J-Names: Always fun, always crazy, and always reaching for newer and bigger ideas

group shot of comedians in a mechanics garage

Photographed and directed by Andy Batt

That’s every shoot with improv supergroup J-Names, and that’s why I always say yes. From concepting to execution, there’s always a ton of creativity and collaboration going into every moment. The goal is to entertain & engage, and to do so at the highest status we can achieve. It’s a great exercise in doing more with less, letting the story be the focus, and keeping a keen eye on production value.

“What would happen if everyone in the scene is an undercover agent?”

The goal was to create a layered story—our vignette takes place in a mechanics garage. The first layer is garage business—customers, salesman, mechanic, and management. Layer two is nobody is who they seem to be—there’s a level of suspicious behavior going on with every character. The third Layer reveals that every character is an undercover agents from competing spook shops, intent on busting the nefarious business at hand—which, of course, is all cover stories.

Part of the creative work is establishing a look. For J-Names, this meant building on our previous shoot, and continuing with our established cinematic blue world. Blue wardrobe, blue lights, blue walls, blue lifts, and using neutrals as our complimentary palette—silvers, grays and whites—this all pushed the visuals into a specific place, to heighten the story.

“The goal was to have both a killer set of photographs and a dynamic video bumper that would family together…”

The driver for the video portion was to create a faux “one shot” combined with a faux “bullet time” — in other words, the video was going to feel like the camera never stops moving, and the ‘action’ of the talent was going to feel frozen. The faux part came from 1 part moving the camera into blocking objects—made famous by Alfred Hitchcock—allowing me to stop and start the take, and 1 part having the actors freeze in position. With the ability to stop and start a take, we could slowly progress the story. I spent a week creating a flowchart for the camera actions and the actor actions, so on set we could literally fly through the shots.

Add in a handheld Ronin camera stabilizer, shooting 60FPS and ample use of speed ramping in DaVinci Resolve and whammo, we have successfully created a killer low budget/high production value video! [more nerd details at the bottom]

“I really busted my ass on filming the video. It was shot in under an hour as a piggyback on my stills production. “

Lighting for shooting both stills and motion was key—having enough punch in the lighting to pull a fast shutter speed and decent ƒ-stop for the stills camera; this also worked to our advantage for the motion capture since over-cranked footage + fast shutter means a light hungry camera.

The goal was to have both a killer set of photographs and a dynamic video bumper that would family together and deliver the story to the audience. Memorable, dynamic, puzzling, quirky — these were all keywords that we wanted to deliver, so that J-Names would have killer marketing materials for posters, social media and festival promotions.

As always, I carved out some extra time to create single portraits of the cast.

Nerd stuff: 
Director: Andy Batt
Producer: Therese Gietler
DP: Dustin Tolman
Grip & Gaffer: Galvin Collins
Wardrobe: Becca Therkelsen
Hair/MU: Janet Price
Shot with our in-house Canon C300M2, over-cranked to 60FPS, 2K capture, Canon 35mm AF lensing, mounted to a Ronin gimbal.
Lit with a combination of Gemini LED panels, Lowell Celebs, Kobold HMI, + smoke FX (supplied by Kai Shelton)
Edited/Colored by Andy Batt: in DaVinci Color Resolve 15



Curious Comedy Showdown – Six players enter the stage. Only one will survive.

CURIOUS COMEDY SHOWDOWN

Dramatic entertainment photographer Andy Batt created these hilarious portraits and video for Curious Comedy Theater’s Showdown improv comedy showcase.

See the final results here!

Six players enter the stage. Only one will survive. Often referred to as “The Hunger Games of Comedy” the Curious Comedy Showdown pits Curious Comedy’s finest players against one another in competitive improv matches that will make you laugh until you cry. Armed only with audience suggestions and razor-sharp wit, the players must create fast-paced hilarious scenes on the spot to win audience votes – round after round – in hopes of living to see another day.

Andy and artistic director Stacey Hallal sat down to hash out concepts, while Andy sketched some of his ideas. They agreed to the idea of a spoof on cowboys and the Wild West, and the final results are very close to those original sketches.

Featuring improv comedy performers Hallie Zmroczek, Audrey Butler, Matt Lask, Jenn Hunter, Eric Simons, Craig McCarthy, Tyler Quinn, Sarah JK Shoemaker, Nick Condon, Chad Parsons, Nathan Loveless, Bill McKinley, Chris Williams, Jay Flewelling, Laura Sams, Chase Padgett, Stacey Hallal.

Andy’s sketches during initial conversations about the shoot.