SLAIN BY SAVAGES

Until recently I was pretty sure the brilliant British punk band Savages was comprised of demigods or rock and roll witches or musically inclined elves or some other kick-ass mystical beings like that.  How else can you explain the supernatural power the group possesses?  Then I randomly met most of the ladies after their sold-out Webster Hall performance the other night.  And I’m shocked to report that they are indeed human! Or at least most of them are.

SavagesMarque

The show itself was a moment.  Any fool can see these ladies are on the brink of indie rock stardom.  The next time Savages play NYC, they’re in a venue twice the size of Webster Hall.  The flames of fame are dancing around Savages as we speak. And for good reason.  They reek of authenticity, explode with charisma and are quite simply the hottest new shit popping off right now.

My fellow music nerd Lydia and I walked into the club during their first or second song.  I was happy to see that Savages were wasting no time properly pummeling the audience with a dizzying cocktail of hate, lust, and general badassery.  The audience was brutally icy for the first half of the performance, but Savages simply wouldn’t be denied and soon enough my fellow hipper-than-thous began to lose an appropriate amount of their shit.

I mentioned the early tentativeness of the audience to the drummer, Fay, when I found her smoking outside the club just after the show. She replied, “You should see the London audiences!”

I guess the ladies are used to working for it.

Fay and I chatted about the tour and the album and their quickly rising status.  She was charmingly wide-eyed and giddy about it all. As a person who has documented similar stories before, I must admit that I love that verge-of-stardom-feeling.  Everything is so fresh, romantic and vitally important.

Fay was energized knowing that her band had eventually beaten the audience into submission.  She assured me, “We’re trying really really hard!”

Loving her earnestness I said, “It’s working lady.  Please keep it up!”

I whined about the fact that they didn’t do an encore.  She said, “That’s all the songs we know!”

Oh. Whine officially withdrawn.

They did indeed play some great material I had never heard before, including a song so new the lyrics had to be read out of a notebook.  And then there was their unreleased gem “Fuckers”.  It’s a sharp burner that involves a long instrumental passage featuring their brutally effective guitarist, Gemma.  She’s got a knack for playing guitar lines so devilish your eardrums might rupture if you listen too closely.  More on her in a minute.

While choking down her cigarette, Fay invited me to the unofficial after-party at a bar down the street.  Accepting that invitation was a no-brainer.

This is where I found Savages’ mesmerizing lead singer, Jehnny Beth, seemingly about to pay for her own drink.  I realize this is punk rock and everything but that offended me on a cosmic level.  Where’s their manager?  Record label?  Anyone but her to pay for this drink?  This woman just commanded the Webster Hall stage like she was Supreme Leader of The Solar System and now she’s having a hard time getting the attention of the bartender at a joint I can’t even remember the name of?  I had to intervene.

Jehnny

As I approached, I saw the bartender scold Jehnny for blocking the swinging-door-counter-access-point-thingie folks use to get behind the bar.  Shamefully, the bartender didn’t even take her order.  She just gave Jehnny grief and walked away.  I guess the flames of fame still need a little fanning.

I introduced myself and apologized on behalf of my adopted city for the rudeness.  Despite her delightfully manic stage presence Jehnny is very down to earth and completely friendly off stage.   I asked what I could get for her.  She told me she needed “tokens” for the Big Buck Hunter video game or was it the photo booth?  I don’t remember.  I figured her phrasing was a British or French thing and she meant to say “quarters”.  I shoved some money in the bartender’s hand and got back a fist full of quarters.  Jehnny patiently explained to me that she was, in fact, actually looking for tokens.  That’s all the machine would take.

Of course she knows exactly what she’s talking about.  I’m an idiot.  Tokens it is Ms. Beth.

I thanked her for the show, the album and congratulated her on the band’s success.  She modestly accepted the praise and said something to the effect that she suspected the buzz would die off eventually.  I politely disagreed.  If they keep shredding this much face it’s hard to imagine them falling away anytime soon.

Finally the owner of the bar stamped her wrist with a symbol that meant she’d be getting free everything.  I breathed easier knowing that order had been restored to the universe.  Jehnny kindly offered to wield her magical wrist stamp to sneak me free drinks later.   Good looking out.

