Courting Chaos With Richard Sherman

Posted on May 13, 2014

Richard Sherman Swedish Cancer Institute Commercial

Our friends at Clatter & Din and Worker Bees called with a daunting proposition: match the supercharged atmosphere of the NFL Championship game and recreate Richard Sherman’s famous rant. And do so in two hours with a small crew and one extra. The first thing we told them was that it would be almost impossible to accomplish. The next thing we said was that we’d love to do it.

Filmmaking is often an exercise in control. This would be an exercise in chaos. Our main concern was creating the illusion for both the audience and Mr. Sherman that he was back in front of 67,000 crazed fans having just made the play of his life to send his team to the Super Bowl. Easy. Enter chaos.

Standing in an empty stadium with the resources for one extra, an Erin Andrews lookalike was the only thing we could give Richard that would place him, visually, back in that moment. So we decided to help him out by blinding him.

Half a dozen 1K’s were placed in front of him and triggered to fire randomly, popping off and on like so many strobes (if you are wondering why we didn’t simply use strobes, you have just hit on one of the few things to miss about shooting film). The effect was subtle to our lens, but for Richard it traded empty seats for the illusion of a dozen photographers frantically capturing the moment. Every time.

The next trick came to us courtesy of Eddie Murphy in “Trading Places”, the song “Roxanne” and some embarrassing karaoke moments: It is very difficult to speak normally when you have something screaming in your ears. We may not “see” 67,000 fans, but we could, and would, certainly “hear” them. Enter Distillery producer Libby Magnuson, an ex-Apple Genius bar genius, and her wireless ear buds. Armed with a loop of rabid, high decibel 12th man cheers and blessed with Richard’s signature dreadlocks, you couldn’t see the 67,000 fans OR the ear buds, but you could sure feel them in Richard’s performance. Every time.

The final touch of chaos was presented to us from heaven. Rain. And a lot of it. DP Jason Brown had the good instinct to chase away the first cloth sent to rescue his rain-splattered lens. Insanity, normally, but who gets to interrupt an emotional, spontaneous outburst to clean a lens? Later in the edit room, all takes without rain were summarily dismissed.

So chaos ensued, thanks to the courageous partnership offered us by creative director Larry Asher, who not only fielded questions from his clients we can only guess at, but also managed to rewrite his script on the spot with a wet, blinded, shouting All Pro cornerback.

And about that cornerback. Richard Sherman is a talented, earnest, hard-working man. Should you ever get the opportunity to work with him, just do it.

– Ron Gross / Director