A supermoon + blue moon + lunar eclipse = #superbluebloodmoon, a rare celestial phenomenon that captivated the world on January 31, 2018.
I captured a timelapse of the supermoon on the night of January 30th approximately twelve hours before the lunar eclipse. During a supermoon the moon appears larger in the sky and significantly brighter. This is due to the orbit reaching its closest approach to earth (the perigee) in conjunction with a full moon.
I drove 45min north to Charlotte, North Carolina to film the moon passing behind the Bank of America Corporate Center, the tallest building in the state. Using the Moon Seeker app on my iPhone, I knew where the moon would rise. I chose an exit off-ramp near the Carolina Panther’s stadium and filmed for almost 20 minutes using a 70-200mm lens with a 2x teleconverter. The tripod positioning was just right to capture the moon passing behind the spires of the crown as the sky grew dark.
I put it online through the Tried & True Facebook page. Throughout the next day we received dozens of media requests. Filming and posting the clip was an attempt to capitalize on supermoon interest to gain earned media exposure locally and nationally for this production company. The clip was filmed in 4k and downscaled to 1920X1080p (full HD) so that I could add a digital zoom in post.
In the two days following the event, the clip was shared by thousands of people and viewed online over 1 million times cumulatively across multiple platforms. It was broadcast nationally on HLN and appeared locally on the Charlotte ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. CNN even paired our timelapse with footage from NASA. Because Reuters and Storyful.com picked up the clip, it has run in a number of newspaper sites around the world including The Washington Post.
Alexander Homestead generates a lot of web traffic. It is one of the most popular wedding venues in the Charlotte, NC market. They were doing tours all the time for prospective brides. It was a time suck and the venue needed to allocate resources more efficiently. They reached out to us to create a landing page video explaining what the place is, who owns it and what they are all about – all while providing a virtual tour of sorts of course. Here’s their resulting video.
The John Crosland School gives a leg up to children with learning differences. Located in Charlotte, NC this school serves 90+ K-12th graders. I shot and edited this landing page video on behalf of Little Red Bird, an advertising agency serving the region. JCS is a long-time client of LRB. Karen Bennetts, the owner, and general strategic operations person served as producer. It was a smooth and collaborative process. Tim Paulson, their CD, acted as a production assistant and is the graphic designer for the agency.
This video was shot over two days. We recorded three hours of interview. The transcription ended up being 88 pages. There was quite a bit of content to pick through for the best sound bites. As a result we ended up making a series of videos. The piece below is the primary video. But there are other iterations for other programs and other purposes.
This was an outside-the-box piece for me to direct and shoot. The producer was Hendrik van Vuuren of Sting Marketing. A staff of writers polished up the shot list, storyboard and script on location. The objective was to make a flight safety operations piece for the Duke terminal at Charlotte-Douglass and Concord Regional Airports. Duke Energy maintains corporate jets and helicopters to transport executives across the nation quickly.
This was one of the first jobs where I used a hoverboard paired with a MOVI M5 to capture long smooth moving shots. Hoverboards, the fad of 2015, are very similar to a Segway. Cinematographers have been using Segways for years now as a way to move quickly with a steadicam-like device. I took the hoverboard and wide angle lens all through the hangar and onto the tarmac moving at 10mph. The footage is much smoother and more precise than if I had run and used post production software to stabilize the clips. Naturally I used a helmet and observed all safety protocols when filming.
It was a memorable shoot. We saved releasing the oxygen masks for last because they take forever to roll back up and tuck away in the overhead compartments.
One of the premier wedding and events venues in Charlotte, NC asked us to create the landing page video for their site. Alexander Homestead does over 130 events per year on their beautifully manicured grounds. This video features springtime broll and a script performed by the owners.
Amir said something like, “What if we had impersonators for the President and Vice President? Let’s get them visiting the mansion under some pretext and make a viral video.” I ended up writing the script with my cousin, Todd Hardy. We put in as many, now dated, 2012 jokes and references. Scott C Reynolds, a SAG equity actor, starred in “Biden Time” as The Onion’s version of Uncle Joe. We found a young UNCC student who looked enough like President Obama that it kind of worked. As with SNL, some willing suspension of disbelief is required for our little story.
The fun parts of the shoot were driving to DC to get our own clip of Marine One departing from the White House lawn. The Presidential Experience is a traveling exhibit with a replica of the Reagan era Oval Office and Air Force One. It popped up in a big empty parking lot in Charlotte a week prior to the convention. I called the exhibit and secured permission to film inside before it opened to tourists with our Obama, Julian Ireland. Having a dressed Oval Office set come to Charlotte was a very happy coincidence.
Next was the house itself. What a place! The show Banshee had been filming there in Waxhaw, NC for a few months. Down the street was the mansion where ABC had finished shooting a season of the Bachelorette. Waxhaw is a quaint little southern country town that happens to have a pocket of millionaire Charlotte bankers, race car drivers etc. An episode of Homeland was also filmed nearby.
Concord Airport granted permission to shoot on an unused runway. Silver Fox Limos provided the Secret Service detail and motorcade. I cut decals of the presidential seal, affixed double sided magnets to them and stuck them on the side of a limo. I put flags on the hood too. When we shot the motorcade scene in Charlotte, the actual President was expected in town just days later. We turned a lot of heads. At one point we stopped to regroup, review footage and discuss the next shot. Coincidentally the limo with the presidential seal happened to be parked in front of a Charlotte strip club. Some guys walking in remarked, “Oh he’ll be in trouble with Michelle! Don’t let him in!”
The city was dressed and prepped for the convention. That backdrop served the production well. A group of men who provide private security stepped in with their S.W.A.T. team gear and semi automatic weapons. These guys were ex-military, and very professional. The search of the house was the most important scene to the realty company. It was how we were going to give a home tour without giving a conventional home tour. Our special ops guys slayed it in short order. They hit their marks with perfect takes.
The pool party scene was more difficult. There were more people, a lot of staging and direction because of the dialogue. There had not been time to rehearse this section of the video in advance. Our Joe Biden’s white hair turned back to brown while he was in the pool. The MUA had already been dismissed. I ended up rotoscoping a matte to desaturate his hair in post.
This was a long, exciting multi-location shoot that I enjoyed directing and shooting alongside my friend Eric Brown. Later the next week I ended up working events during the convention supporting MSNBC’s production of Hardball with Chris Matthews and a town hall meeting hosted by Chuck Todd and then journalist, Chelsea Clinton. After each show I talked to the hosts and ended up handing out copies of “Biden Time.” Peters & Associates Luxury Realty also did their best guerrilla marketing to get the piece in front of as many eyes as possible in conjunction with the convention.
The video was moderately successful and the house eventually sold. But still today I marvel that we filmed a presidential motorcade, shot in an Oval Office and had a full S.W.A.T. team at our disposal. Five years later if I were to do this again the production quality would be much higher. We would have actual rehearsals with the actors. The story and editing would be much tighter too. But for what it is, a slapdash self-produced, almost no-budget video, I think it’s still mostly watchable.