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Getting Wicked Again: Same Tuna, New Toys.

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One of the year’s biggest projects is always the new promo campaign for “Wicked Tuna.” We use lots of filmmaking toys, capture lots of exciting shots, and try some pretty big, dramatic concepts. Well, this year was no different! Season 4 is coming soon, and way back in July we once again started to plan for how to tackle a whole new season of the show.  With any returning series, the challenge is always how to raise the bar even higher and find a new way to tell the story. Partnering with our friends at Evolve again, and bringing some new tech to the party were two steps in the right direction. So how did we do it?  Let’s find out! (And stick around until the end of the post for another cool BTS video) _MG_0795
Evolve’s Joel and Jesse Edwards on set shooting the “Fog” setup. Photo by Erin Newsome.

GETTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER.

We partnered up with Evolve once again, as we did for seasons 2 and 3 – that was a decision we made early on because Wicked Tuna is a very difficult show to shoot for because of logistics – 5-7 different captains and boats, multiple locations, shooting on water, and limited local studio space are a few big reasons. And creatively, there is a great comfort level between the Captains and both us at Nat Geo, and the crew from Evolve. They’ve seen the work we’ve created and there’s a lot of trust there. So it was a pretty easy decision to go with Evolve again. And from our internal team, Executive Producer Erin Newsome was on point along with Creative Directors Tyler Korba and Brian Everett (and me). The exact same team working on the same show – and we even heard some half-joking comments around the office to just “do the same thing you did last year!”  But we wanted to do more than just that, of course. Learning from our past successes, we also met with Evolve about a month and a half prior to the shoot back in DC to do a collective brainstorm and share some initial thoughts – and we even ate at the same restaurant! One of the initial ideas that Evolve had was inspired by a spot done on TNT for “Legends” that juxtaposed action and a simple reductive design:

That eventually inspired the tease for “Fog” – so Erin wrote the perfect script that talks about the idea of the fishermen going out each morning, unsure of where they’d go and what they’d find. As you’ll see in the BTS video a little later, the shoot for that one spot was something we’d never tried before, and captures a whole new look for the campaign.  

In addition to that inspiration of adding fog to the storytelling techniques, we wanted to find new ways to shoot interviews with our talent and overall tried to give it a bit more style. Here is the initial reference swipe from Evolve:

Reference Frames for interviews WT4

And here is a screen grab of where we ended up after final color grade:

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I know that Joel and Jesse are always really attentive to color grading (if you don’t believe me, just read this) so it’s always fun to see the incredible material we shoot, and how it goes even farther from fine cut to final. Finding a new way ‘in’ is continually one of our goals with Wicked Tuna – looking for new ways to tell that story and to bring some new visual tools to the party. In our primary :30 promo “The Sound” we employed more cool toys – including the doggicam bodymount, a camera strapped to the fishermen shooting back to their faces for a unique perspective – and we brought back the underwater Phantom Flex.

_MG_0559Underwater Cameraman Erik Ippel jumping off the back of the boat. Photo by Tyler Korba.

But those toys are just a means to an end – finding a way to harness the awesome tech with a great story is the key. We initially set out on our shoot with a very focused idea and script that we wanted to build around.  Since our shoot window was much shorter than the previous year (4 days versus 8) we had to be a bit more targeted with our approach.  “My goal for this year was not to top last year. It was to focus our efforts into half the shoot days with a targeted concept in mind and make it look completely different”  says Erin.  So we did have a script and an idea for that primary :30 launch spot – and I’ll talk more about that spot in particular a bit later.  In addition to that tease and main series sell promo, we also cut a :45 spot “Biggest Season Ever” – in many ways that’s the big hook of this season – the Captains catch more fish than ever, and the action is fast and furious from the get-go. It’s also a nice balance for the campaign, using shots we haven’t before, including portraits, macro shots of fishing gear, footage from the show, and additional footage shot over the week in Gloucester.

Submerged Camera
Submerging the phantom off of the jib-boat.

It’s a good sign that you’re in the right job when, 20 years after starting, you still get extremely excited about what you do and can’t wait to wake up in the morning and get to work to see this kind of work! Getting to be a part of a spot that cool is what it’s all about – and when it delivered, I think I watched it 7 or 8 times in a row on my computer. It’s one of my favorite spots for Wicked Tuna we’ve ever made.

wt_04-Tyler-grey_1624Photo of Tyler McLaughlin by Justin Stephens.

PLEASE STOP SCREAMING! (OUR PRINT CAMPAIGN.)

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Still photo setup on the beach in Gloucester.

And of course, no campaign is complete without the print and key art part of the shoot. This year was no different, and we set out a full day for our photographer (we hired Justin Stephens for this season) to work with the talent. We wanted to get some new gallery photography and key art – and per our goal of “different than before” we didn’t want to shoot more shots of captains screaming and reeling in fish. Our last 3 seasons had explored that territory (along with the key art for our spinoff show “Wicked Tuna North vs. South”) and it was time to show the captains in a new light. Working Creative Director of Design Brian Everett along with Arsonal design, we came up with the idea of a portrait shot of the Captains on location. We did the studio stuff in the morning, and moved to our location on the coast in the late afternoon, working to time our main group shot for magic hour. We had about 15-20 minutes to capture the perfect light and had quite the setup on the rocky coast to make it happen. In the end, we got a piece of key art that featured our captains – who are becoming more recognizable each season, and with no fishing and screaming! That begs the question though…what will we do next season?? Guess we’ll figure that out later.