Savages

Meeting the guitarist, Gemma, was a bit more awkward.  Please keep in mind I had no real business talking to any of these ladies.  I just felt strongly compelled to tell them all how much I enjoy their music.  Though their star is quickly rising, they’re at a place where unapologetic gushing might still mean something to them.

Gemma was just beyond Big Buck Hunter being chatted up by a small rocker dude in a straw hat. I encroached but neither of them broke their whisper like conversation long enough to notice me.   Then I realized the guy in the hat was Nick from Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  I considered backing off and not interrupting these two amazing musicians as they talked shop. But we all know I didn’t do that.  With little or no grace, I eventually just jumped in and thanked Gemma.  I turned to Nick and thanked him along similar lines.  They both politely smiled and thanked me back.  I quickly un-encroached.

I kept my eyes peeled for Savages’ impossibly essential bassist, Ayse Hassan.  She was nowhere to be found.

For those who don’t yet know, Ayse has a rhythmical gravitas that feels as elemental as Earth itself.  She’s perpetually delivering tectonic plates of rock and roll that shimmer with urgency while simultaneously having a gravity that could hold several medium sized moons in orbit.  If Thor played bass, he’d sound like her.

She never turned up, at least not while I was still there.  I like to imagine she was too busy saving the planet from a space dragon attack or literally welding The Gates Of Hell shut with lasers beams that shoot out of her barely opened eyes.  I’ll bet you 20 Big Buck Hunter tokens that’s what she was doing.  I guess we’ll never really know.

So I can now confirm that at least 3 of the Savages are in fact humans whose feet actually touch the ground when they walk.  Ayse, I’m still not sure about.  I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised to learn that these woman are not mystical beings considering what draws me to their music is how urgently human it sounds.  In an era still dominated by scientific sounding synths, digital burps, and coldly calculated clicks, the raw emotion of Savages music feels more valuable than ever.

To the impressive ladies of Savages themselves I say that it was an honor to meet you.  I can’t wait to see and hear whatever you do next.

More info/Connect

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*Here’s an appropriately gushy review of the show from the New York Post.  Thanks to Lydia for pointing it out: click here

*Marquee phone pic by me.  All other photos stolen (couldn’t find credits – apologies).

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The True Story Of How Slayer Didn’t Murder Me Or Devour My Corpse

It’s a scorching hot day in Southern California back in 2006.  I’m in the middle of directing “Heavy: The Story of Metal” for Vh1.  The single best part of this gig is meeting all the legends of the genre – Sabbath, Priest, Maiden, Anthrax, Quiet Riot, Yngwei, Ace Frehley, Slash, Lemmy, Dio, various hair metal dingbats, and of course one of the greatest bands to ever roam the planet Earth… Slipknot.  No wait.  Not Slipknot.  I meant to say MOTHER FUCKING SLAYER!!!!!!!!!

It’s set up that I’ll interview them in their rehearsal studio which is located in some god forsaken desert town roughly an hour outside of LA.  It’s bleak, almost lifeless out there.  I think to myself if Slayer is going to murder me and devour my corpse this would be a perfect location for it.  Eager to face my impending doom, I focus on finding their place.  I keep my eyes peeled for anything that looks like a dungeon or dragon’s cave or a fortress made out of human flesh or something to that effect.  I roll down my window to listen for the sounds of a million tortured souls screaming in agony but hear nothing.  Strange.

I pull up to the address I was given and find a run down single level industrial office space.  It looks like the generic type place you’d store medical records at or something.  I’m bewildered.  Where are the gigantic stone columns guarded by enormous demons?  Where is the roaring river of blood?  The stench of decaying bodies?

I need to set up my gear before the interview with the great Kerry King.   One of Slayer’s roadies, a heavyset young man, meets me to unlock the gate.  Maybe he is a demon?  I motion towards the building.

“A bit more modest than I was expecting.”  I say.

Potential Demon Roadie Dude just looks at me like I’m a moron,  “Dude.  It’s Slayer.”

I would slowly gain a better understanding what “it’s Slayer” meant throughout the day.  But for now, I’m just confused.

We enter the space.  It’s even less impressive on the inside.  There’s a small office with a desk covered in junk and a large open space where cubicles would generally be.   Thankfully there are no cubicles, just a few scattered rock and roll type things – amps, parts of a drum set, and a large white bed sheet spray painted with “Slayer” hanging on the back wall.  I find myself thinking that modern day Metallica wouldn’t even step foot in a place like this.

