Design Army’s Short Film for The Washington Ballet

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When The Washington Ballet reimagined Sleepy Hollow as a ghost story with historical tendrils stemming from the Salem witch trials, Washington, DC–based Design Army stepped up to help create an advertising campaign capable of carrying the production’s ethereal magic across TV, digital, social media, print and outdoor advertising. The results? Some hauntingly beautiful stuff, including a short film created in collaboration with TWB and Dean Alexander Productions.

“The idea was to turn something scary into something fantastical, while keeping that sense of mystery,” says chief creative officer Pum Lefebure. “We want to create curiosity both for ballet lovers and for people who’ve perhaps never experienced this art form.

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After roughly six months of work—from planning and collaboration to finalizing in post-production—the film succeeds in generating excitement that expands beyond the traditional stage. In fact, there’s no sign of a traditional stage in the film, as it was shot at the U.S. National Arboretum. Characters in striking costume, dancing in the middle of a dark wood and riding on horses with hair and makeup wild and otherworldly—that was just half of the magic. Other contributing components included a large, talented crew, drone footage and a masterful application of typography.

Lefebure notes that in terms of a ballet production, Sleepy Hollow goes far beyond dance. It’s a historic tale with elaborate, modern twists, and Design Army felt that the film needed to reflect that.

“For the Sleepy Hollow title, we decided to use a bold, modern sans serif font to enhance the juxtaposition between the 18th-century visuals and the more modern, fashion-oriented costumes and makeup,” Lefebure says. “The type isn’t the normal execution; an Old English typeface would be very expected, but we really wanted to create that contrast to keep it exciting.”

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Shooting the film in a forest, at night, in only six hours, proved to be the most challenging part of the project. This involved securing permission to be there, ensuring everyone was on the same page, figuring out how to light a forest in the middle of the night, and editing like crazy after the fact.

“The Redwood Forest where we shot is also surrounded by roads, which meant that in order to create that feeling of being lost in the middle of nowhere, we had to constantly run around with smoke and fog machines,” Lefebure says. “And did I mention it was pitch dark outside?”

Of course, Design Army is always eager for a challenge—especially one so close to home. “In the grand scheme of things, it’s also our mission as a creative agency to promote our city and the talented people who live here whenever we can,” Lefebure says. “We always want to use our knowledge and talent to help Washington, [DC] become better known for art and design, and help the creative organizations here get recognized outside the city.”

View Design Army’s short film for The Washington Ballet:

Creative Team: Pum Lefebure, chief creative officer; Jake Lefebure, producer; Mariela Hsu, art director; Janice Chae, designer; Leah Appel, production coordinator; Holly Thomas, editorial director; Dean Alexander, director/producer; Matthew Pierce, original score; David Grossbach, editor; Dean Krapf, Andrea Mitchell, Holly Burnham, Elizabeth Davila, hair/makeup; Pascale Lemaire, stylist; CVLT, color grade; Septime Webre (TWB)


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