CASE STUDY - ANCESTRY.com Parody - july/august 2018

Pre-Production - Origin of a Comedic Idea

(Written by Bryan Bakker)


The idea for this comedic skit came about honestly; drinking wine and joking around as the sun was setting one winter eve in early 2018. My girlfriend Anita and I had been together almost five years and we had often joked about how similar we were, both psychologically and physically. My parents were born in Friesland, in the Netherlands and so was her father. Obviously, the joke was that we might actually be related; 2nd or 3rd cousins maybe. Our feet for instance look like male, female versions of the same foot.

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 One night, when the joke came up again, I mentioned ancestry.com as in, “Hey we should check it out with ancestry.com.” Anita spun laughing and said, “Did you just say INcestry.com?” We laughed and laughed and when things settled I replied, “No but that would make a hilarious fake commercial!” We spent the next hour hashing out the story arc and the best way to reveal the joke. 


(Picture to the left: Anita Twynstra & Bryan Bakker in 2016)

CASE STUDY VIDEO #01 - Did Anyone Else See That?

A week later at a team meeting with Derek Lamoureux of LC Productions and Rene Defayette of Motion Cinematics, I brought up the idea, shared the mental script Anita and I had devised and watched their reaction; they both burst out laughing. After about twenty-minutes of discussion around how it could be filmed and the parody style we would employ should we move ahead with it, I was convinced it was a keeper. I needed to put this project in motion and that meant, as a first step, I needed a script.


By the time I sat down to write the script it was nearly written in my mind already so it hit the page fast. With script in hand the second thing needed was a team. This project was going to be SPEC, standing for speculative; which meant we needed volunteers who would be willing to help out of a sense of fun or building portfolio. 


(Below: the Ancestry.com Parody Production Team)

Team Building and Location Scouting

Coordinating with Derek and Rene, I set a shoot date for about five weeks out and began to plan toward it. First, I approached Candice Van Deipen from CVD Event Studio in St. Thomas to be our Project Coordinator. We had had a couple of meetings by that point regarding a documentary idea.  She had a great sense of humour, so I was sure if she liked the script she would be in. I sent it to her to read and she confirmed her interest in helping the next day. It was a big relief as logistics were going to be tricky. Next, I focused on getting our actors. 


Courtney Coleman was a perfect fit in many ways: beautiful, talented and always looking to build her portfolio. She was a bit younger than I had originally intended the female lead to be but, in the end, it didn’t matter. It also so happened that I saw her on a weekly basis as she was an instructor for Railway City Improv; a side business I run to help teens who struggle with Anxiety and Depression. After taking a few days to review the script she came back with a big thumbs up.


I approached Dean Anderson around the same time. I had worked with Dean on a few different projects over the years and just recently on one that Derek had completed for a local Not-For-Profit, which made him top of mind. He was a perfect fit; handsome of course but more importantly, comically expressive; a big requirement for this role. As with Courtney, Dean came on board fast after reading the script.


I left wardrobe up to the actors and asked Candice to look for a hair and make-up person. All that was left was to nail down was our locations. 


 As the shoot date approached I decided that the best and most obvious place to shoot the park scenes had to be Pinafore Park in St. Thomas. It had a nice variety of trails and paved paths and at the time I wasn’t sure how ‘perfect’ I wanted everything to look. I went out there two weeks prior to shoot day to do some scouting. 

As I walked around the images we would capture became clearer and clearer. I realized, as with the types of commercials we were parodying, the images we sought needed to be idealistic; perfect by all measures. Yes, the waterfall and paths surrounding it at Pinafore would do nicely. On top of that though I wanted there to be a darker wooded path that we could use as the transition scene between the perfection of the park and the back-water appearance of the trailer park. The ‘into the underworld’ portion of the story writers out there may recognize. Once again Pinafore delivered.

 

Now, I was nearly ready to write and send the pre-production document to the team. All that was left was to get a trailer park on board. Candice had been working on that problem for weeks; every attempt falling through, whether due to it being their busy season or them just not comfortable with the subject matter of the script. Things were coming down to the wire but true to form though Candice came through. She introduced me to Jamie & Cookie, a young couple who lived just down the road from my office at the STEAM Centre as fate would have it, and their backyard was perfect.


Obviously, it being private property had its advantages, allowing us the freedom we needed to do our work and not worry about management. Plus, they had a small trailer there which they let their kids use as a kind’a tree or club house and they had a beautiful firepit which was key to the needs of the script. With proper framing I knew we could make it work.

CASE STUDY VIDEO #02 - A Walk in the Park

Production

  

With everything in place, I wrote and sent the pre-production document out to the team. It had been very hot in St. Thomas for a few weeks straight and everyone was waiting for the rain. I was probably the only one at that point in time to be wishing against it. Its one thing to have to reschedule a shoot when everyone is getting paid, but on a SPEC job like this I wanted the experience to be as easy and painless as possible and I didn’t want anyone to have to give up another day – everyone is busy and for many people time is very literally money. My fingers were crossed that the weather would hold and thank fully it did.


Shoot day was fun, hot, frantic, hot and inspirational… plus hot.


Everyone arrived on time and we set to it. While Derek, Rene and I scouted out pre-planned locations for the scenes Kara Ann Friedrick, owner of Kara Ann Beauty, got Dean and Courtney ready with make-up. Candice had come through again finding Kara the evening before to volunteer for the shoot and she did a terrific job all day. 

  

The best thing about doing this type of work is working with talented people and we had a dream team that day. The expression of that team can be seen very directly in the parody itself as a few of the things you will see in there were not in the original script.


The beautiful face to face shots of Dean cupping Courtney’s cheek under the wooded canopy, just before they walk into the forest, was an impulse capture Derek undertook on his own during a lull. As with many things in life recognizing opportunity in the moment is key. He nailed some beautiful shots that, when I saw them in post, I knew I would be using in the final cut.


The final scene itself was also changed drastically from what was written in the script. This time it was Dean, a veteran improviser, who offered us the suggestion of clothes being flung out of the trailer by Courtney while he sat and burned the pictures. I was a little hesitant at first but once it was explained in detail it satisfied my check list for a single long comedic scene where the logo and final voice over line could be revealed. It turned out better than I could have hoped.

CASE STUDY VIDEO #03 - What The !@#$

Post Production

With the shoot complete I backed-up the footage and looked forward to digging into the edit. The next step was finding the perfect voice over talent. Derek had mentioned that he felt a female voice would better suit the gag and I agreed. Once again, I used voices.com to audition talent and ended up choosing Naylene Frunk – she had the right sound and loved the script.


With the voice over complete I finally got the opportunity to dig into the edit. Always my favourite part, editing is where all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle come together. It is where the magic happens and like any good alchemist I relish each stage. Choosing a score from Audioblock.com I pieced it all together over the course of an afternoon and settled upon a final cut the next day. The first draft is relatively easy and quick to get to but my process also involves tweaking until the cows come home – watching repeatedly, over and over, until I’m satisfied everything is paced and timed to perfection, or as close to as I’m able.

CASE STUDY VIDEO #04 - Beautiful Butterfly

When I handed it over to Eddie Jeaneau for the re-recording mix I was already very happy with how it had turned out. Eddie made it even better – choosing a new song and adding audio effects to sync with the joke. Finally, colour correction by Adnan Selimovic and we were ready to launch. Our first speculative comedic video was ready for the public. As of this writing, now six days after launch – it has accumulated almost 28,000 views on Facebook. A successful experiment to say the least. 

Ancestry.com Parody