Friday, June 19, 2015

Doritos Crash The Superbowl Competition Entry

This was the first ever film project I  produced with the super talented Joshua Wong of The Laundromatte. We'd talked about producing and directing some quality story driven content together for years. Separately I'd managed his band Noughts and Exes (arguably the most famous Indie Band in Hong Kong) for some time and worked with him on the popular musical flashmob video we did for their song Hearts as well as lending some small support for their previous award winning music video The Start Of Us , but now it was finally time to do something with a narrative behind it.

Film Director Joshua Wong
Joshua Wong
You may be aware that every year Doritos hosts a competition called "Crash The Superbowl" where they invite film-makers from all over the world to submit their idea for a 30 second commercial for Doritos. The winner would be featured as their actual commercial at The Superbowl - the most watched event on television - and would also receive a cash prize of US$1 million. This certainly all sounded very appealing, however the main reason we selected this competition as the first time to work together on a film-type project was because there was a finite timeline! And it was soon! This would mean that there was no way we could put off taking action again for months or even years and instead we'd be forced to come up with an idea, pull together the actors locations and props, shoot it, edit it and submit it in a total time period of about 10 days!

Right off we go...

First thing was the concept. Josh came up with a fantastic idea within no time flat (that is his specialty, along with directing, editing and composing music), I loved it so it was a go. Next we needed a crew. Enter the supremely skilled Derrick Fong:

Cinematographer Derrick Fong
He has shot everything from New York Indie Films, to Japanese TV Shows to Bollywood Blockbusters, so was clearly the man for the job!

Then we needed our actors. As it was an action piece, I contacted my good friend Harry Oram who in addition to his own very strong acting background (Transformers 4, Dragonblade alongside Jackie Chan, John Cusack & Adrian Brody) also happens to be connected to a crew of top quality action actors that he works with regularly. He quickly came on board and brought with him Temur Mamisashvili, Philippe Joly and our lead actor Tom Caserto.

Action kung fu stunt men actors
Philippe, Harry & Temur 
Action stunt man actor kung fu expert
Tom Caserto
Lastly we just needed our heroine in distress, which was filled by the beautiful and talented Katey Daniel who has danced, sung and acted her way across two of the world's biggest continents. 

katy daniel model actress
Kate Daniel
The stage was all set and now I had the basic pieces in place, it was time to figure out location and shoot times. Because of everybody's busy timetables and the fast approaching deadline we had to settle for a single overnight shoot, with all of us heading straight to work the morning after. Location-wise we picked the back streets of Kwun Tong, partly for their enclosed, threatening, industrial feel and partly because no one is ever there late at night, so less chance of our production getting shot down.

With everything locked into place we headed to the location a couple of evenings later to both plan and rehearse all the complicated stunt moves. Then once we had them down, there was nothing left to do but shoot, so the next day that's exactly what we did. From 9pm we set-up and shot a series of wild action scenes in the back streets of Kwun Tong with minimal preparation and even less precautions. Our team kicked, flipped, punched and flew around, running up walls, bounding over obstacles and destroying the special props we'd prepared for them to smash to pieces. By 5am we were done. Breakfast and off to work. A tough, but incredibly rewarding night.

film crew of Doritos a snack worth saving
The Whole Crew
From there it went into Josh's hands for editing and for a solid week he edited like a madman, whilst his cousin worked on sound and foley. As the deadline approached we were ready and up it went.

The initial response from the public was good and we were hopeful. Sure enough when it got to the 1st round of judging we made it through. Into the 2nd round now, exciting times! We waited and watched to see what would happen next. Competition was fierce and our vote rating went up and down agains the remaining competitors. Then we received a mail... We were through to the semi-finals! We had officially become the only entry from Asia to make it through to the semi-finals and were now considered one of the top 20 submissions in the world out of thousands of entries from all over the world.

Sadly we did not make it to the final 5 and that was as far as we got. Nevertheless, we were extremely happy with the result and we even got a small cash prize, which covered the costs of producing it. We'd come out the other end a bit more experienced, we had produced our first action piece, it had done extremely well on an international level and we'd made new friends and had loads of fun doing it.

