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Ads, hotels and old friends

February 27, 2013

Living out of a hotel room makes time stand still. After a week, the days really start to blend together. I establish a routine; my computer rests on the desk for emails; I sit on the couch to watch TV and Netflix. Over time a few random personal effects scatter throughout the room.

Upon entry, the room always looks the same, the bed magically remade as if a reset button has been pushed.

I’m working on a commercial in LA for two weeks and the production put me up at the Inn at Marina Del Rey. It’s a nice enough place—breakfast in the morning, pool, big room. I eat takeout and drink wine, bought across the street, out of plastic cups that you have to unwrap. It stains the bottom of them and each day they are replaced and usually unwrapped again.

I’m here cutting a commercial for a big tech company (who for now shall remain nameless) with Henry and Rel. It’s the first time we have worked together since “Catfish,” so it’s been a couple of years. We fall right back into the swing of things; it’s good to be working together again.

We are cutting out of a fancy post house on Abbot Kinney in Venice. It’s basically walking distance from my hotel, but I drive most days since the hours are long. The post house is a pretty sweet spot to work; the edit room makes mine in New York City feel like a closet. There’s an always-stocked fridge and meals show up like magic. If I worked at a place like this all the time I’d gain 50 pounds.

It hasn’t been that long since I’ve worked on a commercial, but the process always surprises me. It’s a totally different vibe than working on a documentary. Commercials are all about getting ideas approved. And the notes you get usually come from people who are not in the room. Not to say that there aren’t a lot of people in the room.

In addition to me, Henry, Rel and an assistant editor, there are three agency creatives that help mold the spot. They have funny ways of saying things. They never use words like “bad” or “I don’t like this,” but instead they say “push on this a little,” “jam on it,” and “that’s not working hard enough for us.”

The original idea—a “rip” they call the video mock ups that they do for the original pitch—had a voiceover in rhyme. This is the spot that Henry and Rel signed on to direct. It was a cute little Seussian kind of poem that had images cut to match. They call this technique see/say and it’s extremely satisfying. Basically, we were to take the rip and replace some clips, shoot some stuff, do some screen capture; simply, make it better.