Apple TV+

Ted Lasso: It Takes a Team to Make a Winning Formula

From left to right: Nick Mohammed, Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt appear in a scene of Tedd Lasso, Season 1 | Apple TV+ (2020).

The word heartwarming is thrown around a lot in the world of media, but never was it more deserved than in the 2020 Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso. This series follows the character of the same name, Ted, as he goes from coaching American football in Wichita, Kansas to leading AFC Richmond, a professional British football club (or as we Americans say, soccer). He is definitely a fish out of water but in the most charming and likable way. Recently, we got to sit down with the creatives behind Ted Lasso to find out how everything from the visual effects to the hair and makeup all work together to make one of the most delightful shows out there today.

Casting

One of the challenges for casting director Theo Park was finding talent that could play soccer and act. “Obviously we had to find actors who could play football as well, so that was interesting. We saw some amazing auditions from actors doing some keepie uppies in their garden with a mate videoing them.”

She goes on to say they focused on finding actors who could do comedy rather than comedians. “Because we really needed to see heart and soul from every single member of the cast so they had to be really strong actors as well as clever comics.”

Costuming, Hair & Makeup

Costume designer Jacky Levy had not only the challenge of designing the jerseys for games and practice for the team, but also the style and clothes for all the characters including formal wear for the charity gala. Rebecca, played by Hannah Waddingham, was a particularly challenging character to design just the right look for her powerful and vulnerable character. 

Levy says, “It starts with talking to the actors themselves. I’ll discuss with Hannah and Juno the scenes… and we go collaboratively from there. Rebecca is a very successful and strong person in the show but she does have this vulnerable side. We try and make her costumes pick that powerful position that she holds but also trying to keep it real. We like to have her fit in the football world but she keeps a femininity as well.”

Makeup and hair designer Nicky Austin elaborates on how she and Levy collaborate to make each character shine: “We have a lot of fun. Juno in particular. Keeley’s such a great character… Every character has their own journey so we have to take that into account. So when we first see Keeley in the locker room we see the old page 3 girl images in the locker and that’s the start of her journey and we are trying to build her into this professional which is very much done through the costume and the makeup. The fact she wants to be taken more seriously impacts her style.”

Production Design & Visual Effects

Most casual viewers probably have no idea the amount of visual trickery goes on to make Ted Lasso work. Amazingly all of the soccer crowd scenes and game audiences are all visual effects, and not actual crowds. 

Production designer Paul Cripps says, “Kipp Kroeger (post producer) made it look like we played football games in premiere leagues in real stadiums. There are two sides to the production design with the real sets and the post sets that they did. I think the combination of those two things really work because the thing that often lets down sports films or comedies is the sports part but I think ours holds up pretty well”

You can see a breakdown of the visual effects for the show in this video made by Barnstorm VFX and supervisor Lawson Deming:

It Takes a Team

There are many other key players that work together to make a show like Ted Lasso work including sound designers, music composers, editors, writers and of course actors. If you haven’t seen season 1 check it out on Apple TV+ and get ready for season 2 this July. And remember… just like Ted says, “You know what the happiest animal on Earth is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? Got a ten-second memory. Be a goldfish.”

ROUNDTABLE RECOMMENDATIONS: A Look Back at Some of Our Favorite Movies of 2020

*Editor’s note: The year that seemed like it would never end has done the impossible… it’s actually over. 2020 has been a year unlike any other in our lifetime, and I think it’s safe to say that most of us are glad to see it go. Through it all, we have gained experiences and memories (both good and bad) that will shape our lives for years to come. Movies, and the lack thereof, might seem a trivial things when compared to the crushing challenges many faced in 2020; death, sickness, unemployment, school closures, social interactions etc. have all paid a heavy toll on societies around the world. Encouragement, hope, friendship and love are forms of strength that can be derived from stories, and as pillar of modern day storytelling, we want to share with you which movies we fell in love with in 2020 and wholeheartedly recommend to you. Enjoy!

André Hutchens: As bad as 2020 has been for the movie theater industry (and I only hope a speedy recovery for the industry), streaming services have never been more in demand. Lockdown mandates and social distancing policies have all but crippled movie theaters globally, but one industry’s tragedy is another industry’s triumph. And no streaming service has reaped the rewards more so than Netflix. With over 200 million subscribers worldwide, Netflix is the King of streaming, and continued its dominance in 2020… which is where I will pull my movie recommendation. Hillbilly Elegy tells the true story of real working class Americans and their struggle for survival in towns long forgotten by the broader public. You’ll see lives and relationships shredded by drug addiction, the struggle of single parents trying to play the part meant for two, and how life can feel hopeless when you’re drowning in life’s struggles. But the reason why I am recommending this film isn’t for the depiction of real life struggles, but for how the characters are able to overcome them. With the help of family, the power of forgiveness, and the guiding hand of faith, Hillbilly Elegy will show every viewer the possibilities of a better life when you begin to take responsibility for it. Easily my favorite movie of the year, I unequivocally recommend watching Hillbilly Elegy on Netflix.

