Wednesday, October 01, 2014

AD JERSEUM 18: Ballantine Ale Halloween Party!




We all know there's nothing scarier than...OLD BEER!

Growing up in the '80s, there were plenty of Halloween and Beer ad tie-ins. We were pretty spoiled in that regard, although it's been going on for many moons before Elvira showed up in a Coors Light ad. Above, you can see an example of such a thing from 1943, except without a beehive haircut and cleavage.

Today's ad features one of the oldest beer brands in the country, Ballantine Ale, which is deeply rooted in New Jersey. I wasn't around during it's heyday, but growing up, we had a few pieces of Ballantine paraphernalia in my house, so I was familiar with it, even as its popularity throughout the country waned.

In the house I lived most of my life in, we had an actual bar in our house, not one that you would buy at a furniture store or at a place that sells bars, but an actual bar complete with leather stools transported from a real bar in Newark.

It was permanently installed in our den, which was basically our play room. Yes, we played in a room that had a giant full wet bar. Once the huge family gatherings started to become a rarity because family moved away to various parts of the country, the bar room eventually evolved into my own personal play room and wrestling arena for the better pat of my childhood.

We didn't change anything in the bar so it pretty much stayed the same way since the late '70s. There were colored lights and lots of authentic liquor trays coasters, branded glasses and mugs, and lighted fixtures with various brands of beer and soda like Schaefer, Carlsberg, Heineken, 7Up, and others.

I can't really say I ever cared to sample anything until I got older. Maybe crème de menthe because it was green and looked somewhat more appetizing than say, Seagrams 7. The Frangelico bottle in the monk costume didn't look to shabby either, mostly because it reminded me of the figural shape of Mrs. Butterworth's, but I hadn't developed a taste for it yet.

Trust me, just because this thing was in my house didn't drive me to boozin' at an early age. If anything it removed the temptation that a lot of my other friends had. Why would I beg my sister or ask an older friend to go to a liquor store for me when I stared at these dusty bottles that no one ever drank every day of my life? Eventually, as I got a little older, there were a few times when I had to enlist some help, similar to the Goldslick Vodka fiasco in Superbad.

While clicking through eBay, and definitely not intentionally looking for Ballatine Ale memorabilia, I came across a vintage Halloween themed ad for this beer which is perfect for our column AD JERSEUM. Print ads are rarely this enticing anymore and finding one oozing with so much old school Halloween spirit makes it even more tremendous!

The ad is pure persuasive Halloween magic. The kickass bar didn't drive me to drink, but this ad makes it seem like the most fun and appealing activity that anyone could ever take part in. Whenever a product or company completely embraces holidays and makes them the basis of an entire ad campaign, that's gold in my book.

The ad recalls a time before I was born when parties with a slew of guests were a common practice and entertaining on a weekly basis was the thing to do. Finger foods were a hot commodity and quirky adult beverages were always on the menu.

Let me break this scene down for you. A spooky witch, A knight, and Mr. Pumpkinhead with the argyle shirt are all at a dinner party. It looks as if the witch is attempting to scare the letters in the word BOOO and those letters are shooting back sarcastically with one of those "shakin' in their boots" mocks back to her as if her attempts are not really scary at all, cause he knows the drill. Boo has been around the block many times with this witch. Cannot pull the wool over his eyes anymore...or the sheet.

The main focal point, of course, is the beer, which looks so damn appealing. It almost looks more like an ice cream soda with whip cream swirled on top than a plain old beer. And look how this brew is making these m'fers HAPPY. You can almost hear Pharrell Williams singing the background song of this ad.

The Knight is completely psychotic and will without a doubt KILL Mr. Pumpkinhead after the first round of hors de ouvers. Hopefully he'll let everyone grab a cocktail wiener on a toothpick before he chops this poor guys head off and puts it over his head to reenact the legend of Sleepy Hollow out front to the delight of the snobby drunk well-to-do folks who attended this soiree. I just realized, cocktail wieners were completely out of the question for this party, CORRECTION - Crab Puff pastries, my bad.

If you can read the very tiny verbiage, it describes talking with our hands as if it was an ancient thing, which is interesting. Jerseyans and New Yorkers are often described as people who talk with their hands, so this part of the ad works on two levels. Here, hand gestures are referred to as a "Handy." Stop smirking. This is serious beer business.

The handy mumbo jumbo doesn't make much sense to me, but I chalk that up to it's age. Maybe at one time it made perfect sense to readers. We don't really need to connect with this lingo, because apparently, all we need to know is that the "OK" hand signal means this Ballantine stuff is a superlative beer.

According to Wikipedia The new Ballantine is not the same exact brew as it once was because the original recipe from over 100 years ago has been lost to the ages. Presently, it's been said that the brew is reminiscent of it's original flavor. I've tried it actually found it enjoyable, and easy to drink. If you want to add a vintage flair to your Halloween party this year, give Ballantine a shot, look how happy it made the Knight and Mr. Pumpkinhead!

