BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS

DENZEL WASHINGTON

Director: Lorenzo Fonda
Client: Boys and Girls Clubs of America
Agency: McCann Eriksonn San Francisco
Creative Director: Gerald Lewis
Agency executive producer: Vince Genovese
Writer: Lorenzo Fonda
Production company: Paydirt Pictures
Executive producers: Jonathon Ker, Jeremy Barrett
Producer: Ari Weiner
Illustrator: Luca Zamoc
Production design: Tom Talmon Studio
Stop motion animation: Lorenzo Fonda
Compositing and animation: Make Inc Vfx, Method Studios
Music & sound design: Daniele Carmosino
Director of Photography: Michael Pescasio
Editing: Lost Planet
Final online: Union Editorial
Grading: Local Hero

————–

If this is not a project that can be deemed as a labor of love, I don’t know what else could be. The Boys and Girls Clubs are places here in America where volunteers help kids do recreational activities, so they can stay away from hanging in the streets avoiding whatever bad situations that can bring, or just not being alone at home while their parents do double jobs to make a living for the whole family. Lots of famous people working now in the arts, politics and education spent their youths in these clubs, and they couldn’t be the persons they are now without them. When the agency came to us asking for a treatment with an almost non-existant budget, the situation required some smart decisions from my part.. so I thought it could have been funny to create a 3 minutes short film for each testimonial, which if you do the math is like making six commercials for each person. Add the animation and post production and everything, and what you get is one year and a half in the making of two spots. Now, did I say smart decisions? Of course it was a great ride, where I learned so much, all of which couldn’t have happened (this time more than the others) without the generous help of all the people who worked either for free or for very, very little money.

Make sure you visit the BGCA website and make a small donation if you like. I have visited a few of these places and you can’t help feeling that if there’s one thing that could make this world better, that’s volunteering for places like these.

PRODUCTION NOTES

As usual I start with a nice little storyboard.

Illustrator extraordinaire Luca Zamoc prepared some sketches of the drawings that eventually would end up on the balloons.

We scouted our location and I shot some footage that was, for what the technical equipment would allow me, vaguely close to what the final shots were going to be. Then I made an animatic that incorporated the storyboard, so we could have a bit of a timing idea too.

This is a test of the different ways we were exploring to make the three grow. Production designer genius Tom Talmon suggested to try using some kind of acid to dissolve the polysterene, but it was too random. So we settle for skimming the tree with a carving tool.

We shot using a techno crane, which was donated for free by the equipment rental company because this, remember, was a PSA. I never used a techno crane before, didn’t even see one in action from afar, and since this was my first shoot in the United States, I felt it was quite good omen for future things to come. Oh, and yes, I wore the same t-shirt for at least three different shoots over the years, and the reason it’s because not only I love that movie, but I feel that shirt brings me luck.

Carried away but the excitement of also being filming for the first time with a 35mm camera I asked the DP to shoot me doing a couple tricks on a skateboard. And no, that bum walking into frame wasn’t planned.

Just after the live action plates shoot we moved to a different location and for a couple days we shot the stop motion scenes of the tree growing. I have no memory of who that guy was.

And from this point on the project stalled into a post production limbo that lasted at least one year, because everyone realized I had been overly ambitious and the workload to be done was massive. We moved from vfx studio to the other, each one would do one bit and then give up. Until the project ended up in the hands of Rusty Ippolito and Valerie Delahaye, a husband-wife production duo who create visual effects for movies and commercials. They took a liking into the project and donated an incredible amount of time to it, until after a few months it was completed. I will forever be grateful to them, and if you’re a filmmaker working in LA or elsewhere, make sure to consider using them for your work: they’re awesome.