In the can - Travelodge
Just finished up a two TVC campaign for Travelodge and Berlin Cameron United. The spots are live action comedy and all I can say is one is about a man and one is about a woman. They’ll be hitting benweinstein.tv in a few weeks.
On Air - Lays Strong for European TV
Since I had a fire breathing goat on my reel, I was a shoe-in for this Lays hot and spicy potato chip TVC for BBDO Kiev. The job required someone comforetable shooting live action comedy and practical fire effects. Ironically I was there during the coldest week in 80 years. I think I was the only person in Kiev that was happy to be there.
In the six years I’ve been shooting in Kiev, theres been a noticeable increase in confident 20 somethings who can really act. I guess the new generation are connected to the globe through the internets and of course Kiev has become a production hub for TV, commercials and film. Whatever the reason, it made casting this job a pleasure.
During prep we tested many flammables and fire throwing guns. I kept asking for bigger plume. Longer throw. Finally they showed up on the set with this army-grade flame thrower. It was serious. In the foreground is Dennis Sohn, the best AD in Kiev.
GA Lottery: “Interception”
Agency: BBDO Atlanta, creative director Kyle Lewis, produced by Tomorrow Pictures, director of photography Mateo Londono
Ah, Lottery spots. To the Ad industry they’relike that kid that gets chosen last in kickball and given a wedgie on the schoolbus home. But say what you will, lottery spots offer ambitious creative and are a ton of fun. And working with the state run Lottery commission is fascinating. For instance the GA Lottery funds the Hope Scholarship, basically a free ride for any student that can maintain a 3.0 in high school. In fact I’ve met several Georgians that have benefitted from the Hope scholarship.
Another interesting fact the lottery loves to mention is that an increase in lottery sales means a drop in alcohol sales. So say you live in Georgia and you stop at a 7Eleven for an 18 pack of Genesee for you and your dad to drink while you watch the Falcons. But today you might grab a 12’er instead, so you have something left over for a few lottery tickets, or “game pieces” to use industry speak. It’s a kinder, more secretive way for the government to help reduce drinking, statewide. Sort of like introducing a natural enemy into an ecosystem to wipe out a pesky beetle that’s taken over.
In life, the end result is what matters and if people drink a little less to support their gambling habit, its probably a good thing. And hey, you never know. Today could be the day.
Return from round the world trip! Kiev>Moscow>Beirut>Bangkok>Los Angeles>NYC
Sebastopol, Ukraine. A fascinating town on the Black Sea
Seven Sisters, Moscow
Getting a realistic bear suit to Lebanon was no small task. There are only a few decent ones available worldwide, each is custom made with many differences in quality and build. The most realistic suit in my opinion was made by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, Los Angeles. Because it is made of real bear pelt it requires official documents to travel internationally. It also is custom fit for one stunt guy who lives in the UK and the suit travels in two 100 Kilo steel cases with no less than two wranglers and a separate puppeteer from Henson’s creature shop. All of these requirements made the Henson bear difficult to acquire on our schedule. Luckily Animal Makers in Los Angeles has a great synthetic bear suit that travels in two lightweight cases. My costumer Kimi was able to bring the bear on the flight with her from L.A. Jim Boulden at Animal Makers said, “Unless a they’re worried about a terrorist with a very silly sense of humor, you should be fine.”
We held a local audition and found a great mime to play the bear. I had Kimi, the costumer assist with additional pupeteering from behind the bear, twitching the ears and moving the torso a bit. The head is not animatronic, we would add some additional life to the face later, with 2D distortions and eye blinks. This is good because you get more takes, the suit and puppeteers do the heavy lifting of selling the effect, and the digital guys add detail later. I asked the mime to open his eyes wide for this shot because it reminded me of one of my favorite movie posters from one of my favorite films.
The most fun part of my job is finding a funny or believable performance from a living, breathing human being. But often I am asked to get an expressive performance from an inanimate object. On this PSA to fight dehydration for the Saudi market I was asked to make a sunflower to droop sadly on camera. After some testing I became an expert on this infinitesimal and nerdy sub-set of…timelapse cinematography… that of slowly and intentionally killing sunflowers. It requires heaters placed in the right positions and turned off at the right moment. Here’s are some images from our testing:
This kind of filmmaking is fun because its part science project, part filmmaking. In this example the flower drooped too quickly and the petals barely shriveled. Eventually I found that the best method is to put heat lamps near the petals for about 8 minutes (these dry out and curl up the petals) then put heating elements below the plant (these dry the stem and cause it to droop) When you turn off the heat lamps, the flower continues to droop for about 5 more minutes. The whole thing takes about 15 minutes. Then we can remove any offending frames and speed it up to any desirable speed in post. The delicate nuance with which the petals wither is beyond any detail you could get with a CG artist and a simulation. And its not as much fun as figuring out an in-camera technique.
Puppeteering a withered sunflower
Georges brought me delicious Lebanese breakfast each morning
Beirut Lebanon on a rainy day
Location recce, Pattaya
Chinatown, Bangkok. The crews in Thailand are a dream. They work hard, never complain, and you get 40 workers instead of 12. If you have a lot of setups, you can work through lunch. In comparison, Western crews are a bunch of dilettantes, insisting on an hour for lunch like it’s a breezy sunday afternoon. Shooting in Bangkok rocks.
Who in this picture needs suntan lotion? DoP Matthew Woolf goofing with the Thai AD.
Collaboration with legendary Vito Acconci
I got a call from Acconci Studio a couple of weeks ago and ended up directing an experimental film for one of Vito Acconci’s latest projects. The film is now hanging in the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in this show. Working with the 70 year old visionary was unforgettable. Known for his poetry, performance art and architectural spaces, this latest piece is an origami inspired fashion piece/umbrella. Pictured is a still from the film, which was shot, edited and projected in a vertical (portrait) orientation. The film was made in DUMBO, near Acconci’s studio.
Officially signed with United Talent Agency this week! Jason Burns, Allan Halderman and Emerson Davis are my dream team of agents representing me for Film and Television. Thanks UTA!
It’s been two days since I landed in Beirut, Lebanon for a new project with The Talkies/ Publicis Dubai. Beirut is a production hub for the Middle East, there are over 200 production companies, that means there are a lot of cameras, lights, stages and and an established acting community.
Yesterday we scouted kitchens in modern homes in the Feytroon Mountains, just north of Beirut. One house had a nice overlook where I got this panorama. Pictured here is my assistant director Toufic, in the background, and Michel, producer. The Lebanese have been hospitable, fun, witty people.
Beirut has amazing crumbling architecture that is both beautiful and a little bit sad.