Doritos Crash The SuperBowl Advert CompetitionDoritos Crash The SuperBowl Advert Competition

Doritos Crash The SuperBowl Advert CompetitionDoritos Crash The SuperBowl Advert Competition

Doritos Crash The SuperBowl Advert Competition
Doritos Crash The SuperBowl Advert CompetitionDoritos Crash The SuperBowl Advert Competition comic book hero
Doritos Crash The SuperBowl Advert Competition comic book heroDoritos Crash The SuperBowl Advert Competition Kate Daniel

If you've read this far and didn't watch the clip, scroll back to the top to see what it was all about. Hope you enjoyed it and keep reading to see a bunch of other exciting projects we worked on after this one. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Working with PizzaExpress to Create an Oustanding Art Piece for Clockenflap!

Clockenflap is Hong Kong's biggest music festival and every year brings out some really incredible acts from all over the world, which have included Chvrches, Mogwai, De La Soul, The Flaming Lips, Franz Ferdinand, Kool & The Gang, Travis and many others. 

Hong Kong Music Festival Clockenflap 2014 MogwaiHong Kong Music Festival Clockenflap 2014 featuring Chvrches

The Flaming Lips China Music Festival 2014 Clockenflap Hong Kong Music Festival 2014 Clockenflap featuring Mogwai

Of course people at gigantic non-stop 3 day music festivals need to eat, which is where PizzaExpress comes in, as they've been working together with Clockenflap since they're earliest days years ago. Now as a serious lover of music, art and food and having worked in all three of those industries, you can imagine how happy I was when I got a call from my old buddies at PizzaExpress telling me that they wanted to bring an art element to their booth this year and could I select a fantastic artist for them, help them commission the piece and install it.

PizzaExpress Hong Kong

Well I had no problem at all selecting the artist for them, as it just so happened that one of my good friends happens to be one of the most awesome artists in Hong Kong. His name is Peter Yuill and in addition to his incredible paintings, he has been creating fantastic graffiti art & street art since he was a teenager, enjoys a good whiskey and sports an impressive and sophisticated moustache. For all of these reasons I had been dying to work with him on a project for ages, but especially because of the moustache.
Canadian born Hong Kong Artist and Street Artist Peter Yuill

Peter has hosted several successful exhibitions in Hong Kong and I've selected a few examples from two of my favourites below. The first one called "Central Project" focuses on traditional HK buildings and streets around Central area, whilst the second one titled "Fading Glory" showcases impressive vehicles from the near past, such as Zeppelins, Steam Trains and Battleships. One of the things I love most about the Fading Glory exhibition is that each of the paintings actually contains incredibly detailed traditional HK Cityscapes subtly painted into the larger artwork, in some cases almost hidden if you do not look closely. I have included a zoomed in example below so you can see better what I am referring to. Hope you enjoy the artwork: 
Central Project Hong Kong Artist Peter YuillCentral Project Hong Kong Artist Peter Yuill

Zeppelin Painted by Peter Yuill Artist from CanadaCanadian born HK Artist Peter Yuill holds Fading Glory Exhibition

Destroyer painted by Hong Kong Artist Peter Yuill for Fading Glory Exhibition

So back to the project at hand! I talked to Peter and he was definitely up for it. We decided the best way to go would be to buy an enormous piece of wood and paint directly onto that. In that way we would be able to produce a huge piece of art and at the same time create something solid and robust that could stand up to the elements at the open air seafront booth.

With that decided and with Peter already having a great idea in mind he put the brush to work right away. A short time after he had the first part done:

Canadian born Hong Kong Artist Peter Yuill Painting for Clockenlap and PizzaExpress

Then after a brief stint of working a few days without sleep, the maestro had completed the full picture. As you can see below it is an integration of PizzaExpress into a very typical HK inner-city environment, in this case one of the oldest and most famous housing estates. 

I absolutely love the level of detail and commitment to all the tiny iconic elements that make this a truly unique Hong Kong scene. Click on the pic to blow it up large and examine all the precisely re-produced street signs, illegal rooftop structures, illegal electric cabling and other items that you will never see in other parts of the developed world:  

PizzExpress HK featuring artist Peter Yuill at Clockenflap 2014

Once it was all done we just had to transport it over to the Clockenflap and install it in the PizzaExpress booth. I think you'll agree that it looked pretty magnificent hung up in the open air booth with the Hong Kong skyline behind it. 

