Director, East Pleasant
TRUST talks to East Pleasant’s Brad Hasse about the Naked Gun, Young Guns, and dancing babies (no guns included).
Your work has a very distinctive aesthetic and sense of humor. What would you say are some of your biggest creative influences?
I remember seeing movies like Naked Gun in the movie theater with my family when I was young and my mind was blown. Then awhile later I saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail and my mind was doubly blown. They had coconuts clacking together instead of riding actual horses. The tall guy in Naked Gun never had his head in frame because he was too big. Who said they were allowed to do that in a film? It was such open and creative thinking, and so simple and obvious at the same time, that I found it to be genius. It got me excited to know that you were allowed to create stories like that.
I also greatly appreciate when a director has characters that feel human, but have an edge that is larger than life. When Federico Fellini created Amarcord, everyone was basically a caricature taken from his heightened memory of childhood. Real people at the foundation, but just cranked up to notch “11” on the personality dial. Jean-Pierre Jeunet has some fantastic characters in every one of his films, from Delicatessen to The City of Lost Children, to his stamp even coming through on a Hollywood film like Alien: Resurrection. His background is in animation and you feel that playfulness come through in the worlds that he creates. Charlie Kaufman’s scripts, like Human Nature and Being John Malkovich, again amazed me on how something so absurd could actually feel so grounded. I loved how Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze brought these both to life. And I feel like the most accurate depiction of what a zombie apocalypse would actually be like comes from Edgar Wright with Shaun of the Dead. He mixes so many genres into one, sets things up in a very crazy world, and throws in some very relatable characters. It’s one of my favorite films. Oh, and did I mention This Is Spinal Tap? I could have swore that popped up in this paragraph somewhere.
Every new button or perspective or technique that was stumbled upon was tested over and over again, and then a story was written around this new method we just discovered and we’d start filming again. A lot of what I do today is no different than that.
A lot of my influences also come just from the camera itself. With so many parts to the camera, lights, lenses, and everything accessible on set, there are just so many options of the things I can break! Growing up I would make short films with my older brother and one of his friends. We figured out that one button would invert the image to look like a negative and thus be used “to film ghosts,” we found that plugging our camera into a TV and then filming that same TV would create an endless portal to allow for a “time warp,” and that by starting and stopping and restarting the camera people can “magically appear and disappear!” Oh man those moments of discovery felt incredible. Every new button or perspective or technique that was stumbled upon was tested over and over again, and then a story was written around this new method we just discovered and we’d start filming again. A lot of what I do today is no different than that. Everything from finding those techniques to getting excited like a seven year old. And on that note, many of them are just simply fantasies, like the want to see a guy who has a giant speaker in his beer belly. Who wouldn’t want that guy as your friend?
You graduated from college with a degree in business marketing. How did you make the jump to film?
I just filmed project after project after project after project until someone finally caught on and hired me. Then I filmed project after project after project to eventually get hired to do slightly cooler stuff. This loop still goes on.
In 2006, I got accepted into a fellowship program called Fabrica (United Colors of Benetton’s communication and arts research center founded by Oliviero Toscani). This moved me to Treviso, Italy for nearly two years to collaborate with other directors, photographers, designers, programmers, and musicians. My commercial directing debut for the World Health Organization happened while there. More importantly though, it exposed me to a lot of media, styles of working, creative execution from different cultures, and just really gave me the chance to hone in on my process. I also studied and worked a ton on story. It was by far the most impactful experience on what I do today. We also rode bikes a lot and drank spritz and could start a dance party with just a handful of people in a room. Again, all very impactful.
You were recently awarded as one of 2012’s ADC Young Guns X. Who are some other talented young creatives working today whose output really impresses you?
Craig Allen, who is part of the Young Guns 9 group, is doing some incredible work. He’s currently at Wieden + Kennedy, is a creative director on the Old Spice account, and has a portfolio that includes Nike, Coke, and Skittles. He has successfully pulled off some of the strangest and most deadpan-ly (I don’t think that’s actually a word) hilarious campaigns to date.
And there’s this musician, Dan Govier (aka lights.on) that I constantly grab tracks from for my shorts and sizzles. His work is very experimental, beautifully odd, and somehow seems to hit the balance between melancholic and happy. I find it motivating how much he has created, how funky it is, and how original his sound is.
What are some of the projects of which you’ve been most proud? Why?
Planet of the Apes Party Fun Time
This was 100% a passion project. I had the idea to make the apes dance. I simply thought it’d be funny. As an editor, I’ve spent countless hours scrubbing footage, and when I get really bored sometimes I just go back and forth and make everyone dance or bop their head to the beat of the music that is constantly playing in the background as I work. It’s pretty childish but it keeps me sane. Sometimes in life you just need to do things that make yourself laugh like Beavis & Butthead.
While brainstorming for a concept one day, the idea of doing this to Planet of the Apes popped up, so I bought the DVD and I started to edit. The nice thing is that a story started to unfold and I realized I could re-edit the entire film to be about Charlton Heston crashing his ship in order to go to a dance competition. We armed him with turntables, glow sticks, and some shiny disco pants. EP*Vision came in and did all of the visuals on top that were needed to really tell the full story.
I’m most proud of it because it’s one of those very basic ideas that really grew into something more complex. It makes people laugh and smile, it’s direct, and it’s an expression of what goes on inside of my head.
Someone on Boing Boing posted a comment that really made my day, he said, “The absolute best combination of stupid and clever. I love it.” I owe him a beer.
Zombie Nation “Level”
This is my latest music video, and stars “Boombox Man.” He’s a character that has a beer belly with a giant speaker inside, so he always brings the party. Everywhere he goes people can’t help themselves and they bust out their most passionate dance moves. It’s positive, it’s ridiculous, and again it makes people smile. That makes me happy.
I played it on the TV with my 7 month old daughter in the room the other day and she started to “dance” (shake back and forth in her high chair) to the video as well. It’s nice to see that the concept has transcended into the real world.
What are some goals that you’re looking forward to accomplishing in the year ahead?
I’ve spent the better part of the last decade working on a wide variety of projects and styles. This has taken me through a lot of different creative processes, helped me create in many different mediums, introduced me to new people, and has sent me traveling around the world quite extensively. I’m extremely grateful for this, and happy to have had that time to try so many different things.
With that experience behind me, this year I’d like to solely focus 100% on the quirky characters and visual experiments. I’d like to make more monsters, aliens, robots, and human anomalies come to life. I’d like to see just about all of these characters dance. I’d like to create projects where we see some objects explode into confetti, some lasers light up the sky, some panda bears and walruses snuggle with each other at a drive through movie, some dodo birds pilot an airplane, and discover some obscure ice cream flavor that makes people glow in the dark. I want to bring this into more music videos, campaigns, personal projects, and have some fun. I hope to make 2013 taste delicious.