It is hot as hell in there.  Not gee-maybe-I’ll-take-my-jacket-off-type hot.  More like, is-someone-roasting-a-duck-in-here-no-that’s-the-smell-of-my-own-flesh-cooking type hot.  I swear.

I turn to Potential Demon and say, “Can you please turn on the air conditioning?”

Again, he looks at me like I’m the embodiment of idiocy, “Dude.  It’s Slayer.”

Apparently this was going to be the answer for all of my questions.

I say, “Are telling me that there is no AC?”

He says, “Dude.  It’s…”

“Slayer.  I know.”  I quip.

I am distraught.  Not just because I’m a wimp who loves few things more than a perfectly AC-ed room but because I am filming this interview.  I’m setting up lights and cameras – the room is only going to get hotter.  Kerry King is going to be a sweaty ball of grossness in my documentary.  It is going to look weird on TV.  People will be all like, “Did they just pull Kerry King out of a pot of boiling water and throw him in front of the camera?”

Potential Demon says, “We can leave the door open.”

“It’s just as hot out there!  How can they stand it?”  I whine.

He gives me that look and I know I’m only seconds away from hearing his now too familiar line so I just move on.

“Yes.  Please leave the door open.”  I say.

It takes about an hour to set up.  I’m traveling with a backdrop of curtains and props that allow me to build my interview look in any room larger than say 30’x30’.

Now I just have to wait for the arrival of one of the greatest metal musicians in the history of the genre – the spawn of Satan himself, Kerry King.  Any minute now the Earth would begin to rumble as his team of demonic stallions shatter the ground beneath them, pulling his Royal Evilness’ carriage made out of human bones behind them.  Laughing maniacally, he would be holding spears with freshly decapitated heads that dripped warm blood.  He’d be surrounded by no less than a dozen ghostly white women with impossibly enormous breasts and hair of actual flames.   All plant life for miles would shrivel up, die and catch fire.  Bird carcasses would plummet out of the sky.  I would really need to mind my p’s and q’s to avoid being instantly incinerated by the laser beams of hate that shot forth from his ruby red eyes.

Or he’d just roll up in a sedan and hop out with a Big Gulp in his hand.

“Hey dude.”  King says.

Hey dude indeed.

His tattooed head is shaved and he wears a black leather biker vest.   I mention that I’m worried about the temperature in the room.  He figures it’s not going to be a problem.  I have no other options so we proceed.

We each take our seats.  His is in the mini-set I’ve constructed and mine is behind the camera.  He is completely down to earth, smart, funny, candid and in many ways the interview is going really well.  One problem, it is literally sixty thousand zillion degrees in the room.  Literally.  I’m a disgusting mess.  It was as if someone was holding a garden hose that gushed sweat and filth directly over my head.   Cascades of yuck abound.  I’m wiping my face with a bath towel every 15 seconds trying to see through the sweat that singes my eyes.  I’m probably going to be blind after this.

King however, is dry as a bone.  Not a single bead of sweat is on his head and he is the one being pelted by TV lights!  I put my eyeball no further than two inches away from my monitor trying to find evidence of him sweating.  Nothing.  I think, “How is this possible?”  Then I remind myself, “Dude, it’s Slayer.”  I look over at Potential Demon and he just smiles knowingly.  Can he hear my thoughts?

The interview lasts about two hours.  I am near death by the end of it, having lost 25 pounds of water in the process.

I start packing up and notice Jeff Hanneman, founding member of Slayer and childhood friend of King, watching on (For those who may have missed it, Hammeman died of liver failure last week.  This is why I’m sharing this story now).  I approach him and start chatting him up.  He is very nice but remarkably shy.  I try to convince him to do an interview with me but the more I push the more he resists.  I soon realize that I have no chance of convincing him and give up.

After I have the gear back in my truck King and Hanneman invite me out for dinner.  That’s how fucking cool Slayer is in the real world, they invite shmucks like me out for dinner.  I hate to admit it but I turn down their offer.  It’s a long drive back to LA and I have a string of big interviews happening early the next morning.  I also figure that dinner would probably evolve into drinks and I’m pretty sure Slayer can go hard on the booze tip.  To me, driving back to LA with a truck full of expensive cameras and lights after drinking a swimming pool’s worth of tequila with Slayer seems like a dangerous proposition.  And I couldn’t just blow a couple hundred bucks on a cab to take me back since I have all the gear with me.  Curses!

