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

What to do when it all falls apart?

Last week, we had a great opportunity to work with an actor/author that was coming through town on a press junket. We were excited to add him to our entertainment portfolio, and use the work in social media. The bad news? He never showed up. It sucked, and we were bummed.

But we aren’t easily deterred. The stage was set, what good would come out of putting it all away, and being mad about it all weekend? So we got onto Instagram, reached out to several local models that have shown interest in testing with us, booked h/mu stylists, and we were set.

Monday/Tuesday of this week, we made some exciting photographs to add to our sport portfolio, creating conceptually driven action and portrait shots, including video footage! Andy created dark, cinematic shots using moody lighting and gels to create an otherworldly effect. I can’t wait to get this work out into the world, but until then, here’s some hot BTS action!

Dramatic basketball photographer Andy Batt shoots with here with Canon cameras and glass, and Broncolor Lighting.
Photographer Andy Batt shoots basketball with Kojo Aidoo, with help from Galvin Collins and Tracy Schulz

Dramatic boxing photographer Andy Batt shoots here with a Canon C-300MII
Photographer Andy Batt behind the lens and flanked by Terri Lodge as Sonachi Umeh shows us his boxing moves

Dramatic athletic photographer Andy Batt shoots with Canon and Broncolor gear
Photographer Andy Batt shoots with Sonachi with help from Terri Lodge

What are we up to today?

Every day at the studio isn’t a shoot day, as much as we’d like it to be! Today, Andy is hosting 2 photographers in our space for a private class. He’s doing a demo on the Canon C-300mII, a new investment for our business. We will be making it available to a select few operators as a rental package that is very competitive.