Birdseye goes video: Local film group hits big time with Guster video work

Joann Mackenzie, Gloucester Daily Times, Mass.
Aug. 17–While Gloucester deliberates the future of the old Birdseye building, members of the city’s creative community have quietly recognized in its vast, raw spaces a natural artist’s habitat.

With site owner and developer Mac Bell’s blessings, they are flying under the radar of public debate, and nesting in its nooks — and now churning out nationally commissioned work.

That includes a video collaboration between filmmakers from Production Blue, the high-end film division of Gloucester’s Bait & Tackle ad agency, and local artist extraordinaire Jon Sarkin. And the video is a national-level presentation showcasing the alternative rock band Guster and commissioned by Universal New York’s Music Group.

On a brilliantly sunny afternoon, Sarkin’s dark, art-strewn studio space in an abandoned corner of the Birdseye site glowed last week with computer screens manned by an editing team from Production Blue — and lit with the faces of Guster, the three-man Massachusetts-grown band that’s built an impressive following leading to this big-label breakthrough.

Rather than transport Sarkin’s works to Production Blue’s 3,000 square feet of film-making facilities in a former sail-making space in East Gloucester, the three filmmakers had transported their equipment cross-harbor. After some six weeks in development, they were finishing a rough cut of the music video due for viewing that night in New York by Kim Garner, a senior vice president at Universal.

If the local filmmakers were a bit weary, they were also confident about their work fulfilling its goal: namely, launching Gloucester’s Production Blue into national orbit once and for all, and establishing it as an equal contender for assignments from major media platforms.

“It been a while coming,” says Chad Carlberg, who — as founder and creative force behind Gloucester’s award-winning Bait & Tackle ad agency — has been a one-man-whirlwind of digital filmmaking, with over 1,200 Gloucester-produced commercials to his directorial credit.

“Bait & Tackle has been my baby,” he says, “from tiny, small budget local spots, we’ve built a national client base offering full-service integrated multi-media product. But it’s time to leave the advertising end of things in other talented hands.”

Carlberg, who honed his digital skills on Academy Award winning films at Visionart/Sony Pictures and MVFX/Warner Bros, wants to re-focus his energies on original film projects through Production Blue, and has one locally inspired project in mind.

“This music video,” he says, “can take us where we need to be, both financially and in terms of visibility.”

The video, for the lead track — “Do You Love Me?” — on the band’s new album title “Easy Wonderful,” was originally slated by Universal’s Garner to go to a big director out of New York or Los Angeles.

“But,” says Carlberg, an old friend of Guster drummer Brian Rosenworcel, “I said, just give me a shot at a pitch.”

He got his shot and went into overdrive, wowing Garner and her Universal N.Y. team with five conceptual treatment demos, and winning out over big-name directors on both coasts.

Sarkin, who Carlberg had brought to the project to illustrate the album’s cover, ended up as an integral part of one of Carlberg’s pitch demos.

“Really,” says Carlberg, “my initial involvement in the project was just by way of recommending Sarkin to Brian for the artwork. Then, when the pitch opened up, the opportunity opened up to use him in a demo — and, you know, his art just blows ’em away.”

Maybe nowhere more so than in New York, where Sarkin’s work has taken up regular residence on the pages of The New Yorker, New York Magazine and Vanity Fair.

And so, for Team Gloucester — including co-director Sten Bowen and editor Emile Doucette — Carlberg’s concept of Sarkin actually using the video as a live-action canvas went, as they say in the film world, into “green light.”

For Guster, the challenge was surviving the paint-spattered shoot with their famously droll good humors intact. This they accomplished, getting on with their music making front stage, while rear stage, Sarkin and his mad band of white coated assistants got on with their mural making.

In the end, the mural — an explosion of retro-psychedelic color built around the Guster logo — somewhat recalls Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the band’s brand of tongue in cheekiness recalls the Beatles, and the final, fun takeaway doesn’t giveaway the tedious, post-production technical timing issues Carlberg and his team wrestle with right down to the deadline in their dark, cluttered corner of the Birdseye Building.

Carlberg, Bowen and Doucette get down to work. And according to Carlberg, the work didn’t wrap till 4 a.m.

For Production Blue, success isn’t something coming out of the blue.

Joann Mackenzie can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3457, or at


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Copyright (c) 2010, Gloucester Daily Times, Mass.