Till this day I think about that decision on a regular basis.  No question, it was the responsible thing to do but at the same time, what the hell is wrong with me?  I said no to dinner with Slayer!  Anyone reading this has permission to punch me in the face next time you see me.

Anyway, my thoughts are very much with King these days.  I’m positive that Hanneman’s death is a devastating blow to him.  They weren’t just band mates, they grew up together.  They conquered the fucking world together.  Losing someone like that has got to hurt real bad.

Rest in peace Jeff Hanneman.  Thanks for the incredible music and for teaching us all how to kick tons of ass.

SWITZERLAND MONTREUX

In related news, you can watch a clip from Heavy: The Story of Metal via my official director page here - http://mjwfilms.com/projects.php#heavy  It’s the Sabbath section.

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THE L!FE – A-R0D ACT 3

To “celebrate” today’s article in the New York Times about A-R0d’s alleged covering up of his steroid purchases, here’s the final installment of The L!fe – A-R0d.  The other segments of this show are still available here at MPR if you need to refresh your memory.

 

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The Definition of a Dummy

I’m always amazed when I ask a network if I’m allowed to use dummy segments when delivering my shows and I get a response like, “What’s a dummy segment?”  To me, it seems like the kind of a thing a network should know about, especially considering how very common they are.  Perhaps it’s a matter of semantics.  So, in the interest of promoting the wonders of the dummy segment and to raise the public’s overall knowledge of commonly used TV formats, I’m taking it upon myself to define the term.  It’s the only proper thing to do.

First let me remind you that when you deliver a show to be broadcasted it has to fit into some very specific parameters.  Your program has to be a certain running time and it has to be in a certain number of segments.   This ensures that networks have enough opportunities to run commercials during your show.  If there are no commercials, the network doesn’t make money.  And if the network doesn’t make money then people like me don’t have jobs so I happily oblige (not that I actually have a choice).  These specific parameters are different for every network so it’s important to know the rules before you begin editing.

A dummy segment is very short segment of programming which appears somewhere in the middle of a show.  It’s generally longer than 10 seconds but shorter than 45 seconds, though there are no official rules here.  Think of when you watch Meet The Press and they go to commercial.  Then they come back from commercial but not for more titillating conversation about whatever ridiculous political haberdashery we’ve been tricked into caring about that day.  They simply come back and deliver a short message like, “We’re still here, there’s waaay more titillation to come but first more commercials.”  So there’s no new content in that segment, just the promise of more content to come but only after you hear about fabric softeners and denture cream.

I know what you’re thinking.  Why not just drop that segment and have a doubly long commercial break?  And to that I say this.  Rules is rules.  Networks are big, massively complex entities that stay operational thanks to a set of well defined and strictly regulated rules.  If you want to work with a network, you must to fit into their machine.  Otherwise you’re useless to them.  Also, a doubly long commercial break is a golden invitation for a viewer to grab the remote and investigate what other titillation might be available on the other 500 channels.  So the program comes back, just for a quick reminder, “We’ve got all the titillation you could possibly handle right here pal.  It’s all just 1 fabric softener commercial away.  Sit tight.  It’s gonna be totally great.”

So why would a director/editor want to use such a sort bit of programming?  Well, when you specialize in long form storytelling like I do, you sometimes find that commercial breaks are getting in the way.  Say you’re crafting a 30-minute program.  To make room for commercials those are generally broken into 4 segments.  After subtracting the commercials breaks that leaves you roughly 21.5 minutes of actual content.  That’s just over 5 minutes per segment or act.   Depending on the type of show you’re delivering, that’s really not much time to unfold a compelling chapter of your story.  I suppose 5 minutes might be perfect if you doing one of those Top 100 Pop Culture Moments of 80’s type shows.  In fact 5 minutes might be an eternity in a show like that.  But in vérité documentary, where stories play out and develop in a more natural manner, 5 minutes can be damn near suffocating.  Your beautifully crafted narrative might be rushed or even choked to death.  Unacceptable.

