BJP Update News

The Update Goes One-On-One
With Trailer Innovator Skip Chaisson

November 6, 2006

In 2002, the Los Angeles Times said, "Skip Chaisson comes as close as you can get to superstar status in the trailer-making industry." In 2006, Skip Film continues to create mind-blowing experiences both in film and on television. At BJP Entertainment, we count Skip Film as one of our main clients, (click here to see our reel) and want to take the opportunity to shine the spotlight on Skip Chaisson and his super talented team.

Over the years, we’ve been extremely fortunate to work with Skip Film on numerous projects including: Pirates of the Caribbean, Bad Boys II, Man On Fire, Walk The Line, Domino and many other films and TV series, yet we are still blown away every time we get a call. Skip Film is an extremely highly regarded agency for movie advertising, main titles for film and television, product advertising, sound and graphic design as well as original programming.

As a producer of the CBS show Numb3rs, with creators Tony and Ridley Scott, in association with Paramount Network Television, Skip was responsible for the editorial and graphic palette that characterizes the series. He was an executive producer on Domino, picture consultant on Deja Vu and he is also co-executive producing The Warriors with director Tony Scott for Paramount Pictures and MTV.

Known for his rich and intense visual style and technique as well as his ability to solve difficult marketing challenges, Skip’s clients include every major studio and many independents. His shop is the agency of choice for Jerry Bruckheimer and Tony and Ridley Scott. Skip Chaisson is a creative beast and we are extremely proud of our association with him.

Skip took the time out of his intense schedule to talk shop and discuss his journey from the sleepy confines of Sacramento to the backlots and boardrooms of Hollywood.

Q. Thanks for making time for us Skip. As a kid growing up in Sacramento, did you have any idea that you would be doing what you’re doing today?
A. I always wanted to make kung fu movies… I didn’t just want to make them; I wanted to be in them. I used to watch that Japanese channel in Sacramento, and on Sunday nights they used to play Samurai movies, and I always wanted to make those shows, and the commercials because they were just wacky. I didn’t think about doing that for a living… but it looked like it was really fun.

Q. So I guess they really captured your imagination?
A. Oh yeah, I used to watch that, and there used to be this horror movie host Bob Wilkins, and he would host a creature double feature, and in the middle of the show he used to show really bad trailers for old monster movies. I think I was 7 or 8 and I sent him a letter and drew a little picture and he showed it on TV. It was great.

Q. I know that you’ve always been into comic books and stuff like that. How does your passion for that influence your work?
A.  Well it’s great now, because I do a lot of stuff for Marvel, and that’s really neat, because I grew up reading those things. That was a real big thing with Dad, because when we would go to the military bases there was always a rack of comic books at the BX and while dad was working, I would read comic books. I wasn’t that good of an artist, but I thought that I might be able to write comic books and I even wanted to be an art major, but the more I got into it, the more I realized that it was difficult to make any money at it. Computer graphics were starting to be the big thing in movies, and I thought that was more viable for me.  Around that same time I read that a lot of comic book artists would do storyboards as a way to make money, and I began to make the connection with filmmaking and that visual mode of story telling. These days when you’re watching a lot of contemporary films they’re shot in a real comic book sort of way. The images drive the narrative as opposed to the narrative driving the images.

Q. Now I know you work an insane amount of hours, so you must enjoy your work. What part of the job do you enjoy the most?
A. One summer job that Dad got me was working for the utility district, and it was summer in Sacramento. It was hot, and part of the job involved going underground into the sewer and it was tough. So, one of the things I think I like most about my job is that I get to be inside in a controlled environment. Dad told me that when I got older I would appreciate the experience, and he was right.

Q. So you like working inside?! LOL That’s a real unexpected answer.
A. I get to do a lot of things when I’m working. I have the computer going, I have a movie going, I read scripts and I’m reading a comic book all at one time.

Q. You’re doing all that at one time?
A. All at one time, and I can do that. There are a lot of places where you have to multi-task, but it’s rare to be able to do it with stuff you like to do.

Q. So you have all your favorite stuff all around you?
A. Pretty much. And when the kids come in, and they’re playing, I can still work… if the material is appropriate. We do a lot of scary movies.

Q. What part of the job do you love the least?
A. The hours. The hours are very long.

Q. What do you feel makes your work unique in the marketplace?
A. I think what makes our work unique is that we bring our short form experience (trailers/commercials) to our long form work (features/hour long TV), and we bring our long form experience to our short form work. What you get from trailers is that you have to tell a story as succinctly as possible from the material available without excuse, because that’s the job you have to do. When you’re working on a feature, and you have a problem to solve, say something didn’t get shot, your mind is much more open to the tools that you have and how to use them.

There is a big plus to doing only one thing, and doing it really well, but there is also a big plus to bringing all of your experience from other forms and applying it to what you’re working on at that time. Even though there are models and certain things that are common within the particular genre, each story is still different, each character is different… You can attack it a certain way, but there are always variables within that, and when you do a bunch of different things, you can say… okay I know what needs to be done, but still bring a different flavor to it.  It’s easier to bring a different flavor to it if you are trained to recognize stuff and then to let it go and say I just need to do what works… It's the basic Bruce Lee philosophy.

