Mac Premo: The Bunt Machine

 

How do ideas work? How does a spark become a plan? How does a plan evolve? What is the relationship between the practical creative process and the emotional energy that comes with it?

The truth is, it’s very hard to generalise. Every creative has a different way of thinking and working, and an individual may think and work differently from project to project. So WeTransfer decided to tell, in detail, the story of one idea. But to do that, we needed a humdinger of an idea.

Enter Mac Premo. He describes himself as “a collagist, animator, commercial director and carpenter.” That sort of covers the main bases, but Mac is someone who lets his message dictate the medium he works in. If he has a story to tell, he is willing to follow that thought in any way that makes sense (and some that don’t). In the past he’s exhibited hundreds of found objects in a dumpster, and created an installation which is only activated when someone sticks their head through a hole.

Mac was brought on board by creative agency Doubleday & Cartwright, whose LA team met with WeTransfer’s Stephen Canfield. Doubleday’s Adam Argersinger picks up the story. “I said to Stephen, ‘What if I have a director who’s also an artist who can make a spot specifically around what he’s working on right now?’

It made sense. Rather than manufacture an advert, why not let a director direct a film about a real project he is working on? What better way to tell a story about creativity, than to get an actual creative to do it? And who better to turn that story over to than Mac Premo, one of the most intriguing creative minds working today?

The story Mac wanted to tell started as a dream (seriously). After a summer’s day playing baseball with his daughter, he decided he should make a “bunt machine” (that’s a machine which recreates a bunt, a baseball shot where the batter just taps ball in front of him or her).

So Mac went to his Brooklyn studio and built it. Nice story, right? But it didn’t end there. The idea felt unfinished. And so Mac wrote a one-man play, roped in a director friend and performed it himself in a New York theatre.

“Conceptually this was an extremely weird job,” Mac acknowledges. “It was kind of a leap of faith to commission this, because it really was me saying, we can talk about product shots, but in terms of telling the tale, there really isn’t any editorial control. The nature of the story – the arc of the story and what it’s about – wasn’t up for negotiation. And you said yes!”

Mac traces his willingness to try new things back to his collage art. “This all made a lot of sense, mixing media and finding stuff that you react to to create new stuff. It all felt like a meta collage.

“I believe that if we think of seven things at once, well that’s seven times more things that we get to think about while we are alive. I embrace that, the kinda crazy aspect, and try to hone in and tighten it up a bit to be able to tell a tale.”

The film does a great job in presenting the creative process in all its glory. We see the hard work – in the workshop and the rehearsal room – but we also get an insight into the highs and the lows, the doubt and the exhilaration, the early breakfasts and the late dinners.

Because Mac wanted to just turn the camera on his process, he couldn’t be sure where it would all end up. “A lot of the time, the fun is not really knowing how it’s going to work. There’s nobody that wants to hear that; my producer doesn’t want to hear that, my director of photography doesn’t want to hear that, the client doesn’t want to hear that.”

But it works. And it works not just because of Mac’s energy and expertise, but also because of the people he brings in as collaborators. The shoot ended up being a weird mix of Mac hanging out with his pals, and creating something together too.

“The shot of the director on the phone, we went out and drank a bunch of wine and we were like, ‘What’s the most ridiculous thing we could do for that shot?’ We were just laughing, you know?

“We obviously staged it that evening, but we were talking about the play. We went in the next day and got back to rehearsal. Nine hours after the shoot, we were back to saying, okay what about this part? What are the lights going to do?”

And that’s the magic, right there, when ideas come together and grow into something bigger, better and more beautiful. “I don’t think it could have happened without the enthusiasm of people wanting to help,” Mac says. “It’s just my good fortune to know such good people.”

 

 

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