Sharks in the Gym
Reelbros media recently spent the better part of a month developing, and producing a narrative commercial spec piece for globally know brand Gym Shark. The UK’s fastest growing company for the third year in a row, specializing in athletically minded gym apparel needed a story piece and we were ready to give it to them. Their tagline reads “Be Visionary”, the idea of an individual foreseeing their future, and doing everything in their power to fulfill it.
For us this spec was all about getting it right the first time, we only had one shot to get the piece on the desk of their marketing team, and we wanted to make sure it was our best work to date. So began the detailed process of concepting, storyboarding, scripting, and creating shot lists then scraping it and doing it all over again until we were satisfied. Being a low budget Spec piece our talent had to be sourced through family member and friends, the challenge was finding actors who were a near mirror image of each other but at least a decade apart in age, this was a key part of our narrative. After talent had been sourced it was time to find a boxing venue willing to let us have their ring for the day for almost no money.
After calling nearly every boxing gym in the Phoenix area, we were able to secure the Gene Lewis Boxing Facility in Mesa, Arizona. Our first in person visit convinced us that this was the spot, and even better they were willing to give us the place all to ourselves for the entire day, a filmmakers dream. Our five man crew was ready to take on the challenge first hand, scripts finalized and talent organized we met in the early morning to pack in equipment and begin setting up for our first shots.
The first scenes to play out were the young boy a decade ago, we wanted to create a sense of time change through our lighting, therefore older scenes would be captured in a much warmer light, while the present would be shot with cool blue color gels. Particularly the fight scenes would be shot under some of our favorite lights ever, Quasar Sciences 4 ft light tubes in 3200 Kelvin. For our first scenes, to emulate a early morning sun, we placed our large Lupo 1000watt Fresnel light in the back corner of the room and blasted it toward the ring, add in a little atmosphere, or in our case a lot of atmosphere and the team started to get excited about what we were seeing. Back this up with some additional key lights using our Arri 600’s and we were ready to have our young talent step in the ring and throw some punches towards his invisible opponent.
Once we had our first few scenes in the bag, we began switching up the lighting setup in the ring, the more modern blue lighting was set in place for the main fight scene. Our favorite Quasar Science tubes went up in place of traditional fluorescents. A few stripes of handy Gaffe and we had tucked a handful of extension cords above the AC unit. As talent and extras arrived on set the time for our second set of scenes was approaching. Unfortunately while the crew was busy at work the extras and talent had raided our minimal craft services and pizza, leaving us with a few slices of cold pizza when we finally took a minute away from setting up our lighting.
We were also very happy to be working with a local makeup artist to give our actors some authentic shiners. One of the best parts of being in this industry is getting to work with a multitude of talented people, each bringing their own unique skill to the project. A quick snap on the Iphone of our two actors with our makeup artist, and we knew we had done a good job finding a similar likeness. With their new found black eyes, we jumped back into the ring with our now "inspired" young boxer ready for his redemption. Throughout this project we wanted to play with the idea of jumping between the past and present, allowing the viewer to gain insight into the boxers vision. For us nothing is more inspiring then getting your ass kicked, something Reelbros knows all too well, we wanted to incorporate this into our own narrative. However when you are visionary you know all you can do it get back up, and keep going after your goals, destined for greatness.
After capturing each of our shots for the young boxer it was time to capture one last scene with him in the bathroom. The mood of the ring had completely changed now lit by the Quasar tubes, our adult boxer Cole began to do a few warm up on the bags as the team headed to the locker room to begin setting up what we hoped would be a seamless shot.
Inside the faintly lit bathroom, we killed all the practical lights and opted for use of another Quasar covers in a shower curtain for diffusion. This shot was one that we had brainstormed for a while, the idea of having the young boy washing his face post fight, followed by a seamless transition to Cole also dawning a black eye. We wanted to make a statement that there will always be loses during our journey, but what matters is how you use your loses to learn and grow into our vision.
With marks set on the floor and a tight squeeze with our two actors we went ahead and rolled cameras. Luckily this shot only took four attempts before we were happy with the results, a seamless time jump without the use of any cuts. Once the record button was stopped, it was back out to the now technicolor filled boxing ring for what would be our fight night scene. Complimenting the blue and red hues of the gymnasium, we pumped the room full of every Arri in our kit, each wearing carefully selected color gels. We took a few takes with the room filled with extras, but then due to time constraints and a shoot that had gone off schedule we had to release them. Thankfully this allowed us time to jump in the ring with the shoulder rig and capture our point of view shots. Nothing says you are getting your ass kicked like watching punches fly into your camera lens.
As the clocks neared 5pm it was time for us to hand over the gymnasium back to the boxing club for practice, its always amazes me how quickly a lighting setup can come down compared to how long it takes to put it up. On the hood of our cars footage was transferred to computers and we rolled out eager to jump into the post production but only after grabbing a bite to eat and a few cold beers.
For me personally this was one of the most rewarding projects Reelbros has worked on, it was a full execution of an idea, from brief, concept, pre production, production, and post production. Our vision in our first few meetings had finally been realized after we watched the final edit and the hair on the back of our neck stood up. This is exactly what we were trying to accomplish, conveying a deeper emotion through film, making our viewers feel something. With that the Spec has been sent off across the pond to Gym Shark for their review, we took a large risk going for something that was far from their traditional pieces of content, but what is a life lived without taking risks. The project as a standalone piece is all the reward we were looking for, it proved to us our capabilities as storytellers, and taught us many lessons through failures and struggles associated with it. Reelbros is still under a year old, and we push ourselves everyday to do the best work we possible, I look forward to seeing were our journey takes us, because we share a common vision so much greater then our individual selves.