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“The Story of Sushi” Addresses Ocean Peril Through Animation

College Humor Staff Director Vincent Peone gets serious about sustainable sushi in a new video that’ll make you think twice about that tuna roll.

There’s a crisis underway with the ocean’s ecosystem and that sushi roll clenched between your chopsticks could be involved. Not enough people think twice about where the seafood on their plate comes from--and that’s exactly the problem Portland restaurant Bamboo Sushi attempts to address in a cinematic four-minute short featuring handcrafted miniatures and a docu-style narration that explains the dangers of overfishing and the need for sustainability.

For such a somber message and video, it would seem unlikely that a College Humor veteran would be pegged to direct a spot like this--but that just goes to show you don’t know Vincent Peone. “When [Executive Producer] Joe Sabia asked me to be a part of this project, I thought it was a no-brainer,” Peone says. “This appeals to a very different audience than College Humor, but it was the kind of piece I felt like I had to shoot.”

Over the course of seven months, Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber created a miniature world, with Sabia penning the script; Peone and crew filmed everything in a single day. Working on a fairly tight budget and even tighter timetable yielded some crafty, albeit somewhat dangerous, moments during filming. That gorgeously slow push-in shot at 3:10 with the sun peaking through the planks of the dock’s cover? A total mistake and a total safety infraction. “My gaffer set up a light that was very much in the shot. I practiced the move on the dolly and the light was clearly in the shot and was glaring like crazy, but I was like, ‘Don’t touch it! This is beautiful,’” Peone recalls. “So we covered the light in cotton to make it look like it was covered by clouds. I’m pretty sure it was a fire hazard because it started to smell pretty bad, but we got the shot.”

Having a hands-off client, in this case Bamboo Sushi owner Kristofor Lofgren, gave the team behind the video the much-needed autonomy to present a message like “The Story of Sushi” in a palatable way that uses creativity to avoid coming off like a nag--not so unlike Chipotle’s 2011 “Back to the Start” film. “We’re finding more and more businesses are taking risks like this,” he says. “If you can make something that people appreciate, it’s not important who it’s coming from--if it’s good people will watch it.

And for Peone, making something people will watch and appreciate like “The Story of Sushi” lies within an aesthetic approach. “I’ve always cared a lot about the quality of an image,” he says. “Something being attractive to look at always legitimizes the piece and reinforces what you have to say.”

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