We asked art director Andy Nick to sit and write about his experience working on the boy band project. Below is his behind-the-scenes story.
It’s 1998. Even for this year’s homecoming king, (who also happens to be the star of the football AND basketball teams), he’s the runner up. Because, in every school across the US, the coolest guy in town is a distant second.
Technically, he’s a distant fifth. Because every teenage girl in America has her top four locked down; the four Heartthrob Boyz.
Every bedroom is wallpapered with their posters and magazine covers. Girl’s bathrooms have their logo carved into each stall. There are love letters in every girl’s notebook and every radio station is on a 20-minute rotation of Heartthrob Boyz singles.
Imagining a world where a boy band rules the airwaves isn’t hard—1998 was my senior year of high school. I couldn’t help but observe the impact that New Kids, Backstreet and N’Sync had on the world around me.
Imagining that world isn’t hard. But, building that world from scratch—that’s a whole different story. Designing the title sequence for “Boy Band” was an incredibly interesting design challenge, and a really cool trip back in time for our whole team.
Real Art had worked with the film’s co-writer and director Joel Levinson a year earlier during pre-production to help craft the look of the Heartthrob Boyz brand. We turned out some beautiful photography and a toolkit of mismatched type and texture.
A year later, Joel reached out to the video team to invite us to their first viewing of the film’s rough cut at a local indie theater, The Neon. We gladly accepted.
The film opens with the Heartthrob Boyz at the height of their popularity and quickly makes a jump to modern day, where the Heartthrob Boyz have spent 16 years in the studio trying to record the follow-up to their incredibly successful debut. Now, they’re middle-aged men who are gradually forced to come to terms with the fact that they’re not “boyz” anymore.
After the first showing, Joel and his team asked for input. It didn’t take long for everyone to agree that the single biggest problem with the film was that the Heartthrob Boyz success wasn’t part of the movie. The foundation wasn’t laid. The viewer never got to experience them at their best, so there was no contrast to seeing them at their worst.
Joel once again hired Real Art. This time, the goal was to paint the picture of the Boyz at the peak of stardom. At the same time, we needed to introduce the audience to the main characters and also credit the actors in the film.
We decided to introduce the audience to the Heartthrob Boyz the same way they had met boy bands 20 years ago—not personally, but through pop culture. Not only was our access to the young actors very limited, but we believed that building the same props that might have decorated bedroom walls and lockers would give us the chance to embed credit information within our scenes.
Since this called for original content to be added to the film, we wanted to be very specific about what these scenes would be. We divided our title scenes into 3 categories:
- “Anchor Moments” – content captured from a singled set that we revisit over and over. It’s our home-base and our consistent location.
- “One-off Moments” – Various locations used to tell very short stories. Action is minimal, and unique environments were key.
- “Micro Moments” – Quick 1-shots or simple CG work
All shots were created around props, details and set design—not talent. We pinned each scene up on a wall and our team gave the whole piece a chronology that sort of took us through a full day: a bright sunny morning, at school, Heartthrob Boyz playing a show in town at night.
Joel gave us the green light and we begin sketching out our scenes. At Real Art, we began a prop-collection effort: if you have anything leftover from the 90’s, or if your parents still have your old stuff, bring it in.
Concurrently, we began tasking any designer in the building who had free time to mock-up a magazine featuring the Heartthrob Boyz using the toolkit we had created a year ago. Lastly, our friends Wes and Kathleen over at Physis Films, the production company for the film, helped us cast a small army of Heartthrob fan girlz.
Our video team put our approved boards into action and built an animatic that served as our North Star throughout the capture process.
From sewing together custom pillows, designing magazines and hand-drawing posters to feeding a growing stockpile of props and 90’s memorabilia, Real Art came together to power the shoot.
On a single Sunday, we held a fast-paced and intense video shoot that took us from a girl’s bedroom to a high school hallway to a concert venue all within Real Art’s studio. Our talent was full of energy, the crew was on point and a bunch of Real Art-ers dropped in throughout the day to lend a hand, dress a set or iron out a wrinkle.
After the primary shoot, our team captured a few additional scenes at several different locations around Dayton. Meanwhile back in the shop, we began the editing process.
Over the next few months, Real Art delivered opening titles, interstitial graphics and helped cut together the music video that appears throughout the film. Additionally, we helped develop some of the VFX/compositing shots including the news broadcast footage and the YouTube knockoff “Watch Yo’Self”.
Personally, I was glad to turn a cold shoulder to the Boy Band scene back in the 90’s, not gonna lie. But here in present day, it was a blast to hop back to my high school years and try to recreate that feeling.
I want to give a shout out to Joel for letting us contribute, trusting us with his vision, and most importantly for making the early choice to produce this film here in Ohio. Keeping things here in the midwest, bringing the talent back to our home base, and leveraging the incredibly hard-working, resourceful people here in Dayton was a key decision that helped make this project into what it is. We’re proud to be a part of that.
[ Ed note: “Boy Band” premieres this weekend, April 14th and 15th at the 2018 Cleveland International Film Festival. ]
Trish Martinez – our wardrobe, hair and makeup genius who added so much to the 90’s vibe of the final piece
Wes and Kathleen Hartshorn @ Physis Films – for all your help with set building and casting the perfect Heartthrob Girlz
Joel & Stephen Levinson – for your support and collaboration throughout the process