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Posted on 26, April 2014

in Category Interviews


An Inter­view with National Boston


Located near Fen­way Park, National Boston caters to both national and regional clients. They are com­prised of a com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion divi­sion called “Framed” a broad­cast design divi­sion named “National Min­istry of Design” and “Rum­blestrip” a full fea­tured audio divi­sion. Since Com­mer­cials and Broad­cast pro­duc­tion is a team sport I decided to take a decid­edly multi-disciplined approach to this one.I had the plea­sure of chat­ting with Director/DP: Bill Cuc­cinello and, Exec­u­tive Pro­ducer: Ned Biddle.

 

Q: Most com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion houses are cen­tered in NY or LA how has being based in Boston affected your brand positioning?

Ned: A lot of times we need to be smarter faster and more respon­sive to our clients. Life expe­ri­ence is dif­fer­ent here, and this is a cool place to live. Hope­fully that comes across.

 

Q: Do you think com­mer­cial direc­tors should aim for a spe­cific style?

Bill: I truly believe com­mer­cial direc­tors develop a sig­na­ture style. There are cer­tain projects that they just do bet­ter with…be it com­edy, table­top, pretty pic­tures. These spots will stand out on their reels.

Peter: Does the same go for pro­duc­tion companies?

Bill: Pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies try not to develop a style but aim to be regarded as expe­ri­enced so they are able to ser­vice dif­fer­ent directors.

 

Q: We’ve seen com­mer­cials evolve from one way broad­cast spots to YouTube, to social. Some say the for­mat is dead. Where do you stand?

Bill: The form might change from a 30 sec­ond com­mer­cial on broad­cast TV to another media dis­trib­ut­ing the com­mu­ni­ca­tion on a lap­top or smart phone or wrist­watch but the idea of com­mu­ni­cat­ing an idea or prod­uct to some­one else will never go away.

 

Q: What has been your most reward­ing and/or most chal­leng­ing on-set experiences?

Bill: Bad tal­ent is always the most dif­fi­cult. There is noth­ing more frus­trat­ing than being unable to get a per­for­mance out of an actor. A direc­tor will try every tech­nique pos­si­ble, get­ting down to “par­rot­ing”. A bad per­for­mance always makes for a very long ride home after the shoot.

Peter: So then, how can actors help you achieve the goals?

Bill: An actor MUST KNOW their dia­logue and char­ac­ter. They have to do their home­work. I do my home­work. I pre­pare. Noth­ing makes a direc­tor more angry than an actor com­ing to set unprepared.

Peter: What about shoot­ing ratio?

Bill: I never think about shoot­ing ratio. An actor usu­ally seems to progress until they hit their peak. Its know­ing when you hit that peak that makes a good director.

 

Q: How impor­tant are pro­duc­tion sched­ules and are they dig­i­tal, traditional?

Ned: Pro­duc­tion is time and money. You can’t buy time, so sched­ul­ing is the most impor­tant aspect of what we do. Really a pro­duc­tion book is what peo­ple carry, either vir­tual or tangible.


Q:Run & Gun? Plan it out? Some­where in-between?

Bill: I always do very tight shoot­ing boards of my own for every­thing I work on. This helps the AD sched­ule the day and for me to know if I am on bud­get. You also have to be ready to shoot every­thing out of order, so you have to know kind of where you want to end up.


Q: Do you have a favorite lens, camera?

Bill: Every job has a need for par­tic­u­lar equip­ment. A cam­era or lens that is per­fect for one job will have no place on another shoot. Its know­ing what is best for what you are try­ing to accom­plish visually.

 

Q: We’ve seen an explo­sion of tech­nolo­gies both in cam­era and edit­ing — a threat?

Bill: I think the new tech­nol­ogy just makes the cre­ative process strongerCam­eras are faster, more mobile, able to use new tech­niques, new streams of dis­tri­b­u­tion –“its all good”. When I started there was no such thing as non-linear editing…what a huge dif­fer­ence that has made…as we can cre­ate with less. Our options just increase.

Peter: What about the big debate: Pre­miere? Final Cut? Avid?

Ned: What­ever the edi­tor is fastest with. A lot of times we’re work­ing with com­posit­ing tools like After­Ef­fects, Smoke or Flame, if there’s graph­ics or CGI involved.


Q: Dig­i­tal or Film?

Ned: Dig­i­tal mir­rors film. Really no rea­son to shoot film unless you’re going for a cer­tain look.

Bill: Dig­i­tal is here…Film is dead..
Get on the bus or change careers.


Q: On-set cof­fee: Star­bucks or Dunkin?

Bill: Dunkin
Ned: Crews like armies, move on their stom­achs. Good food and craft ser­vice are key.


Q: Pre or Post?

Ned: Pre. Don’t fig­ure you can fix it in post. Some­times you can but by then peo­ple might be too pissed off to care…!

 

Q: We’ve been chat­ting mostly about com­mer­cials. Is pro­duc­ing con­tent dri­ven projects different?

Ned: Com­mer­cials are the absolute high­est stan­dard. 30 sec­onds (or so), of absolute per­fec­tion. Noth­ing wasted. Like telling a good joke. Always a punch­line (mes­sage), and has to cut through the clut­ter. Con­tent is a longer mes­sage like a short story. Com­mer­cials are like a poem. You have to bud­get and allow for revi­sions and com­mu­ni­ca­tion needs to be crys­tal clear.


Q: Regard­less of the project type, how do you keep things from going over budget?

Ned: Try­ing to be like a chess mas­ter and think­ing three moves ahead. Always hav­ing alter­nate plans. Also, hav­ing deep rela­tion­ships with crew peo­ple, and giv­ing a lit­tle extra when you have it. Try also thank­ing some­one in writ­ing who never gets thanked. Amaz­ing that dupli­ca­tion, cops, couri­ers, per­mit peo­ple, etc. have so much power over deliv­ery, and are never thanked.


Q: I see you’ve got a fairly new direc­tor in your line up. What do you look for?

Ned: Above and beyond a stel­lar reel, we look for some­one you want to hang out with. A good lis­tener, some­one artic­u­late with key ideas and lots of expe­ri­ence. Stay away from the “cool for being cool” peo­ple, they get you into trou­ble. Fashion/beauty and cars would be two good areas for us to look for.


Q:What is the sin­gle most impor­tant take­away from our discussion?

Bill: What I have learned over some years is that you should not clut­ter the idea. The purer the idea with the least amount of “touches”will always make the best communication.

Ned: Vision and respect. Focus on those two things and you’ll never be want­ing for good ideas or peo­ple to share them with. You need repeat busi­ness not one– offs. Never make a client new busi­ness call that you wouldn’t want to receive. A good pro­ducer is some­one who every­one wants to work with again. Also there aren’t any vic­tory laps because pro­duc­tion (like rust) never sleeps!

Peter: I would like to sin­cerely thank you both for shar­ing your time and expe­ri­ence. Also a big shout-out to Laura Yellen for mak­ing this inter­view possible.


As a cre­ative with a wide pas­sion base I’m always on the look­out for peo­ple I can learn from and pass on those key insights to my fol­low­ers. If you are a thought leader, trend­set­ter or just have an inter­est­ing view­point please con­tact me to be part of this inter­view series.

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