True Blood Filming of Opening Sequence: Designer Moves On

March 6, 2009 by  

paul-matthauesPaul Matthaeus, the founder, CEO and Chief Creative Officer (CCO) of Digital Kitchen and the man who designed the dark, disturbing opening sequence that accompanies True Blood’s theme song by Jace Everett’s , “I Wanna Do Bad Things with You” has decided he wants to try something new outside the company.

“It’s been an amazing ride, but I grew to renew my need for greater intimacy with the creative work.” Mr. Matthaeus offered, “So it’s time to break new ground again- I intend to take my experience founding and building DK and apply it to entirely new initiatives. The opportunity to build something wildly creative is what inspired me to start DK, and that’s what I intend to do again.”

Digital Kitchen describes itself as a creative agency that focuses on film production, experiential design, motion graphics, brand identity, and interactive work for marketing and entertainment. So we’re the people who will make your brand, space, spot, site, product, or show feel powerful, look great, and otherwise get sexy and influential. We’re high gloss and matte finish, persuasive and complete.

Mr. Matthaeus with degrees in photography and Ad and Graphic Design and four years experience running Matthaeus Halverson, his first ad agency, began working on Digital Kitchen in the mid 1990’s starting in a 20 foot square space hewn out of the back of his garage expanding into his first office in Seattle and now with locations in Chicago, LA and New York. Digital Kitchen quickly became an industry innovator getting the nod from AICP (The Association of Independent Commercial Producers) in 2001, winning Emmys for Best Main Title Design and Production for HBO’s Six Feet Under in 2002 and Outstanding Main Title Design for Showtime’s Dexter in 2007, along with five other nominations, making it the leading Emmy winner in it’s industry.

Paul has done the title design for many other outstanding shows besides True Blood including Dexter, Ghost Whisperer, Rescue Me, Nip/Tuck, and Six Feet Under. According to Matthaeus “A good main title should emotionally connect the viewer to the show.” Producer Alan Ball enthused when asked about Digital Kitchen’s approach to the opening sequence for True Blood, “This [True Blood’s opening] sequence so effectively evokes the spirit of the show. It immediately transports the viewer into the True Blood world.” In an interview with MultiChannel Ball stated,

“I wanted a sense of the twin polarities of the need for transcendence as it plays out in the rural south — of church and sort of whipping yourself up into an evangelical frenzy, and the honky-tonk on Saturday night where you basically do the same thing only through drugs and hooking up and getting into brawls.”

Goals which Matthaeus handily met with his montage of a KKK meeting and gators flipping to a rotting fox corpse and striking snake, then to clips of holy rollers and evangelical baptisms alongside grungy redneck bars and dancing girls. The opening clip was the idea of the creative team of Rama Allen and Shawn Fedorchuk two Digital Kitchen creatives. “We were super excited to be working on such an interesting project,” says Allen. “Shawn and I had several extended conversations late into the night, and we quickly discovered we were on the same page as to how we could make this opening exceptionally cool. I came up with a set of storyboards with a loose, linear progression that juxtaposed the type of images I wanted. Shawn is also the editor on the project, and he created a very complex edit, based on found footage, that communicated stylistically how we wanted things to play out on screen.”

“From the start, I loved the idea of images of Americana linked to scenes of lonely, stark places,” says Fedorchuk. “When I worked on my initial edit, I gravitated toward a point of view of a supernatural, predatory creature observing human beings from the shadows, almost stalking them. We wanted to convey a feeling of bloodlust, together with a vivid hyperreality. Stitching together these contradictory, yet strikingly similar worlds of sex, death, and transcendence was a major influence. We were after a frenzied effect, a cathartic crescendo, and an apex of emotion linked to the possibility of redemption and forgiveness.”

Digital Kitchen Creative Director Matthew Mulder then chose to go with live action shots and old Poloroid photos instead of computer-aided special effects. “The transition effects have an eerie, tactile quality because they were created with Polaroid transfers, water, and airguns, “Mulder explained. “The resulting transitions feel almost like scorched skin.”

Matthaeus has promoted Executive Producer Mark Bashore to take over the daily CCO tasks. Bashore actually appears in several of the montage clips for the True Blood opening sequence. He’s one of the dirty dancers and a participant in the shoving match inside the bar. Many of the shots used were from a four day excursion across Louisianna in a Winnebago. “We would drive along and jump out when we saw something cool,” says Allen. “I saw a wrecked school bus in somebody’s yard, so we knocked on the door and ended up getting approval to shoot all over his property, even inside his home. There’s a scene of a man in a rocking chair, and he was just a good guy who invited us over for beers. We met all kinds of people and shot more footage than we could possibly use, but it was an incredible experience. We threw ourselves into this project literally, artistically, and physically.”


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