From the SPD Archives: SPD Gala 41 Video, 2006

From the SPD Archives: SPD Gala 41 Video, 2006
SPD50h.jpgOne of the highlights of the recent For the Love of....Entertainment Weekly evening sponsored by SPD on September 30 was the screening of a tribute video for the late EW design director Amid Capeci. The video included segments from the classic short film created by Capeci and Bruce Ramsay to kick off the SPD Gala 41 celebration on May 5, 2006.

That eight-minute film, The Big Idea, was directed by Josh Victor Rothstein. It follows the adventures of Publication Design 41 co-chairs Capeci and Ramsay as they struggle to find a theme for the upcoming Gala. At the time, Capeci was art director of Rolling Stone, and Ramsay was the Director of Covers for Newsweek. It features guest cameos from art directors Arem Duplessis, David Harris, Luke Hayman, and Ina Saltz, as well as photo editor turned Apprentice reality show star Jennifer Crisafulli.

Highlights of The Big Idea include visits to The New York Times and Vanity Fair offices, a typeface based on meat, Luke Hayman selling hot dogs in Central Park, and Ramsay riverdancing in SPD shorts.

Now you can see the entire classic video, The Big Idea, first screened at the SPD Gala 41 in 2006.

Read a review of SPD Gala 41 on Mediabistro by designer and blogger Sam Potts.

Bruce Ramsay: It started with a cow.
The SPD 41 Call for Entries poster (we still printed and mailed them back then), featured an illustration by Tavis Coburn of a cow divided into sections--like an olde tyme butcher cuts-of-meat diagram, except in our case, each cut was labeled a different category you could enter.
When it came to the Gala, I knew that Amid Capeci and I would need an organizing theme for the evening. I also knew we needed to seduce the crowd right away, which is hard to do live--in front of 600 hard-bitten art and photo directors! I figured it would give us more control of the outcome if we filmed a humorous video beforehand (which I suggest in the video itself). After the clip ran, the pressure to win the crowd over would evaporate.
The video's ridiculous premise--that the American beef industry was having an important and sweeping influence over magazine design--grew directly out of the Call for Entries poster. Amid and I invited various ADs to play star turns in The Big Idea and thus, the "cow concept" was born. Shout out to Arem Duplesis, David Harris, Ina Saltz, and Luke Hayman, with a special guest appearance by Jennifer Crisafulli as The Secretary. I threw in every dumb idea I could: Riverdancing, 1-800-PetMeds, eating whipped cream from the can... Amid went so far as comparing our acting abilities to Mariah Carey's in Glitter, which gave him the opportunity to memorably call me Mariah--something he always wanted to do. We got Bak's Bison Grass Vodka as our booze sponsor for the evening, which is why you see bottles pop up throughout the video. (Product placement!)  Josh Rothstein, our video director, shaped and honed the idea with judicious cuts and edits.
It was staged as if the video occurred in real time, the day before the Gala, but it was shot over three weekends at five or six locations, several of which ended up on the cutting room floor. (Some day we'll release a Director's Cut, if our fan base demands it.)
 We needed an objective reaction to the first cut, so we screened it for SPD President, Fred Woodward. It ran 12 minutes. Afterward, Fred sat for a few moments looking at the blank screen. Finally, he turned to us with an expression of pity and regret and said, "Uh... It's too long and you gotta make sure it's funny. It's just gotta be funny..." Fred really stressed the funniness thing, so we cut out four minutes.
It played the evening of the Gala, on May 5, (Cinco de Mayo!) 2006 before Amid and I took to the stage to co-host the awards presentation. When it played, Arem got the loudest laugh with his tragic portrayal of a man betrayed by The New York Times for not embracing his meat alphabet.
A humiliating (and appropriate) irony of the Gala evening was that despite all the talk about beef, beef, beef, we ended up serving salmon for dinner. Beef was just too damn expensive.

Bruce Ramsay is Creative Director, CSP Business Media, in Chicago.

The SPD Publication Design 41 Competition Call for Entries. Illustration: Tavis Coburn.

(Special thanks to Heather Haggerty for invaluable help in putting this post together!)

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