Award-winning Company X Editor Barney Miller recently took the director's chair to helm a rollicking spot for New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players' (NYGASP) presentation of G&S Fest 2010, which includes the classic comic opera "Pirates of Penzance," as well as productions of favorites including "H.M.S. Pinafore," "The Mikado" and "Ruddigore." Shot at the landmark Old Town Bar & Restaurant, the spot features the opera's fictional singing pirates (played by actual cast members) in a choral duel with a group of modern-day bar flies. Created as part of a promotional campaign by Hofstetter+Partners/Agency212, the spot entitled "Pirates" began airing last December on networks throughout the tri-state area. The spots will continue airing in select US markets, as the repertory company embarks on a national tour following the 10-day G&S Fest 2010 in NYC, which takes place January 8-17, 2010.
"Pirates" opens with the rowdy bar flies raising their pints, singing, "Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here." Suddenly, a band of innocuous pirates appear, inciting a choral face-off as they interject the tune's original lyrics, which trace back to Sullivan's memorable Act II song "With Cat-Like Tread." The spot crescendos when the time-warped pirates silence their opponents with a roaring money note. With the entire bar in awe of the pirates' vocal prowess, the spot concludes in the merriment of the banter.
"Everybody knows Barney can cut film with the best of them, but now they're going to know him as a pretty apt shooter, too," remarks Creative Director Mike Rovner. "Not just anyone can make the funny happen, and Barney has a knack for seeing the lighter side of almost everything, including piracy and drunken disorderliness."
"The agency gave me everything I needed to make this thing work," comments Miller. "It was great collaborating with Mike Rovner again, whom I've known for years. has a great sense of humor and timing, which is so important in a spot like this. The agency producer Ed Kleban is also a longtime friend and simply great to work with, too."
Although Miller's background is primarily in editorial, he has directed a few spots and many music videos over the years (Your Vegas for Universal and Paul Brill for Scarlet Shame Records, to name just two).
"This was the biggest soup-to-nuts job I've directed to date," remarks Miller. "What I bring as an editor is the ability to visualize the edit ahead of time, which helps both creatively and logistically when we start to cut it."
Miller developed the agency boards around the spot's dueling tunes. To do so, Miller opted to create a scratch recording, splicing both songs to serve as a blueprint for directing the live action.
"The music, the spot's essence, was key to bringing the board to life," remarks Miller. "Plus, the nature of the spot made it a perfect vehicle for an editor/director with a music background like me," Miller adds.
Working closely with NYGASP Artistic Director Albert Bergeret, Miller chose song parts that worked with the agency's concept to bridge the lineage of the spot's tunes. The actors and the opera singers were then gathered for recording sessions at Sugarbox Studios. Here, Bergeret directed his opera cast in the studio, and gave guidance key to maintaining the integrity of the theatrical elements.
"The goal wasn't to parody, but to do a cute 'what if' scene: 'Pirates' characters in a contemporary setting, overhearing bar flies sing 'Hail, Hail.' By having the characters stay true to Sullivan's lines, we pulled off something both entertaining and educational."
When it came to post, Company X's Terence Ziegler created the spot's end-graphics. Ziegler utilized After Effects and Softimage XSI, while working closely with agency art director Jules Evenson to craft a unique diorama-like title treatment. Miller also tapped up-and-coming Company X editor Robert Mead to do the initial cut, bringing a fresh eye to the project.
Miller concludes: "Working within our budget, the spot has a truly high-end look and feel. That's a tribute to the great team behind me--from production & post to the entire cast."
The spot was produced through DETOX, the new live action/graphics arm of Company X.