|From Blogger Pictures|
Why was I awake? I turned my head so I could see the clock, and the answer came to me in the form of a dull, thumping pain that bled out from my eyes through the back of my head and down my neck. I closed my eyes, and the previous evening came back in a painful memory – the après-dive drinking (on an empty stomach) which continued through the mangrove swamps with some top-shelf whisky, passing out just after sunset, and waking sweaty in the night for a few bouts of zealous vomiting. I really meant to eat when we got back from the boat, but Dave’s couch was so comfortable…
Which explained why I was now awake, uncomfortable and achy, with no hope of a return to slumberland.
I’m the sort of person who tends to meet personal challenges head-on and thoughtlessly, especially when it's something that effects me physically. For instance, I have worked through demanding freelance gigs when I had raging flu, and nobody ever thought my performance was below par. (I was very careful to be hygienic, including wiping all camera gear off with alcohol after I used it) So I wasn’t going to let a hangover stop me.
It took a few moments to stand, unsteady, and stumble into the livingroom. Shafts of painful light shot like spears from the massive windows right through my retina. It took a few blinks before I could surge forward to grab a cool glass of iced tea from the fridge. It was a challenge, but it was accomplished. Baby steps, I thought, as my eyes finally started to focus correctly.
Two chilly glasses of iced tea later, I stumbled onto the sun-drenched porch. No clouds stood in the way of the clear morning light as it blasted the Florida scenery into sharp relief. But the wind was already whipping the mangerove branches into a chaotic dance, which meant no hitching a ride to the reefs today. Part of me was relieved; I could dive if I needed to, but feeling like the pit at a smash-up derby was not the best way to dive the morning.
I needed something to distract me, I thought as I returned to the kitchen for hydrating water. I bought a number of 2-gallon jugs of water to flush the housing with while on Captain Pete’s boat. He didn’t have a dunk tank, so I improvised. A few of these were left over and wound up in Dave’s fridge.
Pouring from it, I couldn’t help remembering the unfortunate mustard incident and the feeling I had let Pete down. I remembered there were three jars sitting in the cabinet courtesy the Captain for Dave, Oliver and me, and I noted to make a sandwich with some that afternoon. Maybe that would be my goal for the day…
A return to the porch had me multitasking. My eyes started feasting on the scenery. Dave’s backyard is roomy and sits on a canal, but nothing has been developed in the lot across the water from him. The result is a very private-feeling yard with a backdrop of 20-foot high wild mangroves reaching up from the other side of the canal. A few small bushes on Dave’s dock had a lighter shade of green.
All these deep, verdant shades were offset with the bright warmth from the coral rock spread across the back yard. Staring down from the porch, it felt very representative of the Florida Keys; the two conch shells marking the path to the dock only added to that feeling.
Through the haze of my hangover, I thought of a way to pay Captain Pete for his kindness, and maybe give him something back that was bigger than the one shot we were going to Dry Rocks to get. I saw a product shot in the back of my recharging mind – three jars of Captain Pete’s sitting on a pile of coral rock with blue skies and green mangrove trees making an out-of-focus background.
Okay, it was something to do with the day.
By 9, I had cleared off a utility table from Dave’s workroom and set the three jars into a beautiful product shot, framed on both sides with conch shells. I set up the tripod and framed the camera on the product, and was pretty pleased with the composition, but needed a hand to control a diffusion panel that needed to go right over the top of the entire platform. I had to wait for Ollie.
The hangover had begun to receed and my brain was on-line again.. You could hear the gears grinding if you listened closely enough. And back on the porch, the morning was silent save the occasional whistle of a wind gust through the leaves. I pulled the laptop off the impromptu desk in the guest room and sat back on the porch, looking down on my little assembly. I had an idea, and I started scribbling some thoughts down when I heard Ollie stir.
His first question was whether I felt better. The volume, in terms of loudness and quantity, if my ills the night before alarmed him. When he saw me up and tapping away on the keyboard, he realized the better of his question. I told him to clean up and I would tell him what the day would bring.
He joined me a few minutes later, and I took him downstairs to show him the setup and explain my plans. Since there was likely no diving that day, and no confirmed interviews for the afternoon, we were going to help Captain Pete market his mustard. I spelled out my concept, and asked Ollie if he would help do the print side of it – a master product shot and some ancillary graphics. He was in without so much as a second thought.
I called Pete and reached him on the boat. Keys Diver had him helming a boat of snorklers, but they were not far offshore thanks to the wind. He agreed to come over during his lunch break to see what we had come up with. That left two hours.
First order of business: product shots. Oliver and I went to the setup table with our cameras. For 10 minutes, we each shot the setup while the other controlled the diffusion frame. He shot the stills, I shot the HD.
The next hour has Ollie and me deeply immersed in a Photoshop session, tweaking the crap out of his excellent photography. Playing around with the concept of “sexy, hot mustard,” I had Ollie add the tag line “Starts Sweet, Ends Spicy” to the graphic after the photo was retouched to perfection. Voila! We had a sweet ad.
