The following is a reprint of an interview originally posted at AVMediaResources.com
 
The Bronx Boys
An interview with Director-Editor Benjamin Hershleder
With AVMR
Editor Todd Hooker
 

 
Benjamin Hershleder is a director-editor living in Los Angeles. He grew-up in Wisconsin and ultimately made his way to Florida. At the University of Central Florida in Orlando he earned his B.A. in film production and made his award-winning short, “Tickits.” He went on to earn his masters degree at Florida State University’s Motion Picture Conservatory. There he wrote and directed the Emmy-winning short “Paul McCall” which went on to win about a dozen awards and screen at in excess of 65 festivals all over the world.

Following his graduate studies at FSU, Hershleder eventually made the leap to Los Angeles where he quickly found work as an Avid editor and Avid Certified Instructor. After two years as a staff Avid editor for E! Entertainment Television, Hershleder left to pursue his goal of creating films and television of his own.

Recently, Hershleder had two of his television concepts picked-up by a production company. He also continues to develop and pitch a variety of other television show ideas as well as documentary and feature projects.

But it wasn't long ago that he directed, edited and line produced a small documentary called, “The Bronx Boys.” What started out as a small project has gone on to win several awards, enjoy a couple short theatrical runs in New York and Los Angeles, and air on Cinemax as part of their series “Reel Life.” “The Bronx Boys” was recently acquired by PBS and is set to go out to the PBS member stations in August 2004.


AVMR: Benjamin, first, can you tell me what this documentary is about?

Hershleder: “The Bronx Boys” is about 15 men who all met in kindergarten in The Bronx, New York. At the time I shot the film they were all turning 70 years old. It’s pretty remarkable I think. I sure don’t have that many friends from my youth. In the film we see them gather for a three day reunion. In addition to some really funny and sweet stories about the girls they all had crushes on and the teachers that abused them, we see them relive a bit of their past as they play the games they enjoyed as kids. These 70 year old men played basketball, stickball, marbles, touch football and a unique game played with chestnuts. It’s really quite a glimpse of the way things were before television, computers and computer games became the focus of kids’ entertainment. Plus, the film features some interesting men, including clothing designer Ralph Lauren's older brother and business partner Lenny Lauren, screenwriter John Herman Shaner, and George Shapiro & Howard West who are the producers of the the film and are well known managers in Hollywood.

All of "The Bronx Boys"
SITTING: John Herman Shaner; Elliott Liss; Woody Broad; Carl Reiner (Host); Joseph Greenberg;
George Shapiro; Joel Coler. STANDING: Jim Roth; Herb Rostand; Jay Schwartz; Lenny Lauren;
Howard West; Samuel Lewis; Carl Golub; Lenny Kulick; Lenny Schulman.
 

AVMR: How did you become involved with the project?

Hershleder: After leaving E! Entertainment, I was freelancing as an editor and director, which I continue to do by the way, and my manager introduced me to George Shapiro. George and his business partner Howard West are very successful managers and producers. They have many clients, but readers may know them best for being Jerry Seinfeld’s managers. They also managed comedian Andy Kaufman. As a matter of fact, Danny DeVito portrays George in “Man On The Moon,” the film about Kaufman’s life.

I initially did some editing for George and later ended-up directing, producing and editing a TV show presentation for him. During this time he was telling me about the reunion he had coming up. The more he told me about the guys themselves and what they planned to do – playing all these games – I became more and more interested. We discussed capturing the three day reunion. George seemed sure that the guys would enjoy having a video scrap-book of the event, but less sure that a wider audience would be interested in them. None-the-less, he agreed to let me interview the six men that were living out here in Los Angeles. The other nine I would have to interview when they came out to L.A. for the reunion.

"The Bronx Boys" Producers
George Shapiro (left) and Howard West (right),
with the documentary's Host, Carl Reiner (center).
 

AVMR: What format did you shoot on?

Hershleder: The budget was small in relative terms, so while I would have preferred to shoot on Hi-Def or even Beta-SP, I went with DVCam. I shot all the interviews with two Sony PD-150’s. I had two Director’s of Photography that worked on the project when they had time: Brian Hoodenpyle and Will Hooke. I went to FSU’s graduate film school with Brian, and Will also went to the same school but had graduated a couple years ahead of Brian and I. He and Brian have been friends for many years, so that's how we met. I've worked with Brian and Will on quite a few projects now.

AVMR: There was a lot of great coverage during the scenes when we see all the “Bronx Boys” playing the different games. How did you accomplish that?

Hershleder: I shot with five cameras. But here’s how it broke down: I had two cameras covering our host, Carl Reiner, and three covering the action. And when Carl wasn't introducing a person or a game, I could use those cameras on the games as well.

AVMR: How did you get Carl Reiner to participate in the film?