When I feel that this might be taking place in one of my shows, I bust out the dummy segment.  I make one of my 4 segments as short as possible, 10 seconds is ideal.  This frees up program time for the other segments.  So I suddenly have 1 very short segment and 3 segments that are running just over 7 minutes.  Now my story now has a little more room for exploration and style within those 3 long acts.  It’s not always the solution but I’ve found over the years that it often works wonders.

I’ve recently been posting a vérité show I edited a while back about A-R0D (insert boos here).  The first 2 acts were posted here at MPR over the last couple of weeks.  Bellow you’ll find the dummy segment of that episode.  When it’s isolated in this manner it might feel totally pointless but it served the overall flow of the full program well so I used it.

After a quick Googling, I’ve realized that it’s possible this post is the first written definition of a dummy segment.  After all, I learned the term while on the job and I’m not sure it’s the kind of thing they teach you in school.  I suppose I should go clear a space on my trophy shelf for my Noble Prize in Televisioning now.

Please Note: I don’t actually have a trophy shelf.  At a young age I was genetically engineered by a team of scientist to be terrible at all athletics and any other forms of competition.  It’s like, my thing.

 

THE EARLIER ACTS OF  THIS EPISODE  ARE STILL AVAILABLE.  CLICK HERE FOR  ACT 1 AND HERE FOR ACT 2.  THE FINAL SEGMENT OF THIS EPISODE WILL BE POSTED IN THE NEAR FUTURE.

Production: @radical.media

This segment was edited by me, Michael John Warren.  For my official director’s website please visit mjwfilms.com

 

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THE L!FE – A-R0D ACT 2

IT WAS THE MOST GRUELING WEEK OF MY ENTIRE CAREER.   Normally editing isn’t known as a physically demanding gig.  Editor’s challenges are generally of the mental or emotional sort.  But this A-R0D piece was shot, edited, mixed and color corrected the same week it went on national TV.  Those who understand the process of shaping vérité documentary understand that this is an enormous task.   So enormous that I went without a wink of sleep for four days leading up to broadcast.  I’ve pulled many all-nighters in my career but 3 in a row is a grind that I hope to never repeat.

Here’s the challenge, a show like this has to air the same week of the actual event.  Nobody cares about the All-Star Game three weeks after the fact.  So since the show needs to be timely, you have to do 3 weeks worth of work in 4 days.  And because me and mine tend to do everything in our power to put the best possible program on air, sleeping wasn’t really an option.  Our pride is too great and every minute was too precious.

Thanks to everyone who pushed through that week with me.  I know we all emerged stronger for it.  I wish this series had credits so I could thank you all by name.  Too much time has passed for me to remember everyone who was involved off the top of my head and an incomplete list seems well, incomplete.

Bellow you will find Act 2 of The L!fe – A-RoD, the second segment of the episode discussed above.  It was edited by me.  I remember that bit.  This series, The L!fe, was really about access.  This was before every celebrity had their own “reality” show so having a camera in the All-Star locker room for the pre-game speech by the great Joe T0rre was somewhat unique.  Also the legendary Cal R!pken shows up in this act.  This was the year he retired so he ends up co-starring in Acts 2 & 4 even though this was A-R0d’s episode.  There’s also a short scene between A-R0d and Barry B0nds which, knowing what we know now, is kind of an eye-roller.  Oh, sports.  What did you do?

Enjoy.

In case you missed Act 1, it can be seen here.  Acts 3 and 4 will be available in the near future.

Production Co: @radical.media

Editor: Michael John Warren

For my official website please visit mjwfilms.com

 

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THE L!FE – A-R0D

Part 1 of 3

A-R0d is in the news… Again.  And again, all the attention is negative.  We all know that A-R0d is no stranger to controversy.  Actually, they seem joined at the hip.  His enormously impressive athletic accomplishments have been consistently tarnished by questions about his character and his use of performance enhancing substances.  At this point, it’s likely his ultimate legacy is more about the failure of his personal choices than his amazing athletic life.  He’s become just another disturbing chapter in that endless story about our athletic heroes being little more than liars and cheaters.