CJ Marshall: Pixar has maintained such a high standard over the years. Their projects are mostly varying degrees of “Good” rather than good or bad. Soul is no different. The film already had wit, charm, and an authentic Black culture flavor coursing through its veins (Spider-verse anyone?) Who could know what significance its message would carry going into a year like the one just past? Soul carries that added weight because of how sturdy Pixar built its foundation. It should rightfully take its place as one of the jewels in the Pixar crown. My single regret is that I couldn’t see this film on the big screen in 3D.

Parker Johnson: 2020 was a tough year for all of us, and The Personal History of David Copperfield was a perfect, charming movie to come out during this trying time. Dev Patel shines as David Copperfield, and this colorful cast brought this delightful pseudo-biopic of Charles Dickens to life in such a heartfelt way. Like Little Women (2019) and Emma. (2020) before it, The Personal History of David Copperfield was a perfect blend of wit, charm, and warmth that should delight anyone… as long as you don’t confuse it for David Copperfield the magician, like my mom did.

Rachel Ogden: The near impossible task for sequels is to find a way to provide the protagonist with new obstacles and growth without losing the character’s identity that made them cheer-worthy in the first place; in essence, changing the character without changing the character. Though it will draw dissent, I say Wonder Woman 1984 does this perfectly. Gal Gadot continues to amaze as a dynamic woman and superhero that even villains want to be like. The movie’s 150-something minutes follow three different character arcs that are integrated into a simple yet powerful plot that I found both well-written and engaging. What does it mean to be great? Both the message and material of the film serve as a satisfying answer, even if it’s not a popular one. Don’t let the haters get you down.

Rachel Wagner: Tomm Moore is perhaps the most consistent and underrated director working today. He already had triumphs in The Secret of the Kells and Song of the Sea and now he dazzles audiences once again with Wolfwalkers. Not only is the 2D animation beautiful but the story of 2 girls coming to understand their connection and who they are rings true. I love the way Moore weaves in his Irish lore into his stories without feeling the need to over-explain what is happening. We are charmed by both girls and that’s enough to get us invested in whatever fantastical challenges and adventures come their way. I also loved the music by Bruno Coulais and Kila. It all combines to make a special film that we are not likely to forget. Watch Wolfwalkers on Apple TV+ as soon as you can!

Sam Cooley: What’s crazy about The Invisible Man (2020) is that it came out before COVID blew up, but it still came and went nearly… invisible to audiences. But it is so deserving of all the attention and praise it can get. Between a chillingly unique premise of abuse and deception, subtle works in suspense and terror, and another expert, almost exhaustive performance from Elisabeth Moss, this is confidently endorsed as one of the best films of the year. Though its namesake is a classic, the most it has on the 2020 version is originality, but even then, 2020’s new and fresh version still approaches surprisingly close in that regard.

Shay Satmary: Palm Springs was definitely the movie of 2020 that I told everyone I know to watch immediately after I watched it. It’s one of those movies where the less you know about the plot, the better it is to watch. What you do need to know is that it does a cracking job of summing up the feelings and aesthetics of most people’s 2020. It also stars a hot, understated Andy Samberg, à la Celeste & Jesse Forever,  and Cristin Milioti from Black Mirror. Along with invoking specific 2020 feelings and wonderful acting, Palm Springs will make you laugh out loud, and if you’re a sucker like me, you’ll end up crying too. 

The Formal Review: Research has shown that there is an appeal of rewatching movies because of the familiarity of characters, settings and plots–and Tenet exemplifies this. Nolan uses numerous scientific theories, and the ROTAS palindromic square, in a very ambitious and ingenious way. He is able take those ideas and stage them via action sequences that run backward and forward through time simultaneously. Yes, it will require multiple viewings, but that is in no way a bad thing. Each time will allow for new details to be discovered and will increase the appreciation for this movie. It is in the top tier of Nolan films. Complex? …sure, but phenomenal as well.

Thank you for your support of Backseat Directors this last year. It ended up not being the most ideal year to launch our new movie website, but we’ve made it out alive! May this new year be better than the last. Happy 2021, everyone!

REVIEW: Greyhound

Apple TV+
Rated: PG-13
Run Time: 91 minutes
Director: Aaron Schneider

Greyhound marks Tom Hanks’ fourth artistic foray into the Second World War, with the three previous projects being Saving Private Ryan (1998), Band of Brothers (2001), and The Pacific (2010). The previous projects are larger in scope and widely considered to be among the best film representations of WWII. Greyhound doesn’t meet those heights, but it doesn’t aim to—nor does it need to. Its mission is on a smaller, but no less important scale.