Wicked Tuna Key ArtFinal Key Art by Arsonal Design, photo by Justin Stephens.

THE PROMO THAT WASN’T.

So after we had wrapped, we went home and Evolve returned to Nashville/Chicago. We had plenty of great footage, and a good idea of what we wanted to create based on that initial script/concept, but it turned out to be a bit tougher to find a way to get our footage to all sit together as we’d planned. Here’s Erin to tell that story. 

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Erin Newsome watching over the shoot from the catbird’s seat. Photo by Tyler Korba.

“The biggest challenge came in the edit.  Because we shot for the script we brought, it became challenging in the edit when things weren’t working.  The script we went in with was more focused on the Captains – their saltiness, their rivalries.  The challenge came when we tried to put visuals to those words.  The original intention was to feature the action that occurs from the moment the captain/crew knows that there’s a fish on the line to the fishing action at the back of the boat when they’re reeling it in.  The words weren’t working because they dealt with intangibles like competition, experience, etc.”  Here’s the original script:

You can talk about the lines on my face
Lines I’ve walked, crossed or toed
Say what you want
I’m a tuna fisherman
And the only line I care about is the one with the fish at the end of it.

Erin continues: “I loved this script because we shot for the story to be told linearly, like following a path from bow to stern.  But the visuals weren’t literal enough so we lost the thread.  To solve for that, I wrote a new script that relied less on intangible things like competition and went right for the action that happens on deck.”

It all starts with a sound
The sound of a thousand pound paycheck on the line
But any tuna fisherman will tell you
That catches are won or lost
In the seconds it takes you to get your hands on the reel.

“This script did several things to help the edit.  It gave us a reason to slow the action down.  We’re dealing in moments, seconds that happen between that first bite and gaining control of the situation.  And it gave purpose to starting in the wheelhouse, following the action on deck and finishing in the water.  So, I would say my biggest challenge was getting over the fact that I had to scrap my first script (a personal favorite and the one we shot for) and figure out how to write words that worked for our main series sell edit.”

_MG_4018Captain Marciano between takes, wearing the doggicam bodymount. Photo by Erin Newsome.

Joel Edwards from Evolve also described the intense effort in the edit suite: “Post production honestly was the most intensive part of the whole project. We did TONS of explorations. I think a total of almost 20 different spins on the outlined concepts. Even though we had several set creative approaches – the editorial development took us to many different places and we flushed out many different ideas and approaches. It was a true exploration process – literally weaving many different scripts with different cuts of music and different visual themes. And when that process was done (basically from early November until the end of January) we had some great spots that we’re proud of.”  Joel’s brother and partner Jesse goes further on the technical part of the post: “The visual effects process is a blast as well.  We shot a lot of things at 4k or 6k in the field, so in post we are able to play a lot with re adjusting framings, digital zooms, and other effects that add a lot of energy and motion to the shots.”  So, this year we spent more time in the edit room but the results ended up feeling distinctly unique and different than they did in the previous campaigns. Here is the final version of “The Sound” – the result of changing directions when what we had shot didn’t sit the way we wanted to, so the team crafted a whole new way in to tell that story.

CONCLUSION AND BEHIND-THE-SCENES.

The BTS that we created with Evolve for this project sums up what went into this campaign really well.  Shooting in Gloucester each September is always a bit like a family reunion now – catching up with the Captains, and the crew at Evolve is always a ton of fun, and a ton of work as well. (And ahh, that Courtyard by Marriott in Danvers…) What was so great as well was that even though this was the 4th time we’ve shot with the Captains in Gloucester, we still continue to learn new things, and Jesse Edwards had this to add: “One of the things we learned was to trust our gut. We wanted to plan out and commit to one creative idea as much as we could for the shoot… but there were a few shots we discovered in the field that weren’t necessarily planned for, and we grinded out the time to make it happen because we believed in them. Some of those shots ended up being some of the best ones! It’s fulfilling to see when you call an audible on set, or make a last minute decision to try something new, and it makes the end product a lot better than you could have planned for.”   And thank you to everyone involved for helping this season’s promo campaign – like the show – be the biggest yet. Now, check out the behind-the-scenes video:

Thanks for reading another installment of the Client Blog – we’ll probably be back in Gloucester next year for another shoot for Wicked Tuna, and the challenge of re-invention will rear its head again. But that’s one of those problems that I’d love to have, because if it’s half as fun as this year’s challenge, it’ll be a blast to solve for.  Looking back, we’ve been going to Gloucester for the past 3 years (in season 1 we shot in February before the show launched) and each year I’ve learned something new, tried something new, and pushed harder than the year before. We couldn’t do it if it wasn’t for the incredible team from Nat Geo, Evolve, Radium Sound, and the many, many more behind the scenes making it all happen. We owe you a huge thanks for your dedication, creativity and collaboration. Cheers!Fog setup Wicked TunaThe captains in the “Fog” warehouse.Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 8.15.27 PM
Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 8.14.16 PMA few fun screen captures of on-set hijinks with Nat Geo and Evolve.