I first caught wind of A-R0d’s dubious moral compass when editing this episode of The L!fe (bellow) back in the day.  Shot, edited, and aired during the week of the 2001 All-Star Game in Seattle, much of this episode deals with A-R0d’s decision to leave the Seattle team for Texas.  Turns out Texas offered him more money and the Seattle fans felt betrayed by his decision.   So much so that they booed him when he returned to Seattle with his new team for regular season play.

Let me state for the record that I don’t consider his decision to leave Seattle a controversy in any way, shape or form.  I love that baseball fans have higher standards than other sports fans do but this is professional baseball.  A-R0d absolutely has the right to make as much money as possible whenever possible provided he follows the rules of the league and American law.  And when placing the question in a larger geopolitical context it’s suddenly very easy to remember that this is just sports and nobody is truly hurt, disenfranchised, or harmed by any contractual decisions a player makes (with possible the exception of that player’s family).

However, considering everything we know about A-R0d now, this episode does take on new meaning.  When this story about him leaving Seattle first “broke” the question was, “Is A-R0d a scumbag?”  Now, in 2013, we know about his steroid use while in Texas, his lying about his steroid use, his extramarital affairs, his high priced prostitutes and his alleged coke fueled illegal gambling parties.  And now there are new allegations of steroid use while on the Yankee’s which he is currently denying.  My two cents say that what A-R0d does with his free time is really nobody’s business but the steroid bit and the subsequent lying is extremely difficult to see past.

Obviously the court of public opinion has already ruled on the question at hand since his credibility is nothing more than a distant memory.  Matter of fact, one league executive said in 2011, “You get the feeling that Alex says what he thinks he needs to say to get by, and then goes out and does what he wants.”  That’s someone from the league talking, not a reporter.  In my experience, league representatives tend to shine the best possible light on their superstars because it’s considered good business.  So this candid comment feels noteworthy to me.

When I edited this episode all those years ago, A-R0d’s moral compass was still a matter of debate.  Back then he still had a chance to be loved by all.  So in one scene when he sweetly spends quality time with his former teammates’ children, one now wonders if he is just trying repair his tarnishing reputation.  When he’s being so engaging with the other superstars, we wonder if it’s just an act for the cameras.  When he feels tortured by the boos he could receive when announced for the homerun derby, we wonder if he actually cares or is he laughing all the way to the bank on the inside?

On the eve of the likely end of his career, I’ll let you be the judge.

Parts 2 and 3 COMING SOON…

Production co. @radical.media

This video was edited by me, Michael John Warren.  For my official director’s website please visit mjwfilms.com

 

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THE L!FE – EDG3RRIN J@MES

IT’S BEEN A TRULY DRAMATIC SEASON FOR PRO FOOTBALL and few teams are entering these playoffs with a more compelling story than the Colts.  Last week Chuck Pagano returned as head coach for the first time since battling cancer and his emotional post game speech will certainly go down as an iconic moment from the season.  As I watched the Colts organization celebrating victory and life, I was reminded of how sports is sometimes about more than athletics.  Matter of fact, sometimes the most interesting bits happen off the field.

Then I suddenly remembered a piece I edited in 2000 about one of the most famous Colts of all time, Edg3rrin J@mes.  For those who don’t know, E.J. was an enormously successful running back and won the AP’s Rookie Of The Year in ’99, as well as the league’s rushing titles in his first two seasons.  He was very impressive and still holds some franchise records to this day.  But what makes these early accomplishments even more interesting is how he lived.

When I edited this piece, E.J. was making headlines for failing to show up for pre-season practices being held by his coach.  E.J. had other plans.  And if this revealing peek into his life is any indication, his non-football time was chock full of club hopping, pill-popping, and rock-star-ish carrying on.  I’m sure he worked incredibly hard when on the field but at the end of this piece he basically says that the league is his plaything.  And in that moment in time, it actually was.

I would like to suggest that E.J. isn’t the only star of this slice of life.  The great city of Miami also plays a crucial role.  The piece is basically just E.J. rolling around the city, meeting fans, inviting winos to jump into the back of his Chevy convertible so they can go to “Wet Willies”, mackin’ in his penthouse, cruising on his yacht and generally living the life that most professional athletes would never allow the biggest sports network in the world to film and broadcast.  E.J. doesn’t seem worried in the slightest.  I applaud him for his candor.