Q. That is the basic Bruce Lee philosophy isn’t it? He was so dangerous because he was well versed in so many different styles.
A. Exactly. You learn what it is, be able to understand it… not take a bunch of things haphazardly, but you use whatever tools you have to fit that occasion because you’ve worked in a bunch of different areas.

Q. I’ve certainly learned a lot from you over the years Skip. Who are some of the people that have influenced you?
A. Well I was an intern at Columbia Pictures a long time ago, and one of the best parts of that internship was that after I fulfilled whatever duties I was supposed to do… drive somebody here, plug in a TV there, I was given free rein to sit in with anybody at the studio. They knew who I was and I could just hang out and watch. My immediate supervisor was an in-house editor, and he was outwardly the most straight-laced guy on the planet, but inwardly he could really get the job done. He taught me how to be aware of music… just because you’re doing picture doesn’t mean you’re not aware of music, doesn’t mean you’re not aware of this or that. He gave me a lot of really basic storytelling tools. At that job, by being able to sit in on anything, there were always a number of people that I worked with who I could always learn from. There was Louis Schwartzberg who would look at things from a whole different perspective. He could approach things from the perspective of a dp and special fx guy. There’s a whole different mentality when you are approaching a story where you’re just making stuff up. Then when I started doing trailer work, I met all kinds of directors and they all have their thing. I learned a lot from all those guys. But Tony and Ridley, I’ve learned a lot from them too. And from a business standpoint, Jerry Bruckheimer really helped me figure out how to create a business that’s still a business but can provide entertainment and freedom for ideas. You would think that he’s just all about business, but he’s great at fostering talent, and there’s a certain way to go about it.

Q. Now how did the relationship with Tony and Ridley (Scott) begin?
A. It was through Jerry. I was working at Kaleidoscope Films and I had done a lot of trailers for Disney and Oren Aviv, who’s head of production at Disney now. He introduced me to Michael Bay on Armageddon and then I think it was Enemy Of The State where he introduced me to Tony, and I had met Jerry (Bruckheimer) before and it was Jerry and Oren who really put Tony and I together. It was that kind of engineering. Tony and I struck up a great friendship, and he had several projects that he wanted me to take a pass on and it was a lot of fun just to work with him.

Q. Did it feel great having such heavyweights taking an interest in you?
A. I didn’t really look at it that way. I think I was really more excited to work on some of the particular projects. On Mission Impossible I was really excited to work with Brian De Palma and Steph (Skip’s wife) and I had become big fans of John Woo, so it was great working with him and when I was working on Ransom with Ron Howard he said my name and it sounded like something out of Mayberry RFD. That was pretty cool.

Q. Now one of the first projects I worked on for you guys was Spiderman. That was not long after you set up shop. How many people were working for Skip Film at the time?
A. Probably four people. The assistant editor was also answering phones and getting lunch. It was crazy. The original team consisted of David Lai in sound and Kimberly my executive producer. The other editors that I hired on were people I had known for years because they were assistants. Throughout my career there were people who gave me a shot when I didn’t quite have the knowledge but they thought I could do the job and had faith in my ability. So, I decided that when I got in a position that I would always do that for assistants… that I would give them a shot. I wouldn’t want them to be copies of me, but I would give them the tools and an opportunity to express themselves… another tenet of the Bruce Lee philosophy. The person that was answering the phones was my assistant; she became an editor, now she’s cutting a feature. Another one of the assistants is one of our senior editors now.

Q. How many folks are working there now?
A. We have between 12 and 15 full time, some freelancers and it really fluctuates depending on what’s going on.

Q. How much of the work is actually going on your Avid?
A. At some time it all goes through me. I’ll either start the project or pick it up in the middle, or finish it. It functions like a basketball team where everybody touches the ball. We’ve got some rookies and some veterans. By having everyone work on things it allows us to be more flexible with people’s lives and fight the burnout factor. No matter how motivated people are, you can get tired. So, at any given time we’ve got everybody working on everything.

Q. Fascinating Skip… thanks for taking the time.
A. You’re welcome.

Prior to founding Skip Film, Chaisson worked for several years establishing his reputation as a gifted talent in the film community. He became well-known for his work as a director of special shoots and an editor of clutter-busting theatrical advertising including, Mission Impossible I & II, Braveheart, Titanic, The Truman Show, Pearl Harbor and the highly stylized, Gone In 60 Seconds. This trailer inspired L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan to include a highly favorable review of the trailer in his review of the film.

Chaisson is a member of the DGA, and a recipient of numerous Key Art Awards, a Clio, and a Golden Trailer award. He holds black belts in several of the martial arts, and is married and the father of three lovely children, Gianna, Brandon and Sophia.

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Trailer innovator Skip Chaisson.

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"Jerry Bruckheimer
really helped me figure out how to create a business that’s still a business but can provide entertainment and freedom for ideas."