*Long after I wrote this, a coincidental thing about this beer happened. I was driving home last weekend from Weehawken, NJ on the NJ Turnpike with Miss Sexy Armpit and we saw a giant Ballantine billboard. It looks like this beer is attempting to make a comeback! I had no clue about that either because this post had been in the can for about a month before I even saw that billboard!

Facts about Ballatine from Wikipedia:

- Founded in Newark in 1840, the company stayed in the Ballantine family until the brewery close in 1972.

- Ballantine, based out of Newark, exists in name only nowadays. The brand is owned and marketed by Pabst while the actual brewing is outsourced to Miller.

- Ballatine was a longtime sponsor of the New York Yankees

- Martin Crane on Frasier was a fan of Ballatine beer

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Production Blog 3: Halloween Special 2014, Catastrophe!

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Now is the most logical time to impress upon you that you should check out our 1st and 2nd Halloween specials if you've never watched them. They do have aspects that will continue in our upcoming 3rd special, so watch 'em on your smart TV right before you view your next horror movie!


Please subscribe and check out our other videos at: https://www.youtube.com/user/thesexyarmpit/videos

Back to the production update:

There was a lot of positivity and momentum going on in the last production update.

This one is more filled with rage and furious anger.

What I intended on being the final day of filming actually turned out to be disastrous, aside from an wondrous trip to Smashburger (had the chicken avocado club in case you were wondering!) It was no fault of the people involved like Mike, his wife Lauren, and Miss Sexy Armpit. It wasn't my fault either, it was the camera. It seems to gave gone bye-bye. Not disappeared, but more accurately, gone to shit. It's a realm that I don't think it will ever return from.

Regardless, after I transferred the footage the computer, I watched it back...stupefied at what I was viewing. Each piece of footage was incredibly pixelated and distorted. If I was making a found footage movie that was recorded on a half broken GoPro camera, this would've been tops. I even tried converting the footage, but there was no fixing it since it seems to definitely be an issue within the camera itself.

So, the footage was fucked, and I felt that I was as well. Nothing like a catastrophe like this putting a huge damper on forward progress and what little motivation I had at that moment. I won't feel fully in the game until we get back on track with the all the footage in the can.

Looking back, it makes this whole thing seem like more of a struggle, and it definitely IS. There's no embellishing here. Considering there's no budget, and a fair amount of arguing, the resentment of Jay factor is rising amongst those involved. The only thing I can promise is that when it's done, the crew and YOU will be moderately entertained. That is what will redeem me here, I hope.

Fingers crossed, tomorrow we'll complete our re-shoots with a brand new cam. After that it shouldn't be too long before I can unleash The Halloween Special 2014 to all of you. 

As far as running time, we are looking at pushing 25-30 minutes and I previously mentioned in the last post, that is way too long in my view. But there's too much good stuff that it's not getting chopped to hell. Let's face it, we don't get a limited edition Scream Factory blu-ray so I'm gonna make this one count! 

Also, it'd be great if you want to incorporate it into an October horror-thon, like watching it before ohhh, say...Halloween 2 or something, of course that's just a suggestion, I don't mean you should actually do that, except no, I DO MEAN EXACTLY THAT. PLEASE.

Cursed footage. Raging tension. Heated arguments. This could be the basis of next years Halloween special. Bah, who am I kidding, I already have 5 ideas for it.

I truly appreciate everyone coming together to help out when this really brought down all of our moods. On a lighter note, I can report that this has been a real team effort. Lots of our online friends have pitched in to help, and even some surprise guests that went out of their way to make appearances both on camera and off. You know who you are, and you will all be thanked heavily in the credits! This aspect of it is really going to make this special the most monumental installment so far. My original vision for these was exactly that - a throwback. I'm all about including guest stars and hijinks much like some low budget TV special you might have seen in the '70s.

Stay Tuned and thanks for hanging in there! I will not rest until it's complete!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Production Blog 2: Halloween Special

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Since we won't be filming the next half of the special until the weekend, I decided to begin cutting the footage we've already shot. I always find an insane amount of joy in watching the raw footage back while editing, it's one of the more enjoyable phases of the process.

Although, even basking in this glorious almost-Autumn weather hasn't been enough to rescue me from feeling a bit distraught. The excitement of Halloween has not yet fully hit me yet because this mammoth undertaking IS A LOT OF DAMN WORK!

I blame myself.

Honestly - writing, "acting," filming, and editing are aspects I certainly adore, but they're all a free-time leech, and prove to be a major distraction from being able to fully enjoy the early part of the Halloween season. By time the season is in full swing, I'm beat up from lack of sleep because I've been editing for weeks and staying up until 2am and then waking up at 5am for work. When Halloween is over, I look back and have no idea where it all went. One of these days I just want to sit back and take it all in. Maybe I'll start recording the special in the spring time? Nah. It just wouldn't feel right.

Like so many of you, Halloween inspires me. The span of September 1st all the way until October's big 3-1 is one huge overload on my brain. I can't even reign in all the ideas I have, nor could I possibly ever execute all the trips, blog posts, and videos that I have on deck. There's just not enough time, especially when one is biting off more than he can chew with a full time job, trying to blog, AND creating a Halloween special for YouTube.

