"Epic" Performance by Jamie Lee Curtis for Activia


2012-05-09

A recent shoot for Dannon Activia marked the auspicious debut of Peter Kagan's new Epic camera and was equally significant for other reasons - notably the literal hands-on participation of Activia's spokeswoman, Jamie Lee Curtis.

Faced with the assignment of making Jamie appear to be filming her own video diary entries with an iPhone or Flip camera, Peter engineered methods for Jamie to manipulate the camera herself.  With the weight of the camera supported in conventional methods, Jamie was then free to move the camera on her own, pointing the lens towards herself and her surroundings as needed.  The result gave tremendous freedom to Jamie and bestowed an extremely organic aesthetic to the photography style - all of which makes the believability of her first-person narrative more convincing.

In Peter's words, "The type of camera you point at people often affects the way they react to being filmed.  I've always been one to embrace the use of small cameras becuase I love amateur snapshots, photography, and home movies, and that aesthetic has always informed my professional filmmaking.  Jamie is by no means an amateur - she creates an event, and the camera in her presence is whatever she wants it to be.  For a variety of reasons I needed to make certain that the lenses and resolution gave me the option to come away with a clean-looking image while retaining the weightlessness and ease of handling of a tiny camera.  To achieve this I used an Easy Rig, a hip-mounted harness that I wore bearing the weight of the camera, with a handle that allowed Jamie to steer the camera, alternately pointing it at herself and her surroundings."

Further utilizing this filmmaking strategy, even the product photography was made to appear all of Jamie's doing.  Her hand appears in closeup as she "turns on" the camera and takes her seated position to introduce the product to her viewers.  In another scene, she places the last yogurt cup in the product shot before clearing frame.

While Dannon's previous campaigns with Peter have expanded Jamie's traditional role, enlisting her to lead discussions with women cast from focus groups (click here for story), this production clearly marks the current high water point of her involvement in Activia's TV campaigns, and the most in-depth collaboration between Peter and Jamie to date.

"I've worked with Jamie on five spots now," says Peter, "and she's as sharp as they come.  Her experience has led her to a clear understanding of what works for her and what doesn't.  There's a level of trust between us that helps make the shot objectives, while thoroughly vetted and tightly boarded, still open to interpretation on the shoot day.  This allows for more nuanced, spontaneous, fresher feeling flim."

"John Bollinger and Rich Goldstein (of Y&R) are also seasoned veterans," continues Peter.  "Their presence is informed by confidence, not trepidation.  They're able to address their client's very specific objectives, while allowing people they've hired to do the thing they do...  Their leadership contributes significantly to the spirit of creative collaboration that helps make this stuff special."

Peter has now undertaken four Dannon projects in the last 12 months for Y&R -- three with Jamie Lee Curtis for Activia and one with John Stamos for the Oikos brand.

Peter's Epic is the newest and most advanced HD cinema camera from RED.  Smaller in size than its predecessors, it boasts more options, an easier interface, greater user flexibility, and ultimately yields superior images.