Behind the Cut: Charlie Johnston and Paul Snyder on Editing AT&T's 'It's Not Complicated'
We've answered the question about whether the zany kids from BBDO Atlanta's AT&T's "It's Not Complicated" campaign were the real thing. For the most part, they were, but achieving the humor wasn't simply about fertilizing and capturing the craziness. The magic continued in the editing room, where Lost Planet editors Charlie Johnston and Paul Snyder worked to find the moments that preserved the magic on set. Creativity talked to them about the distinct challenges of cutting the highly-improvisational campaign, as well as the insight they gleaned about how the campaign has evolved over the course of multiple rounds of spots.
It's sort of the reverse of the usual edit process. I find that on a lot of the comedy spots, it's not funny until you construct the whole thing. With this, we're in a very limited edit situation--we've got three angles--it's funny, it's funny, and you try and make a spot out of it. And it's about trying to be true to what made you laugh when you screened the dailies, than it is trying to construct the context around something. You want the context that somebody else watches it in to be more like you watching the dailies, with it feeling live and as spontaneous as when you first saw it.
Creativity: What kind of dailies did you get? Was there way more than you'd get on a regular campaign?
Mr. Snyder: It's unique in that because there are three cameras rolling, you can have an entire spot from 30 seconds of the dailies, whereas on something else, it's all kinds of different scenes, all kinds of different coverage. With this, you had some spots that were just like magical, where 22 seconds is how long it takes for [the actor] Beck Bennett to ask the question up till something really funny happens. And then in other cases it'll be something we pull from minutes apart. But there's just little moments could happen that would end up making the spot. There'd be virtually no edits, we'd do camera changes, whereas there'd be other ones that have a lot of sophisticated split screening to try and save time.
Creativity: What other factors when into creating the comedy?
Mr. Johnston: There were a lot of times in a lot of the later spots, there were these dead pauses that were hysterical. Maybe on set that wouldn't be funny--they were just dead air to fill. But Paul cut a spot, "High Five, and one of the creatives said he remembered that moment on set. He didn't even think that moment was funny, but in the edit you can take a special moment like that and make it into one of the better spots.
Creativity: What are the challenges of improvisational editing versus straight up script? Do you work a lot like this, or is this pretty atypical?
Mr. Johnston: I think this was atypical. One of the challenges was that there were some dead groups. It was easy to get sort of discouraged if you had a whole group and you screened all three hours of the dailies, you make selects, you spend a day trying to mine something funny and then think, is it in there, am I not seeing it? It was also discouraging, somewhat depressing when I'd go to Paul's room and say, "Paul, I've got this one spot and it's not even funny!" And Paul would have eight sequences already built from another group.
Creativity: What are your personal favorites from the campaign?
Mr. Johnston: A couple of my favorites didn't make it to air.
Mr. Snyder: Yeah, the one with the kid that talks about the TV wire? He was a genius. There was a spot that Charlie cut where the kid was miming what it was like to watch TV. He was using a remote, gasping and it looked like he was blowing on the TV. But he didn't explain that he was miming watching TV. So he does this bizarro mime and Beck says, "What are you doing?" And the kid says, "I was just watching TV going ooh and ahhh." I don't know if that'll ever see the light of day, but that was one of the funniest things I've ever seen in my life.