Magazine article American Cinematographer

Shooting for a Touchdown

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Shooting for a Touchdown

Article excerpt

A seasoned crew brings the impact of the big screen to pro football.

Not a single football fan is present in the stands of Anaheim Stadium on this July afternoon, yet the atmosphere on the field could be likened to the anxious final seconds of a January playoff game, when a floating field-goal kick is about to spell triumph or tragedy for thousands of stone football fanatics.

The always pressing concerns of image and marketing are the gridiron challenges for the Los Angeles Rams today. A Hollywood film crew, under the direction of Jerzy Kromolowski, has been commissioned by the team to film a lively 20-second theater trailer in order to build anticipation for the 1993 season.

Along the sidelines, Rams 'suits' keep a vigilant watch over the filming. "I always get nervous when they start talking about the light," murmurs an uneasy observer wearing a Rams cap as the once-brilliant sunlight sinks further below the rim of the stadium's wall. Cinematographer Richard Glouner, ASC has taken on the role of head cheerleader as well as director of photography, both applauding and exhorting the Rams kickoff team after each take.

A problematic trend has arisen in the first few attempts of the centerpiece shot, which features ten Rams special teams players charging toward the low-mounted camera before kicker Tony Zendejas boots the football. Like most soccer-style kickers, Zendejas leans off to his left after he makes contact. The filmmakers, however, want Zendejas to run straight into the camera lens for maximum inyour-face visual impact.

"That was great, Tony, but you've got to run straight toward us!" the invariably spirited Glouner shouts from his end-zone position after the third take, somehow managing to sound neither frustrated nor impatient. "The rest of the shot was perfect!"

Zendejas eventually forces himself to adopt the straight followthrough from a football era gone by, but the problem is a minor complication in a generally smooth marriage of Hollywood production values and pigskin ritual.

The idea behind the trailer, according to Gene Cameron, the Rams' vice president of sales and marketing, was to present a strong psychological impression of the Rams through an arresting visual image. "[The Rams] gave Jerzy some of the overall strategic direction," he comments. "The Rams want a certain kind of image; an active image, and also an image of power, since we're reconstructing the team for a stronger type of football."

Also, Cameron says that the Rams considered the common motivations of the moviegoer and the live football spectator. "We wanted to appeal to an active-type audience member that goes out to see movies," he explains. "Couch potatoes are going to be tough to convince to go see a football game."

Since the Rams have a marketing arrangement with AMC Theatres (the Rams do promotional work for AMC in return for the theaters running Rams commercials), the organization jumped at the opportunity to exploit the ripe theater venue.

"It's an interesting deal, because normally theaters don't show commercials, let alone football commercials," Kromolowski notes during a break in the afternoon's shooting. "There are exceptions, however - such as the recent Los Angeles Times ad shown before feature films. What's interesting about our spot is that it's going to be shot in anamorphic. You almost never see football in anamorphic, so to see a bunch of players running on a wide screen with surround sound is very different."

Veteran cinematographer Glouner, a self-professed football fan, liked the idea of placing sports in a non-traditional context. "You'll be in a theater, seeing 'Eat our popcorn' and 'Buy our newspaper,' and then BOOM! You'll see the Rams charging and hear this surround sound like a thundering herd of animals. We're going to put blood and water on the uniforms, so that the grass sticks. It'll look like the players have been here for a couple of days. …

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