DON-O-MITE: BLAXPLOITATION MEETS MAD MEN
I’ve long been a fan of Blaxploitation movies. Whether it be The Mack, Uptown Saturday Night, Across 110th St, or Cotton Comes To Harlem. These movies were everywhere when I was a kid, and they even had a bit of a resurgence in NY clubs in the layte 80s/early 90s, when underground parties like “Soul Kitchen” would project Black Caesar and Coffy on the wall over the dancefloor. I had a collection of Blaxploitation Tshirts that NY graf O.G.’s Futura 2000 and Stash used to print and sell at nightclubs. When the opportunity arose to combine my love of Blaxploitation with my love of AMC’s Mad Men, it was too good to be true. http://vimeo.com/91734039 Ben Cruz & I pitched this concept to the Mad Men execs at AMC for Leroy & Clarkson a few months ago, as a goofy promo for the final season. The network people thought it was hilarious, but said they would never touch it in a million years. They did, however, hint that they might not sue us if we just went ahead and made it on our own dime. So Daniel Fries, ECD and owner of L+C, decided we would do just that (specifically, HIS dime). We had an absolute ball making it – scrambling like crazy to get the entire thing done in about six weeks, just in time for the season premiere. It was a labor of love for the entire staff, and lots of friends and colleagues pitched in as well. We had a stellar cast, amazing costumes, and an awesome location in Westchester that had pretty much been left intact since the 1970s.
I am immensely proud of this piece. My role was Creative Director, poster designer, music supervisor, & lead writer, getting lots of input and ideas from Daniel Fries, Ethan Christy, David Evans, Paul Caiozzo, Keith Saunders, & Ben Cruz. Ethan especially did a lot of work on the first draft of the script. I also did the pitch posters you see in the piece with the help of Jeremy Shires, who was our storyboard artist. Daniel Fries directed. Adam Santelli flew into town from LA to DP. Corey Weisz was the editor. Ronn Lueang and Jon Smith did the compositing. My man Jose Luis Pardo, aka DJ Afro from Los Amigos Invisibles, did the music – for free, and in ONE day, no less. He’s a one-man Venezuelan Kool & The Gang. Fellow Burner Nick Montgomery at Plush Sound was kind enough to do the sound mixing for free. Seth Ricart from Ricart & Co did the color correction, which really pushed it over the top. We got a lot of good press, including a shout out from John Hamm itself. It also generated some interesting debate about race, specifically ‘should a predominantly white ad agency be spoofing black culture of any kind?’. Being one of the authors, my position on that is clear. If people are mandated at birth to only write comedy for people of their own race, the world would be a very dull place. The notion is absurd to me.
Most creative people I know have long long list of personal projects that were well-intentioned but never finished. Every shop I’ve ever worked with has endeavored to rally the staff around in-house group projects, but the momentum always evaporates. Work comes in, people get busy, and the non-paying jobs get pushed aside. With Don-O-Mite, I think we may have cracked the code: we just needed a real deadline. This thing HAD to be done by the time the final season started. If we didn’t hit the web when the media was most receptive to Mad Men parodies, we were dead in the water. Everyone remained focused on hitting that date, and lo and behold, we got it done. My thanks to everyone who gave their all.
BEHIND THE SCENES