Director Jacob Rosenberg of Prodn. House Bandito Brothers Makes Feature Filmmaking Debut With Documentary Waiting For Lightning
LOS ANGELES, April 06, 2012, Robert Goldrich --- Raising the bar on branded content and agency-initiated fare is the presence of such projects on this year's festival circuit, ranging from Sundance to the recently concluded South By Southwest Film Conference and Festival (SXSW). Among the notable entries are three feature documentaries: Re:Generation Music Project and Waiting For Lightning, which both graced SXSW; and Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare, which premiered at Sundance.
The latter was not branded but came out of OgilvyEntertainment unit Aisle C Productions, which worked in tandem with directors/producers Susan Froemke and Matthew Heineman. Aisle C was established two years ago to develop and produce original, non-branded entertainment. Escape Fire examines the country's healthcare crisis, underscoring a needed shift from disease management to prevention, and from placing focus on patients rather than profits. Inspired in part by Donna Karan and her Urban Zen Foundation, the documentary follows dramatic stories of patients as well as of healthcare leaders who are striving to transform the system at the highest levels of medicine, industry, government and even the U.S. military. Escape Fire was executive produced by Doug Scott, president of OgilvyEntertainment.
Re:Generation Music Project was directed by Amir Bar-Lev who is represented for commercials and branded entertainment by RSA Films. Produced by music-focused entertainment studio GreenLight Media & Marketing in association with RSA, the documentary found an ideal venue in SXSW in that it too is known for marrying the worlds of film and music. Made in association with the Grammys and sponsored by Hyundai Veloster, Re:Generation follows five noted DJs--DJ Premier, electronic duo The Crystal Method, Pretty Lights of dub-step fame, Grammy winner Skrillex and producer Mark Ronson--as they remix, recreate and re-imagine five traditional styles of music. Ronson creates his take on jazz, Skrillex on rock 'n roll, Pretty Lights on country music, DJ Premier tackles classical, and The Crystal Method forays into soul. Each artist collaborates with another artist or artists from each respective genre. For example, The Crystal Method teams with soul singer Martha Reeves (of the Motown group Martha and the Vandellas).
While Re:Generation and Escape Fire were covered extensively in SHOOTonline (2/24 and 2/2, respectively), the aforementioned Waiting For Lightning has flown a bit under the radar. Directed by Jacob Rosenberg of production house Bandito Brothers, the feature tells the story of Danny Way, a young boy from a broken home in Vista, Calif., who went on to become a skateboarding legend. The film delves into a Way creation, a ramp of dangerous proportions designed to traverse physical, cultural and ideological barriers in an attempt of the seemingly impossible—to jump across China's Great Wall on a skateboard. Nonetheless, this documentary shows that Way's life is more captivating than even his prodigious skateboarding exploits.
DC Shoes, a division of Quiksilver, served as sponsor and played a key role in helping to bring the documentary to fruition. Bandito Brothers' co-founder Mike "Mouse" McCoy described the film as a leading example of branded entertainment. Way is a co-founder of DC Shoes which is a major skateboarding sponsor and supporter; seeing that company's logo in competition is commonplace, meaning that the brand's appearance never seemed forced in the context of the documentary.
SHOOT caught up with director Rosenberg who reflected on his SXSW experience and the film itself. "South By Southwest was the best environment in which to share a film like ours--the tone of the festival, the venue in Austin, the vibe of the people and the event were a perfect fit," assessed Rosenberg. "Our type of movie thrives in that environment--one which embraces counterculture but also has great critical thinking. Waiting For Lightning tells the story of someone in counterculture while diving into psychological aspects of Danny, shedding light on his drive and where it comes from. This isn't an extreme sports movie although Danny is an extreme athlete. There's a narrative here, and Danny's story is quite compelling. I took it as a compliment when the [SXSW] film festival director [Janet Pierson] told me she loved our film even though she isn't a fan of skateboarding."
The movie also struck a personal chord for Rosenberg who's known Way for 20 years. "We both had the same mentor, Mike Ternasky, who made some of the most influential skateboarding videos and started some of the most influential skateboarding companies of all time," related Rosenberg. "Mike mentored both of us--back when I was making skateboarding films in the early 1990s, part of the same generation of skateboarding filmmakers such as Spike Jonze. Danny became a great skateboarder due in part to his being pushed by Mike to do better, to constantly challenge himself. After being nurtured by Mike, we both went on separate paths, coming together 20 years later to make this film. There's a symmetry there that means a lot to both of us."
As for Rosenberg's path, after establishing himself as a skateboarding filmmaker, he went to film school at Emerson College. That formal education led to his directing music videos, primarily in the hip-hop genre, and then diversifying into commercials. Rosenberg also developed a knack for the technical side and found himself consulting for Adobe and being helpful in terms of how filmmakers could best use tools and technology on sophisticated projects.
This technical acumen led Rosenberg to McCoy and Scott Waugh as they embarked on producing Dust to Glory, an action-adventure documentary chronicling the Baja 1000 offroad race, tapping directly into the racing expertise of motorcycle Supercross driver McCoy. Rosenberg spearheaded the development of a postproduction workflow for the film, which was released in 2005 and laid the groundwork for McCoy and Waugh to later form Bandito Brothers, the independent filmmaking studio through which the duo directed and produced this year's groundbreaking box office hit Act of Valor.
Rosenberg became chief technical officer at Bandito Brothers where he also advanced his directorial career with spot campaign credits for such clients as Ford, Nature Made and Cisco. Bandito Brothers also produced Waiting For Lightning (Waugh and McCoy were exec producers on the film), which will make its next stop on the festival circuit at the Hot Docs showcase in Toronto with screenings scheduled for April 28 and 30, and May 5.Original Story