HK Artist Peter Yuill Painting for Clockenflap and PizzaExpressPeter Yuill painting for PizzaExpress at Clockenflap 2012
PizzaExpress at Clockenflap 2012

A job well done I would say and a big thank you to PizzaExpress for making it happen and most importantly to Peter Yuill for his incredible work! 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sandy Lam 林憶蓮 - Working on the Album Re:Workz!

Sandy Lam 林憶蓮 working with Kelvin Avon (Afreex) & Jun Kung 恭碩良 of MoFo Music on Re:Workz at Hins Cheung King Hin 張敬軒 studio

I am really proud to have been able to work on this project!

Spencer Douglass credit as Project Manager on Sandy Lam 林憶蓮 album Re:Workz
My Credit in Sandy Lam's (林憶蓮) Album Re:Workz
Spencer Douglass and Sandy Lam 林憶蓮

I have to say that of all the incredible music projects I've worked on over the years, this has to be both my favourite and one that I feel really lucky to have been involved in. This is the kind of project you seldom hear about in modern times, where creativity is truly king, where amazingly talented musicians have the freedom to let their magic flow and where the producers have both an incredible master-plan and yet also enough vision to let the music carry them in the moment. 

Sandy Lam 林憶蓮 with MoFo Music, Kelvin Avon & Jun Kung 恭碩良 on Re:Workz recorded at Hins Cheung 張敬軒 studio

Sandy Lam 林憶蓮 with MoFo Music, Kelvin Avon & Jun Kung 恭碩良 on Re:Workz

Sandy Lam 林憶蓮  with MoFo Music, Kelvin Avon & Jun Kung 恭碩良 on Re:Workz

Sandy Lam 林憶蓮  with MoFo Music, Kelvin Avon & Jun Kung 恭碩良 on Re:Workz

Jun Kung at Hins Cheung studio

Kelvin Avon (Afreex) recording at a large SSL desk

Tightening the drums

Kelvin Avon and Jun Kung doing their Spanish dance routine

The Task

The brief for the project was extremely challenging: take a selection of Sandy Lam's (林憶蓮) most iconic hits from the last 20 years and re-work them for a 2013 release. Obviously creating completely new arrangements and production for some of Hong Kong's most famous and best known songs was a major challenge, which had to be matched with an extremely high level of performance from the musicians and of course Sandy's beautiful vocals. Expectations were incredibly high and the result the producers wanted was to have something that was both relevant to the current music trends, whilst also respecting the incredible source material. I'm very pleased to say that the team was more than up to the task and the album has been recognised by both critics and the public, winning a huge number of awards last year. 

The Team

Kelvin Avon - Producer Extraordinaire

Kelvin Avon (Afreex) recording on a massive SSL desk

Kelvin Avon of MoFo music laughing

Kelvin Avon (Afreex) of MoFo Music laughing

Jun Kung 恭碩良 - The Quintessential Musician / Songwriter / Producer / Drummer

Jun Kung 恭碩良 recording

Legendary drummer Jun Kung 恭碩良 recording for Sandy Lam's album

Jesreal Lucero - The Unbelievably Talented and Blind from Birth Pianist

Blind pianist Jesreal Lucero recording on a 9' Steinway grand

Blind pianist Jesreal Lucero recording on a 9' Steinway grand

Blind pianist Jesreal Lucero recording on a 9' Steinway grand

Derrick Sepnio - Creative Guitar Genius

Derrick Sepnio playing guitar

Derrick Sepnio and Scott Dodd working their magic

Scott Dodd - Master of Electric & Upright Bass

Bass player Scott Dodd deep in thought

Scott Dodd playing the double bass

Scott Dodd playing the upright bass

Yuki Leung - My Partner in Crime

Yuki Leung and Spencer Douglass working on Sandy Lam's 林憶蓮 album

And of course the awesomely talented Sandy Lam 林憶蓮 herself

Sandy Lam 林憶蓮 recording

Sandy Lam 林憶蓮 recording

Sandy Lam 林憶蓮 recording

At the end of this great experience, the best news of all is that the album came out even better than what we had been aiming for. It has a unique intimate feel when you listen to it, as if you are right there in that room with the musicians. And the vibe is undeniable as the musicians frequently take us away on wonderful little side journeys, before rejoining Sandy's beautiful vocals again.

For a taste of what was produced check out the first video from the album:


Hope you enjoyed it! 

Sandy Lam 林憶蓮 2013