I'm sure there were many people out there who probably watched our last two specials and got nauseated, but I am not here to beat them into submission and staple their eyelids open to watch our ridiculous YouTube video. I'm appreciative and happy about those out there who genuinely enjoy them and plainly see in them the obvious outpouring of love that I have for Halloween, horror films, and pop culture in general. All 3 of those things have literally consumed my entire life, and so has making videos.

For those of you who read blogs in our circles and elsewhere and see the term "labor of love," well, I can tell you for damn sure that that is a real thing.

A crazy expensive professional video camera was first placed in my hand when I was 8 or 9 years old...in the '80s. This thing was GIGANTIC and HEAVY. Seeing a similar reference on The Goldbergs last season was surreal. I'm sure there were others who felt the same way, but I said to myself "Holy shit, that was me!" Hauling around what felt like a 90 pound video camera on my shoulders interviewing family members, recording backyard wrestling events, and acting out movie scenes was common content found on a blank VHS tape at our house. That stuff never stopped, it just evolved. Next it was 8-millimeter, digital cams, and transitioning from old school editing on decks to editing right on the computer, it's been a long journey.

So, to bring that all together, what I'm saying is, as wacky as our videos might be, they actually represent the culmination of many years of passion for horror, comedy, screenwriting, editing, and amateur filmmaking.

Enough of this schmaltzy B.S! Onto the actual production update!

As I mentioned in the first production update, I enjoy the editing process immensely. While the rest of my productions are usually created in a slightly haphazard way, the editing is very methodical.

For only the first half of scenes, we had over 90 minutes of footage. That's deceiving though, because a large chunk of this is raw footage for the intro credits. To clue you in, I've dwindled this all down to 28 minutes, but we have another 2-3 days of filming left. My hope is never make these specials longer than 15 minutes, but it's a major challenge to tell a story properly in such a quick amount of time. I'm hoping this special will be in the range of 15-20 minutes max. If it's more, I'm going to get cranky. Since this is our 3rd special, I owe it to myself to not rush the story and make it the best it can be. Who knows, maybe it will be the best one we've done so far. What I can tell you is that we have some super special cameos that are really icing on the cake.

I can also add that for every tense moment during filming there's about 5 or 6 that make us all laugh and prohibit us from continuing for a few minutes. This type of absurdity has already given us about 5 minutes of outtakes that I really wanted to weave in during the credits, but we shall see how long the film itself is. If the run time is already 20 minutes, I'm going to have to make a separate outtake reel and upload that on it's own.

Another thing I've noticed as I look back on this footage is that I am certainly not Stanley Kubrick, but I just wind up acting like him when we're making these specials. During filming I have no idea that I become a total dick, but it's like I'm possessed. I think I said "let's do it one more time," about 67 times in the first half of footage. Plus that makes editing that much more grueling because for a 3 word sentence I'll have 43 takes filmed. Talk about driving myself mad!

I'm hoping to have all the filming in the can by Monday, save for a few little bits of the intro and a few other very minor details. Once I load that footage in, I'll begin the second phase of editing. Time-wise we seem to be pretty much on target. Thanks for reading and come back again soon to track our progress!

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Production Blog 1: Halloween Special 2014

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You might be wondering how I could have the audacity to start a Halloween countdown and then not post a damn thing for a week? Trust me, there's a good reason, and it's well worth it!

Thanks for baring with me folks. We're about halfway into production of The Sexy Armpit Halloween Special 2014! This is our 3rd Halloween special and to make it even remotely entertaining (and I use that term loosely) we have to put a lot of thought and actual hard work into it. Since I've had to turn my attention away from the Halloween countdown in favor of our annual Halloween video extravaganza, I figured, why not present you some inside info about it right here on the blog?

Although I consider the content of these specials to be a complete farce, I still infuse them with the utmost care and attention to detail. Ahh yes, details...that's where Mike (@IdiotAtPlay) comes in. He's always our continuity expert. Of course, we'll still have one or two minor flubs in that department, but it's no fault of his. This is multiple levels below even a Troma level of production, so keep that in mind. A few pumpkin beers and everything's thrown out the window!

As I mentioned, we're about halfway through filming and things are going well. The second half of filming will continue later this month, and that will contain more arduous scenes in terms of dialogue, props, and "scenery." While I enjoy the process of directing and "acting," they are my least favorite part of all this.

Having gone through so many film and acting classes, it became apparent to me over the years that I gain the most enjoyment out of two facets of the filmmaking process. I have an affinity for scriptwriting, but editing is my strong suit and it's what I have the most passion for. So, I'm definitely anxious to start editing. Matter of fact, I may begin loading the footage we've already shot and dive right in to get a jump on things.

As for a premiere date, unfortunately, it's still too early to tell, but I'll be announcing one soon. Once we get the rest of the filming is complete, I'll have a better idea of when it will hit the YouTubes. It will obviously be sometime in October. Typically, I aim for early to mid-month, so stay tuned!
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