Bjorn in the USA

In November a competition was launched by Reed Recruitment to produce a film. It’s a yearly thing they do and normally draws in a host of great video production teams who work on some excellent content. Naturally I didn’t see it until a fortnight until the deadline.

Undeterred by the prospect that some excellent filmmakers and video production companies had already had several months to plan script and shoot their efforts, I sat down with a pen and paper and got to work.

My plan was pretty simple. The brief from Reed was nice and open – simply two words, “The Boss” at three minutes or less. I had already done a bit of research and seen some other entries online – lots of gangster movies, lots of Office Space meets Spaced efforts and they were all very good – but they seemed to be missing the glaringly obvious: Bruce Springsteen.

Because he of course has become synonymous with the words The Boss – Just as The Artist is to Prince and The King to – well, just about everyone from Michael Jackson to Elvis.

So there was my hook – ready and waiting. Bruce Springsteen. Next up I had to come up with something original and importantly something that wouldn’t be affected by the strict rules regarding intellectual property that Reed demanded. (Basically I couldn’t have lots of footage of Springsteen and his music playing in the background).

So I thought of the idea of a tribute artist… An Icelandic one.

And so Bjorn In The USA came into the world, kicking and screaming, dressed in denim and smelling of New Jersey.

Between Video Production London and We Have Vision, I’m normally very busy – I checked my calendar and I only had one full day free between then and the deadline so I booked a 5D, some lights, sound and a couple of lenses and then set about writing a script.

I wanted the production to be in the vein of A Mighty Wind or Best In Show. I’m a huge Christopher Guest fan and I really wanted people to be constantly questioning themselves, particularly in a piece as short as this, over whether this was a real documentary or not.

I wrote a few working drafts and then headed over to Casting Call Pro where I placed an advert for an Icelandic or Scandinavian man aged between 30 and 55. Or even someone who could do a convincing accent. This was the Tuesday and we were due to be filming on the Saturday before the deadline, which was Sunday.

We had dozens of applicants – mostly English actors doing accents. I had thought about this route as a last resort but didn’t want go down it at the risk of coming across as a bit studenty.

Then, on Wednesday morning I checked my email to find a video audition from an Icelandic man called Pall. It was perfect. We had found our Bjorn.

I sent a copy of the shooting script to Pall and rushed out with my filming partner, Ricky Stiles, to pick up a few props. We printed dozens of Springsteen posters, bought every piece of Springsteen vinyl we could find and in about twenty minutes I had gone from having no Bruce Springsteen CDs to having them all. Every single one.

On Friday evening we moved all the furniture out of my bedroom and started decorating the walls of what was now the home of Bjorn Olafsson. We had time for a quick pizza as we checked out how to use the Sound Designs 442 Field Mixer, a piece of kit I’d never seen before, before heading to bed.

We woke up early to do some last minute lighting checks and at 11AM, Pall walked through the door. We sat and talked for a while about what we wanted to do and by 12PM we’d started filming. Pall was fantastic and made it very easy for us.

Had time been on our side I would have liked to have planned out a few more sequences to butt between the interview segments and perhaps re-shot a few of his answers, but I think what was key in such a short time-frame was to manage expectations and get the best we could from the situation we were in.

Three hours later and we were done so I took the footage over to our editor, Danny Searle where in little over two hours he’d done a fantastic cut. I left the footage rendering from native h.264 to ProRes overnight and in the morning I simply relinked the media.

There were a couple of problems with Vimeo which seemed to inexplicably knock the audio out of synch in its post-processing but after a few uploads we had got there and just moments to spare before the deadline.

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