Pete came in just a few minutes after we wrapped up. His eyes grew wide when he saw the ad for the first time. It was all over his face – we had scored a huge hit. Pete gushed for a few minutes and then I pitched him the idea for a commercial, using double entendres to make his Banana Pepper Mustard the sexiest mustard ever. He loved the concept, so I told him to come back after his afternoon snorkeling trip.
Pete went back to work, and I jumped into scriptwriting. I was fully focused, and couldn’t be interrupted for anything unless it was for the documentary. I think I shushed Ollie off at one point as I wrote a script and refined it. Inside an hour, I had a funny, easy, yet engaging script that might actually sell some mighty tasty mustard! Or at least give it is own brand identity in a world of custom gourmet mustards.
I finished up the script and rejoined Ollie in the kitchen area. He was trying to composite elements from two photos with little success. I forget what he was trying to correct, but I just suggested we re-shoot it all. There was something in the video that I wanted to redo as well. Once again, we went downstairs and spent ten minutes in the brutal midday sun. Ollie applies the same effects again and in no time we had a finished, final version.
Pete came back in the afternoon and without a “mustard girl.” I wasn’t too thrilled with his shirt, so I had him throw on one of my nicer ones. The afternoon sun was streaming straight down Dave’s street, so I decided we would just shoot his solo dialogue immediately and wait until we had a girl to shoot the rest.
It only took Pete a few minutes to warm up to the camera. But once he felt at ease and sensed the fun, he began to let loose, filling the frame with so much personality I couldn’t help but smile behind the camera. I kept ramping him up, egging him on to be bigger and louder with each take – and he followed directions with a smile on his face the whole time. After burning 10 minutes of video, I ran back upstairs, loaded the p2 card into the laptop and started editing.
Ten minutes after that, I showed Pete a quick edit of his narration, which pretty much blew him away. I insisted we get a “mustard girl” and finish it that night – I was going to be working the following few days, so I wanted to do this and get it done and over with. We only had about 2 hours until we lost the sunlight, so Pete set off to find some girls he knew while I went over to Sundowners in search of a potential mustard girl. I had met a few of the waitstaff before, and two stick out in my mind –but neither really wanted to go on camera.
About this time, Dave came home from Boston. He and Pete were friends, and Dave is so good-natured and helpful in general that I wasn’t too concerned about explaining it to him. Sure enough, he was game to host the rest of the shoot. Pete and the “mustard girl” came with their entourage in tow.
Jessica, our mustard girl, was game for it after the concept was explained. Her only comment was a warning to me – I’d better make her look good and it had better not be done tastelessly. I promised on both counts.
I shot a scene with her and Pete first, then concentrated just on her part of the script in the waning light. I stopped filming when I lost exposure, and we did her voice overs. The material was so funny when you understood it in context that she kept laughing out loud at the words she was using.
Dave entertained the bunch while I backed up and imported the footage into FCP on my laptop. This was the first time I ever tried editing DVCProHD footage on the laptop off an external drive, and I found out it was easy to do in spite of the bandwidth requirements. I showed off a few of the outtakes after everything was done.
Pete, Jessica and her entourage took off to Sharkeys while I pressed on with the editing. It had become a bit of a mission – make a full spot in a day, conception to approved editorial. I spent an hour until I felt I had accomplished this goal to the minimum acceptable quality for same-day use.
Sharkey’s was pretty packed when I finally got there. Pete had tied quite a few on and was having quite a good time, so he was looking forward to seeing the edit. We stepped outside where it was quieter and I played the spot down. Even though he was drunk, Pete knew it was a winner and cheered the results.
Back in the bar I showed the video and some of the raw footage around for a few minutes, and everyone had a good laugh. I left and turned in early. After all, I had spent the day basically recovering from a killer hangover and was exhausted.
Truth be told, the film wasn’t really “finished” until my flight home a few days later. I had a full battery on my laptop and two hours in-flight with nothing to do, so my plan was to finish all the fine-tuning on the editorial, and shoot a finished version to Pete when I got in to work.
And I did.
Here’s the commercial:
The mustard itself is pretty damn unique. Be warned, this stuff is only for people who like hot stuff ad enjoy experiencing those overtones that heat brings out in food. It’s a combination of mustard, banana peppers and other spices. The banana pepper is known for its sweet flavor, so the first thing you notice when you taste the mustard is this light sweetness that develops into a wonderfully delicious heat that amps up the flavor on just about anything. The website can be found here. I’m also developing a series of recipes for this mustard – from sauces to marinades to entrée’s, so stay tuned to see some of my culinary skills in action.
I plan on traveling to Florida at least one more time this year… And I expect that when I am down, Pete and I will continue this escapade and thro together a few more spicy commercials for Catain Pete’s Banana Pepper Mustard. The sweet heat for your meat!
Traveling to Florida? AGAIN?
Sounds like a perfect segue to the next chapter…