The movie was originally slated for theatrical release in early July, but COVID’s hostile takeover of life as we know it, sent Greyhound hurtling toward the streaming shores of Apple TV+. It wasn’t too much of a surprise considering other studios are sending theatrical projects straight to the TV screen. Greyhound feels different from some of these other “early release” projects. One viewing will show that this film was made with the biggest screens in mind, and when you’re done, you’ll lament the fact that you couldn’t watch it there. It has a higher production value than most of the stuff they’ve been dumping in our laps lately. This movie would have killed at the box office.

Greyhound is short and to the point. It spends just enough time to introduce Hanks as Commander Ernest Krause before setting off on its mission. The rest of your characterization comes as the drama unfolds, for it’s often said that times of adversity reveal true colors. In typical U.S. war film fashion, the colors of this flag don’t run… And they don’t make movies about the cowards, do they? Greyhound is set apart from many of these other films due to its brevity and its singular focus on the task at hand: five Destroyers escorting thirty-seven ships and thousands of sailors across the Atlantic for five days—with no air support to fend off the German U-Boats lapping at their heels.

Hanks serves double-duty as the main actor as well as the screenwriter, and while his script lacks flourish, it’s old-school Hollywood in all the good ways. Director Aaron Schneider paces Greyhound well, and together they ratchet the tension to unbearable levels. Think of the best submarine movies in recent memory and the feelings they evoke as you watch. Now place yourself on the other side of that torpedo. It makes for compelling cinema.

(Right to left) Tom Hanks, Brandon Holubar, Michael Carollo, and Cade Burk in a scene of Greyhound | Apple TV+

Greyhound is worth ninety minutes of your time. I might be reading too deep into the movie, but I find the short running time and overly technical jargon a good fit for what this film represents. It’s a WWII action movie at surface level and below the explosions and choppy waters lie a representation of sacrifice. This was a mission conducted over five days. This was a mission that was conducted more than once. There were similar missions conducted all around the world. These missions were conducted during a war that lasted six years. I think above all else, Greyhound shows that the small missions are just as important as the major offensives. The offensives don’t happen without the bravery exhibited in these smaller skirmishes. All of these small moments combine to make way for victory.

Releasing more high-end productions like this might make this quarantine more bearable. I’m not advocating streaming over theaters just yet, but Greyhound makes a serious argument for it. It’s that good.

Recommendation: STREAM IT

REVIEW: The Banker

Apple TV+
Rated: PG-13
Run Time: 120 minutes
Director: George Nolfi

I know how I’m supposed to feel about The Banker.

I’m supposed to see the story and its significance. Two African-American men owned over one hundred buildings in 1960’s Los Angeles, and then went on to own two banks in Texas. Texas, in case anyone has forgotten, was a stronghold of the South in an area rife with oppression towards people of color. That story alone is so amazing I’d find it hard to believe were it not true. Let’s add in the fact that these same men hired a white employee to sit in for them on the business meetings. Now we have some potential fun and intrigue thrown into the mix.

A good story is one thing, but how you tell the story is another matter entirely, and this is where The Banker failed to return on my time investment.

The Banker works on paper. Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson are the stars. The ever versatile Nicholas Hoult lends support. Nia Long co-stars as a long suffering, always faithful, supportive-to-a-fault wife. They are the winds in the sails of a film that often finds itself afloat in the doldrums. You see, The Banker works on paper because it ticks all the boxes to a tee; there is not one biopic trope that’s gone missing. If the movie felt any less natural, it would be perfectly at home on the Discovery Channel (and if I’m being honest about how I feel, it’s really only missing a narrator and some financial expert sidebars to be that kind of experience). Education is a good thing—endless exposition about the real estate market and the equations to match are the other thing.

Left to right: Nicholas Hoult, Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie appear in a scene of The Banker | Apple TV+

I do understand why this is the approach they took; these men were playing in a rigged game, and what better way to show it than to have them express their superiority at every turn: they were smarter than everyone, had more money than most, and they had a giant chip on their shoulder. A lifetime living among racism will do that.  These men had to dress as janitors and chauffeurs to secretly be present at their own business meetings. The film uses this fact as a running gag. I see it as a sad commentary. Perhaps it’s both.

I can’t really put my finger on what I was expecting. I didn’t find myself moved in any particular manner. I see The Banker as safe. It was a rote exercise in Black History, reworked and rewritten—to what end? I felt no real anger or conflict. These men paved the way for integrated neighborhoods in Los Angeles. They “stuck it to the man” and beat them at their own game… For a time. I thought I should feel more jubilation at that, but I don’t. When everything is said and done, they lost a battle in the larger war. The movie paints this as a small victory but I didn’t see it that way. There’s a sad inevitability that looms over the film from beginning to end, and I feel they scrubbed it over to make the movie palatable instead of digging deep into it. I think I would have appreciated The Banker more if they had decided to use the shovels. There’s a fine balance between entertainment, information, and education. I didn’t find an underlying message beyond the history lesson and that leaves me conflicted. I won’t go so far as to tell you not to watch. The scores for this film are above average. I’ll just say that I may not be the film’s intended audience.

Recommendation: STREAM IT

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