moment I saw Callum Walker’s interpretation of the script, I realized we where on to something. His timing was just impeccable, going from intimidating dad to goofball in the blink of an eye.

So with the complete shotlist checked of, everyone went home pretty much on schedule. The very next day I edited together a first draft and sent it off to the client. The responce was extatic. Even the loudest critic of the entire project was applauding and the feeling of relief on my side can not be described.

Only a couple of details from that inital edit was changed, and the promo aired a week after shoot, and could be seen on NRKs channels throughout July 2017. Truly one of my career highs.

Here’s the finished version:

Written and directed by Pål Gustav Widerberg

Script consultant: Anniken Theodorsen

Assistant director: Ane Jorunn Terum
Director of photography: Tor Egil Scheide
Production manager Christopher Homan and Sandra Halleraker
Sound mastering: Marius Hansen
Grading by Bjørn Even Skogsfjord
Main actor: Callum Walker

Shot on Arri Alexa with FreeFly Movi gimbal
Edited on Premiere Pro
Sky replacements done in After Effects
Graded in DaVinci