As usual, the photography featured in this piece is very good (probably shot on DigiBeta).  I don’t remember who shot or produced this piece – apologies to my long ago collaborators.  My editing, looking at it for the first time in over a decade, is not terrible.  It serves as a nice example of the Nasty But Classy aesthetic I developed back then.  I think there are a couple of points I could have shown a little more restraint but I was just a wee lad so a little extra flash is to be expected.  I officially forgive myself.

Tech note:  The audio on this clip has some mild phasing but I doubt it will bother anyone (other than me).

Episode edited by Michael John Warren

Prod. Co.: @radical.media

For my Official Director’s Portfolio please visit – mjwfilms.com 

 

 

B@ttlegrounds Season 2 Ep 1

I’ve recently been pontificating about Branded Content so let’s take a look at some of my real world experience.

In 2004 I performed one of my last official gigs as a Lead Editor helming the post side of N!ke B@ttlegrounds Season 2.  The series was directed by the inspired Derek Cianfrance whom I had worked with before.  Actually the whole crew was insanely talented.  Shout out to Jim Helton, Ron Patane, Jonah Moran, Malcolm Hearn, Paul Bozymowski, Bill Winters, Rich Kleiman, F@t Joe, @radical.media, and JWT.  At the time this series set the standard in televised Branded Content.  Hugs and hi-fives to all involved.

Our basic approach to the series was stylized vérité or as I called it Nasty But Classy.  I had long used the term to identify my set of rules that I preached as Lead Editor.  I lifted the phrase from Brooklyn boxer Zab Juda who was featured in the first episode of E5PN’s The L!fe, my first series as Lead Editor.  Of course Derek’s strong visual style and personality inspired a new iteration of Nasty But Classy and there are more experimental elements at play here – particularly towards the end of the episode.

Bellow is the 1st episode of the 2nd season of N!ke B@ttlegrounds.  For this season, the search for the best one on one street-baller stretches beyond America and goes worldwide.    First up: NY vs. SPAIN.  FIGHT!

 

 

 

 

 

For my Director’s Portfolio please visit: http://mjwfilms.com/

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WAIT! I WORK IN ADVERTISING?!?

A VAGUELY HUMOROUS REPORT FROM THE FRONT LINES OF BRANDED CONTENT

Nah, I don’t do advertising!  You must be confused.  My expertise is long form storytelling and my medium is film and television.   Sure, I’ve seen the stuff.  I’ve enjoyed it from time to time, hated it more often than not but it’s certainly not something I make.  I make REAL things, the gold that brings eyeballs to the screen and yes, sometimes ads run in between my acts.  But that’s it.  I swear!

(Awkward pause)

Ok, maybe I’m not telling the whole truth here.  Please allow me to explain.

Advertising has always been a volatile world.  Consumers are insanely finicky and there is too much money at stake for the industry to be anything other than a Darwinian battle where only the obsessively vigilant survive.  But over the last ten or so years the notoriously brutal industry has seen tectonic shifts that have demolished many of the tried and true models for success and even a few ad agencies along the way.  Some of these changes have been cultural, some technological and all of them have made the advertiser’s path forward even more complex than before.  As a result, the smart agencies and companies have begun looking for new ways to deliver their messages to potential consumers.

And yes, I admit it.  That’s where I come in.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with the term Branded Content, it’s when a company, brand or ad agency works directly with a director, producer or production company to make films and TV shows (i.e. content).  Think BMW films.  This content is then delivered to potential consumers the same ways regular shows or films are.  Sometimes the company’s message is overtly stated within the program but more often than not the connection is subtle and nuanced.  It makes sense.  In a world where people’s attention is more fractured than ever, their patience at an all time low, and their DVRs allowing them to fast forward through commercials, it’s wise to quietly make your sales pitch in the show itself.  There are even studies that prove that the impact of the advertiser’s message is deeper and longer lasting when delivered in this manner*.

I’ve never pursued a career in advertising but over the years I’ve seen a sizable portion of the industry migrate into my realm of expertise – long form storytelling.  And since I like paying my rent, I happily accept these jobs.  Hell, at this point I’ve even gone out and successfully pitched these types of collaborations.   Why not?  It’s a Win-Win.  During the film or show the company gets their needed face time with their consumer.  And, while crafting the film, I have the opportunity to a) not starve and b) further refine my filmmaking skills that I will soon use to make the greatest film the world has ever seen.  Stand by for that.  Give me, like, 3 years.

