Allstate, Mayhem – Test Drive – Matthew Wood, Carlos Lowenstein, Whitehouse Post

Making Mayhem: Behind the Scenes with Allstate’s Mayhem

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The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that all things tend toward chaos, a theme familiar to anyone who’s seen Allstate’s Mayhem spots. Snow-burdened roofs collapsing, texting teenagers and pedestrians, threadbare flags, raccoons, test drives and blind spots – all embodied in a genuinely mischievous Dean Winters. With the D&ADs and AICE noting the ads, it feels like Mayhem is picking up momentum.

We rang up Matt Wood and Carlos Lowenstein, both editors at The Whitehouse in Chicago, and listened in on the behind the scenes on Mayhem.

“It’s funny,” laughs Matt Wood, “after spending so much time with the footage, the team and the character, you really develop a relationship with the character – you want to watch out for them in the same way you do your kids. …Mayhem is a lot like a teenager, actually – he’s a handful, but you care about how he’s perceived and developed and his future…you want to elevate him and help him navigate through it all. It’s funny, but it’s true.”

“When we started off,” explains Matt, “the whole feel was a lot more deadpan, a lot drier – the writing, the delivery – all of it. Phil Morrison expertly echoed this in his direction with static, locked-off shots which invite longer shots and fewer cuts.”

Carlos shared this experience, “It was interesting how the camera was moving. Sometimes spots are shot more locked off to provide options – especially with comedy, it’s all about getting options, options, options so nobody locks themselves into camera movements. Test Drive was very blocked out and thought through – the camera movement is very carefully designed to forward the story, which is a bold move and lent a sort of European feel to the spot. It was interesting seeing how the campaign was so established already…Test Drive isn’t radically different from the other spots, but there’s a touch, an edge that’s just a little bit darker.”

“As Mayhem develops, his character is becoming a bit more mischievous and active,” explains Matt. “Romain [Gavras], who Bryan Litman brilliantly connected us to, has been documenting mayhem for years, recent examples being Justice’s Stress and MIA’s Born Free videos. In Raccoon, Romain creates an active, dynamic and handheld feel and he takes an aggressive approach in his movements and perspectives – which bring a high level of energy and invite movement and jump cuts.”

“So,” continues Matt, “the mood of the cinematography, the writing, the direction – it all comes together to create a rhythm and a feel. As editors, we play off of these pieces and amplify them – it’s our job to sculpt all the pieces into a story, and our cutting and joining choices and their pacing can manipulate the mood and implication of the story.”

“Snow, where the bloated mid-winter snow weighs on a weak roof, for instance, is calm and quiet, so I chose to hold shots longer and focus on the dialogue until the abrupt implosion with a flurry of cuts and settling back into long shots again,” explains Matt. “Flag, on the other hand, has Mayhem flying through the air and crashing on the car – so I cut more actively, especially at the crescendo. Just like anywhere else, a lot of comedy is in the timing, so I work to find the right moments, angles, perspectives to punctuate the punch line. Choosing a closeup instead of a wide shot, for example, creates a more personal feel, pulling the audience in on the joke.”

Carlos agrees, “The possibilities with the timing are important. It’s about what you have in front of you – all of this footage that someone went out there and collected and shot…in the end it’s not only picking takes, but also finding the right pauses and timing. For some it comes naturally, finding the timing of things and the oddity in a certain performance…often it’s just being really aware of what made you laugh the first time. You watch it over and over and over again, and obviously, after a while, there’s fatigue, things stop being funny – especially when there’s a big group whose job it is to analyze and re-analyze the piece. If you’re very careful to note those first things that jumped out at you when it’s fresh and new – that’s the way the audience sees it. Sometimes, in the midst of this monotonous viewing and reviewing, a new idea will surface and seem great because it’s new, so it’s important to question those reactions.

“The whole project went very smoothly, “ shares Carlos, “the agency made very minor tweaks to the first cut I had built with Romain and that’s pretty much what went to air.  It’s funny how sometimes things just fall into place like that – it was one of those projects where everything just worked out.”

Matt concurs, “Chris Rodgriquez and Matt Miller created such a dynamic character and Britt Nolan and Mikal Pitman, wrote with such comedic rhythm, Bryan Litman selected such an apt score – it really makes my job a blast. Jeanne Caggiano, the Executive Creative Director, and Mikal and Britt, Creative Directors, kept everything moving seamlessly and coherently. Dean was great, Romain was great – it’s really fun to work with a team who just syncs up like that. …I’m excited to see what Mayhem ensues.”

# CHI Chicago the Whitehouse Blind Spot Carlos Lowenstein Matthew Wood Mayhem Raccoon Romain Gavras Test Drive