How do we shine light on the dark, tragic realities behind a well loved show while also capturing the same kind of excitement and feel for the audience? Can we illuminate hard truths without undermining some of televisions most beloved characters ever broadcast?
Our six part documentary series on the reality behind Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul themes was launched in 2020 to massive acclaim. Hosted by Giancarlo Esposito, we took one of the shows most revered and feared villains and made them our guide through the mirky depths of drug addiction in middle America, of the real costs to disappearing from the law, of smuggling, conning and even electromagnetic sensitivity. The series was ultimately nominated for a Webby in the People’s Choice and Reality categories.
When IKA Collective (production company / NY, NY) got the opportunity to pitch AMC on creative for ancillary digital content to support the roll out of the much anticipated season 4 of Better Call Saul, I was brought into the creative team to assist on ideation and to have responsibility for the ultimate presentation design.
Building off the success of AMC’s recent digital series, The Real Terror we envisioned a documentary series that gave fans a chance to learn about the realities behind the show’s themes as well as real-life counterparts to beloved characters like Saul Goodman.
AMC loved it, and wanted us to take one step further by incorporating characters and themes from Breaking Bad, knowing the upcoming season would be bridging the events between the two award winning shows.
As the Series Designer, it was advantageous for me to have been involved from the beginning with creative. Ultimately, the original designs and visual look-and-feel presented to help sell the creative became the corner stone to the final series design.
Each episode had its own title animation. Thematically, we wanted them all to present the viewer with an object, a scene, or even a gesture which on the surface conveyed something straightforward or benign. But through visual effects and animation we would reveal a darker truth behind them. These would set the stage for the mood and content of each episode.
The creation of the series began at a breakneck pace. We had a limited amount of time to turn around the full series before its initial release date. Because of this, Production and Post-Production worked in tandem. As director Ronni Thomas would be in the field shooting and capturing material for an episode, I was at work in the edit room - assembling cuts for the one previously shot. Assisting me on the post team was Judd Blaise, who took principle control over 1 of 6 episodes - Smuggler’s Playground. Also on the team was Jim Fields, who turned around the first draft assembly for Below The Law. Last but certainly not least, Keegan Larwin provided several 3D sequences for use in the final motion graphics.
Since production would wrap one episode and then almost immediately begin the next, I would be tasked with capturing any footage we needed additionally once in the edit room. I shot and color matched a great deal of b-roll for use in all 6 episodes, including a few cameo performances by my wife - clad in protective thermo blanketing, for use in Radio-Free West Virginia.
Production wrapped the principle photography for episode 6 Disappearing Act in January 2020. We had only the hosted sequences with Giancarlo Esposito left to shoot when suddenly the whole country went on pandemic lockdown.
We were able to finish the series by working remotely with Giancarlo Esposito, who brought his daughter onboard to shoot the final sequences. In various well scouted and prepped locations by Esposito and his daughter, they shot the direly needed scenes with Ronni Thomas directing via remote stream.
AMC launched the series on AMC.com at the beginning of 2020. To the time of this writing, it is still buzzing with activity from fans.
Documentary is well known format for delivering extra content for fans and audiences. Done creatively, this kind of content can truly stand on its own. I think we accomplished this with The Broken and The Bad.
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