Hitting the Funny Bone: Carlyn Hudson’s Creative Process

Our latest blog entry is another in a series of first-person accounts from the Revelator staff. Today’s entry is an inside look at Revelator writer/director Carlyn Hudson’s creative process. Carlyn takes us through the creative approach to concepting and directing her hilarious spots for CORT Furniture.

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Photo courtesy of Rusk Photography

In my creative process, one of my favorite worlds to create is a comedic one. Whether I’m helping pay tribute to Richard Linklater or directing my own feature film, I love to shoot for the lighter side. That’s why creating the Cort Furniture campaign was so much fun. Cort wanted a new “Student” ad campaign, and they weren’t thrilled with what their advertising agency was sending them, so they thought it might be fun to have a new writer come up with a few narrative-based creative concepts.

CORT knew they wanted funny, college-age, and on-brand messaging incorporated into the stories…and they knew they wanted it to center around a main, college-aged protagonist. After a few initial meetings about their ideas and needs as a company, I started writing. Everyone knows the hassles of moving their belongings to a new place and has their own stories about the pitfalls of relocating, so it was fun to mine those experiences and illustrate why renting furniture might be a better option. I have plenty myself, like the time all of my bags were stolen by pirates (seriously what the airline claimed) while moving to New York to attend NYU, or the last time my dad helped me move, which ended in his sage advice “get a boyfriend,” (thanks, dad). We probably went through 12 different script ideas, after writing even more and whittling down from there. (The Cort folks wanted us to show them a lot of ideas in a lot of creative directions, so we called this process “throwing ‘sgetti against a wall to see what sticks,” (that’s the technical term)). They picked their favorite 5 and together we revised the concepts and copy, got approval, and set out to make these things.

Casting was paramount. If we didn’t have a great main college gal, these wouldn’t work. I turned to the improv community in Austin to find our talent. We had a bunch of wonderful ladies to choose from, but were most impressed with Kaci Danger and her Aubrey Plaza-style deadpan delivery, especially since she plays the straight character to all the wacky personalities in these spots. Much of the rest of the smaller players were friends of mine from the improv and film scene, as well as folks we found from a standard casting call. It was important that these people commit to their archetypes, and most importantly be able to play on set, since this series was so off-beat. Ok, enough chit-chat, let’s watch one!

The tone of these was quirky, bright, and slightly absurd. The situations Kaci found herself in were definitely part of a heightened reality, so the wardrobe and set design had to reflect that. Kaci’s wardrobe was an elevated Zoey-Deschanel-cutesy type of look, the overall palate full of bright, primary colors, and production designs not far from a Pee-Wee’s Playhouse kind of vibe. The location house in this next spot was a place that I actually lived in at one point. My roommates and I lovingly dubbed it “The Adams Family Halfway House” for obvious reasons, including the bizarre decor which included 5 broken pianos and over 35 antique grandfather clocks. This is a house in which my father also advised, “get a boyfriend” (thanks, dad). Camera-wise, we chose to shoot on a RED because of the dynamic range and the flexibility it would allow us with color in post. From a visual standpoint, we chose to use traditional comedy framing, generally locked off shots, and camera placement unobtrusive to the stories. Let’s take a look…

You can probably tell from watching these that we had a lot of fun on set. There was a crazy amount of stuff to shoot in a limited amount of time (what’s new!) but everyone came to set with an open mind and ready to play. I like to start off with doing multiple takes of the scripted lines so that we have the coverage we absolutely need, but then we’d go off book, and that’s where these improv actors really shine. As to be expected, some great stuff ended up on the cutting room floor, but several moments in the campaign were borne out of actor collaboration and improvisation.

From there, the editor and I started crafting these little stories keeping in mind the overall message (rent, don’t buy) and making sure we hit the right tone and funny bone in each. We edited multiple versions for pre-roll and the web, and ultimately, the people at CORT were super happy with how they turned out. In fact, I recall the marketing director saying to me, “Hiring you was hands down the best decision of my professional career thus far.”* I still continue to pitch ideas to their team today, and we have some more projects brewing for early 2016. One day I’ll get them on board with my CORT-room drama series (“I hereby sentence you, sofa, to a lifetime in furniture jail!”) but until then, I’ll keep throwing ‘sgetti against the wall and seeing what sticks.

-Carlyn Hudson
Director/Writer, Revelator

*Quote cannot be confirmed at this time

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ABOUT REVELATOR: Revelator is a full service film & video production company in Austin, Texas. We like to write, produce, & edit projects for t.v. and the web. We specialize in brand films, corporate identity work, as well digital advertising and t.v. broadcast advertising. If you need help with your script, production, or just an idea, give us a call.

REVELATOR SERVICES: Video Production, TV Commercials, Brand Films, Virtual Reality, VR Experiences, Script Writing, Music Videos, Lifestyle Videos, Technology Videos, B2B Videos, Product Videos, Feature Films, Motion Graphic Videos, Turnkey Solutions, and Live Event Video Production.