Hershleder: Carl is actually one of George’s clients. And while he didn't go to school with the men in the film, because he’s a few years older than they are, he did grow-up in the Bronx. He did a great job introducing many of the Bronx Boys as well as commenting on some of the action. We even had him sit down with each of the Bronx Boys and ask them a few questions. Because I didn't want to use any voice over, he really helps to set things up for the audience and provide a few laughs too.

AVMR: With so many cameras, how did you deal with sound?

Hershleder: The team that followed Carl around had a sound man, Nick Kitinski, who boomed as well as managed Carl’s lav radio mic and the radio hand-held mic he used to interview with. The other three cameras that were dedicated to covering the games, I just used the onboard mics.

"The Bronx Boys" Crew
TOP ROW (standing): Kurt Kim, Camera; Eric Naughton; A.D.
SECOND ROW: Rik Swartzwelder, A.D.; Matt Faw, Camera; Rory King, Camera
FRONT ROW: Nick Kitinski, Sound; Will Hooke, D.P./Camera;
Benjamin Hershleder, Director-Editor; Brian Hoodenpyle, D.P./Camera.

 

AVMR: You had 5 cameras going. How did you sync them up later?

Hershleder: First, while DVCam supports time code it doesn't allow for jam-synching as a Beta-SP camera would for example. So, I did two things. First I had all the cameramen set their cameras to time-of-day timecode, and then I had them do their best to get them to all start at the same time – rather like when you see secret agents in the movies say, “Synchronize your watches now.” This way they were all within about 1 second or less of each other. Secondly, I instructed them to never stop recording. I had two Assistant Directors who coordinated stagger-stopping the cameras before tape changes. And once the tapes were changed I used a slate to provide a common marker for all of the cameras at the head of each tape.

AVMR: How did you deal with this in post production?

Hershleder: It was very easy actually. Avid has a feature that no other product has called “Grouping.” As a matter of fact, Avid’s prosumer product Avid Xpress Pro has this very powerful feature too. While I edited “The Bronx Boys” on an Avid Media Composer, had the Avid Xpress Pro product been available at the time I would have used that to edit on in a heartbeat.

At any rate, this Grouping feature allows the editor to take any number of camera angles, all separate clips, and essentially combine them into one. You can sync them up by common time code, say if you had been able to jam-sync multiple Beta-SP cameras, or a common reference point. I simply used my slates as the common point.

Then, you edit this Group Clip into your timeline. All the shots grouped together, as many as you want, exist as just one video layer. Then all you have to do is put a cut, in Avid we call it an “add-edit,” at the point you’d like to change to another camera angle. Next, just press the up or down arrow on the keyboard until you display the shot you want and you’re done. If you want to trim the transition point, you can do that too of course.

It’s that quick and easy. It’s so much faster, easier and more intuitive than stacking all the different camera angles on different video tracks above one another or copying and pasting from one window to another as is the case with other editing applications. This grouping feature, along with it’s extended capabilities, called “Multicam,” on the Avid Media Composer is why the Avid products are the tool of choice for all the multicamera sitcoms and talk shows. But even the Grouping feature alone is a powerful tool on the Avid Xpress Pro product for music videos where you've got the same portion of the song shot 22 different ways. Instead of needing 22 video layers, with Grouping they’re all neatly tucked into one layer, and are easily accessible with the tap of a button. It’s also great for independent filmmakers thinking of speeding-up production by shooting with two or more cameras. For example, they can capture the wide shot, an over-the-shoulder and a close-up all in one take while shooting and easily work with all the coverage using Avid Xpress Pro’s Grouping feature. This feature, among many, many others, is why Avid Xpress Pro and Avid Media Composer are the editing tools I choose to use.

AVMR: Where has "The Bronx Boys" been seen? And where can we see it?

Hershleder: “The Bronx Boys” was selected to screen for a week as part of HBO’s Frame by Frame New York City screenings, and it also screened for about five or six weekends in Los Angeles as part of the Laemmle Theatre chain’s Jewish documentary series called “Bagels and Docs.” “The Bronx Boys” also aired on Cinemax and is soon to air on PBS. Check with your PBS station and see when it may be airing.

AVMR: When you screened in New York and Los Angeles, was that on film or video?

Hershleder: Actually, we screened on 16mm film. We did a video to film transfer with a company called Four Media Company in Burbank, California. I think they may now be called Ascent Media. I was certainly pleased with the results, considering it was shot on DVCam with never a thought of going to film in mind initially.

AVMR: If someone wanted to get in touch with you Benjamin, how could they do that?

Hershleder: It’s pretty easy. They can visit “The Bronx Boys” web site: http://www.TheBronxBoys.com – we've got the trailer for the film and the promos from Cinemax and PBS posted up there too by the way. Or, you can also find me at my own web site: http://www.ContactBen.com.

AVMR: Thanks for talking with me Benjamin.

Hershleder: My pleasure. Thanks a lot Todd.