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PROFILE: Aggressive, directing/fx team, Refused TV


Don't let the name put you off. The creative duo of Alex Topaller and Dan Shapiro — aka Aggressive  — is mostly just tenacious about pushing themselves and some overclocked hardware in order to create striking videos. And they're nice guys. But, Aggressive is a better name than Affable for a directing team, so you can't blame them for going with something a bit harder.

The Aggressive vibe is a high-tech fuse of live action and CGI that belies their roots as a VFX team. The latest and greatest is a stellar new clip they did for Kerli "Walking On Air" that's on its way to hitsville.

Aggressive have also directed videos for Bloc Party, Megadeth, Juanes and several other diverse artists. Visit their feature-packed site whatisaggressive for high quality links and Making Of Specials.

name: Aggressive aka Alex Topaller and Dan Shapiro
company: Refused TV
title/job: Director & Visual Effects

first video: The first real music video we did was for Hoobastank "Born to Lead." We had just made the long-shot decision to push Aggressive from VFX into directing, so we were looking around for a production company to take us in. Through a series of fortuitous coincidences we met up with Cathy Pellow of Refused TV and hit it off grand. We shared the same hands-on, punk rock, "screw convention, we just want to make awesome work" attitude. She took a chance on us, and before long, we were writing on the Hooba track. It was an ambitious video: Fully green screen, sci-fi robots, epic landscapes, and an army of wild fans. (It awarded on Alex's birthday... maybe a sign?) Through the chain-smoking, coffee driven nights that followed, we pulled out all the stops, literally drawing every shot of the video into a shot-by-shot animatic (it's become our standard procedure since then). We had done live shoots before, but never on such a large scale, and since our previous CG experience never taught us cool terms like "AD," "DP," "grip," or "back to one," we boarded the plane to L.A. with our notebooks stuffed full of Wikipedia "How to Direct" pages. It was an incredible, whirlwind Hollywood adventure for two friends from Jersey... We were introduced to some of the amazingly talented people we'd work with on almost every video afterwards, like DP Damian Acevedo, and our producer JP Fox. The band was super cool to work with, there were dozens of screaming Hoobastank fans running around with sledgehammers smashing appleboxes, and we all had a blast headbanging on the biggest green set we had ever seen. Of course this was followed by two weeks of all-nighters with our PCs back at the studio. But, that's just how we do things... --> watch Hoobastank "Born To Lead" (YouTube)

strangest video: While we get ourselves into bizarre situations as a course of habit, the award for strangest video has to go to Black Label Society "Concrete Jungle." Since it's a fully animated video (Zakk Wylde is a big A-Ha "Take on Me" fan...), there was no live shoot. We did, however, need to get reference footage for the timing of our traditional animations. We ended up staging an impromptu renegade mini-DV shoot in a tiny trailer backstage at Ozzfest in Randalls Island, NYC. We spent hours waiting, hanging backstage and in the sweltering crowd watching metal. Finally, at the very end of the day Zakk Wylde and the band jumped in to do the shoot. They had just finished up a hardcore 2 hour set with BLS and Ozzy, so everyone was revved, drenched and stinking of sweat. So there, in this tiny trailer near a beer stand at Ozzfest, we had this legendary guitar god rock out in front of a cheap foldable bluescreen to playback from a $20 boombox, while the rest of the band downed celebratory Heinekens behind us. It was surreal. After 15 minutes we got exactly what we needed. Zakk gave bear hugs all around, and as a token of BLS appreciation, we received a case of beer as a gift that we triumphantly lugged all the way back to our studio along with our lights, camera, etc. --> watch Black Label Society "Black label Society" (YouTube)

what's next: Well, our heads are still spinning (very gratefully) with the response this latest Kerli video has been getting, and we've got a lot of exciting things on our plate for the near future. For one, we are expanding Aggressive into a one-stop creative shop for commercials and broadcast design as well as music videos. We just moved into a gorgeous new studio which will serve as home base for all of our post production/VFX needs. And as always, we're busy coming up with new video ideas for the tracks that come our way.

Steven Gottlieb at June 12, 2008 in Lanette Phillips Mgmt, Profile, Refused TV | Permalink


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