Light The Siff Up, Sir Ian, Light It Up.
It was a dark and stormy night when WongDoody gave us a call to create a promo trailer for the 40th annual Seattle International Film Festival. Excited by the prospect, we ended our seance with a quick chant, lit the eternal candle to Bowie, and returned to the studio eager to get started.
The idea was simple, create a trailer that celebrated both the wide range of films throughout the festival’s storied history, and the people who love them. Or, to put it another way, throw a massive fucking rager in SIFF’s iconic Egyptian Theatre bringing film characters and festival-goers together in a truly unique celebration of cinema.
ONLY EDIT BETWEEN THE BRACKETS
We knew from the get-go that this couldn’t be your normal film festival affair.
No, this had to be a night that ends with the neighbors calling the police. A party where everyone gets so drunk off popcorn they can’t remember where they left their car keys. Even the police. We needed the epic throw-down of epic throw-downs, a party where breakdancers, male strippers and godzilla rage into the wee hours in perfect harmony. A party so bitchin’ it’ll melt the face off that dude in Raiders of the Lost Ark. And penguins. We need penguins.
But before we took a swan dive off the deep end of our cinematic dreams, a party, such as the one we would soon be throwing, needed a proper invite. To maintain a cohesive campaign, we worked with WongDoody and SIFF to design their poster for this year’s festival, as well as a toolkit of assets that would be used across all print and digital materials.
Silver mylar balloon type accents iconic imagery from various films all set against a frozen spray of champagne, a not-so-subtle hint at what’s to come.
Live Action Party? We’ve Got You Covered.
With the invite solidified in proper blue and magenta gold, we came to the time of shooting the party. We turned the Egyptian into an equally blue and magenta saturated party, complete with a lights rigged to a DMX control board, mylar balloons (also fancy), and a Movi strapped to the manly arms of our DP Joel Voelker. Throwing light over a crowded theater party is one thing, but the real coordination was making 100 extras feel like a crowd. With every shot we shuffled people around, smartly using the geometry of the theater to frame the party. Turns out, theaters have a hell of a lot of seats to fill. Who knew?
In our homage to the movie Carrie (the original dammit), we threw a dude named Brian (good name) into a prom dress and had him light the party on fire with a golden glitter bomb. Seemed to be the right move, no matter how hard the timing was to get right. Brian took our abuse like a champ, rocking that dress the entire day. We heard him refer to it as “comfy” once during the lunch break, a sentiment not many would share. To this day we’re enamored at how long he held character as we were fiddling with that glitter bomb.
Next Step: The Entertainment.
Spending the better part of a day in a theater pumping with atmospheric smoke and blue and magenta lights can make a grown man lose track of reality real quick. Least bit of all is listening to the same track over the course of minute long takes. It’s a damned good thing that track was amazing. We reached out to Seattle based EDM group Super Square about producing a unique track for this year’s festival and they jumped at the chance, delivering a pretty friggin’ rad song aptly titled “Light The SIFF Up”.
We’ve heard this song literally 150,000 times and we still love it. So yeah, they rule. Super Square was also kind enough to lend their crowd pumping abilities to our shoot, and cameo as the DJ’s in the trailer. Soon after we started rolling they had the crowd going hard, chanting “ham-ster!”. Chris and Brien are still trying to figure out what the hell that means, but it worked.
Heather, Meet Leonard
From the moment we saw the brief we knew the biggest challenge was going to developing a story that consisted of equal parts “real world” and past SIFF films, in a way that felt unified and cohesive. The library of SIFF films we had to choose from was massive. I mean this festival has been going on for 40 years and has premiered movies that range from international independents to some little movie called The Empire Strikes Back. So narrowing down a list of nearly 6,000 films to a few scenes that would work in our :60 spot was easily the biggest challenge of the entire production.
We quickly settled on the idea of taking iconic scenes from past SIFF films and integrating them into our story both from a lighting and color standpoint, but also editorial. So instead of Austin Powers playing the cat and mouse game with Heather Graham, we inserted our guy Leonard, because who can resist Leonard? Not Heather, and certainly not us… we want Leonard to be around all the time. We might hire him just to sit in on our Monday morning meetings. Seth Rogan and Katherine Heigl from “Knocked Up” just can’t seem to get a bag of popcorn at the bar, while Kate cheers on the fellas from “The Full Monty”.
The films we chose show the true range of SIFF’s library, from “Beat Street” to “Half Nelson”, Spanish dance doc “Flamenco, Flamenco” to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (face melt for the win). All interwoven with our raucous party and quirky characters through our own movie magic.
And by “movie magic” we mean painstaking roto, CG light, and background replication. Every shot we pulled from iconic films was processed in the same, but unique way. Every film is different, and required a slightly different technique to blend it with the elements we shot. Some needed more work than others – this shot from Austin Powers for instance, required us to replace Heather Grahams face across a bakers dozen frames to get rid of the pre-existing light. A part of what makes this piece awesome, is how seamless the treatment is – something we consider an achievement considering how long we stared at these frames.
Closing Out The Party.
It was no easy task, but the results make us smile to this day.The fact that we snuck in so many hidden gems makes our grins widen. Does Godzilla have a giant sized tub of popcorn in his claws? He absolutely does. Is that a SIFF balloon being exploded behind that angry looking dude? Damned right it is. Everything from the projected light on the crowd to the elements flowing from the bottle of champagne in the print was considered and placed as an element for the film festival goer to dig into. And they dug. So much so we got a raving email about the backstory meaning of the word “Splif.” We adore that email. Film Festival fans are awesome, and it was a pleasure to do them right by giving them a thoughtful, albeit crazy trailer.