My latest venture in Branded Content is the feature length documentary I directed for Heineken.  It’s by far the deepest and most overt company message I’ve ever delivered.  I’m not sure there’s ever been a project exactly like this one before.  Most of the film isn’t about beer specifically yet it’s impossible to watch that film and not reach for a Heineken the second the credit roll begins.  The film simply operates on a level that traditional advertising could never hope to achieve.

Of course comparing a 30-second beer ad against a 90-minute film is apples and oranges.  And I certainly don’t believe that nonsense about traditional forms of advertising being dead.  Never that.  Compact forms of communication will always be needed.  But once you escape the confines of the 30-second TV spot an entire new level of understanding and engagement becomes possible.   And there is tremendous commercial potential in that basic truth.

So, back to the shocking revelation that I actually work in advertising.  Turns out I’ve been doing it on and off since 2002 as an editor, producer, and director.  And of course I’m being silly when I pretend to hide that fact.  I’m actually rather proud of some of that work.  Truth be told, I’ve gotten to collaborate with some of the greatest people in the advertising world and some visionary companies through these projects.  We’ve taught each other a lot.  True, I’m definitely glad my career is much broader than just Branded Content but I don’t dare think about where I’d be would be without it.

Full Disclosure: I, Michael John Warren, am a freelance film director and can be reached by email at mjw@mjwfilms.com.  My entire Director’s Portfolio is viewable at mjwfilms.com and my Branded Content Credentials can be seen here.    

 

* http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/weighing-branded-content-141721

http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/news/548601/

http://www.cnbc.com/id/32355980/New_Research_Proves_Effectiveness_of_Strategic_Branded_Content

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The Bre@ks

IN RECENT WEEKS RUN-D.M.C. HAVE REUNITED.  SORT OF.  True, both Run and D.M.C. have come back together for the first time in a decade and are performing.  However, I must respectfully acknowledge that someone important is missing.  The group’s iconic DJ, Jam Master Jay, is sadly absent this time around.

For those who may have forgotten, the great Jam Master Jay was murdered not long after the group’s last reunion in 2002.  Widely respected as a family man and community role model, Jam Master Jay’s death was shocking.  His murder still remains unsolved today.

With love and admiration for one of the most important DJs of all time, I present The Bre@ks.  I edited this unaired show.  It was finished not long before Jay’s death and features his last known interview.   After his murder the show was repurposed as “Run-D.M.C. and Jam Master Jay: The Final Interview” – a process I don’t think I was involved in.

Stylistically The Bre@ks is a departure from my early sports doc work thanks in most part to director Derek Cianfrance.  Derek has since ascended into the feature film world with his brilliant film “Blue Valentine” and his soon-to-be-released film “A Place Beyond The Pines”.  By the time we met I was well versed in documentary editing but I certainly learned some valuable lessons from our collaboration.

Aesthetically I learned that experimentation, chaos, and abstraction are valuable storytelling devices – even in documentary.  Derek’s highly visual and poetic approach challenged some of my formal documentary tendencies.  I was strictly True School back then.  How lame.  The show features some fantastic photography, much of it by Derek himself.  It also uses a handful of editing techniques that I likely developed or learned while crafting the piece since I don’t see them in my earlier work.

Professionally I learned that directors are not wizards who live inside of magical mountains.  Of course Derek’s talent was very obvious even in 2002 but he was the first proper director I worked with who was under the age of 50.  His non-mythical status was a bit of a revelation for me at the time.  Considering I went on to become a young director myself, I dare say it was an important revelation.  He was aggressively developing Blue Valentine back then and I remember reading the inspired script.  I was struck by his drive and belief in himself.  Seeing him grind it out over the years and methodically achieve his ambitious goals has been an eye opening experience.  He definitely earned his spot.  Know that.

So thanks to Derek, the good folks at @radical.media, producer Jamie Patricof, Rev. Run, D.M.C. and Jam Master Jay – may he rest in peace and his killer brought to justice.  And with no further adieu, please enjoy The Bre@ks…

Production by @radical.media

Edited by Michael John Warren (mjwfilms.com)

Directed by Derek Cianfrance (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0161834/)

 

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