Conjuring Kesha Trailer

Discovery+

You Ask

This time, we’re just gonna start from the end.

“Kesha is unequivocally down for a good scare, and even in moments of hesitation, she forges forward with a curiosity to understand the unknown. This scrappy little show was some of the most fun I’ve had with television all year.” -Daily Beast

“You will wolf down every ridiculous second of Conjuring Kesha." -The Guardian

We Answer

Kesha has a new paranormal show? We’re so down. As long time collaborators with @travelchannel @discoveryplus and @ki.yong.yi @jaycenarmstrong we were excited to explore both a new series and some sweet new technology.

First step was huddling up with the in-house team and reviewing all the concepts they were considering. All parties were really gravitating towards a “Kesha in Wonderland’' idea where she would be transported to a desaturated fantasyland in which she was the light connecting with other worldly aspects like ghosts and aliens. This magical approach produced a lot of brainstorming gold and after pitching back a few different ways we could execute- we landed on using an UNREAL ENGINE XR stage to bring this concept into being.

Concept 1: “Unreal”

Collage of creepy images

Concept 2: “Dollhouse”

Collage of creepy images

Concept 3: “Projection”

Collage of rooms with out door scenes projected on the walls

Concept 1: “Unreal” would allow the most flexibility with the number of worlds we could create in one location, while staying within a conservative timeframe. We had two days to capture all Key Art photography and video assets. And we were all on board with not wanting this looking too ‘green screen’ and overly composited. It needed to feel immersive and haunting.

We were able to have several calls with Lagan, her brother and Executive Producer for the series, to become even better versed on their desired art direction for the show. From lighting to wardrobe to lenses, filtration and composition we wanted to ensure that all production decisions we were making for the marketing campaign were in sync with their vision as well.

We all agreed that the overall look should be soft and cinematic. We used full spectrum RGB LED lights and a bunch of haze to create magical diffused imagery captured using two Arri Alexa Mini LF cameras and filmed through beautifully rehoused 1970s Canon K35 1.5 vintage prime lenses, set wide open for a dreamy bloomy super shallow image. We matched the unique perspectives present in the series by mounting cameras on both a Jib and MoVI gimbal to provide a variety of beautiful yet unsettling images. And lastly, we shot through filters, prisms and split kaleidoscopes bringing in an eerie and ghostly feel to our practical in camera effects.

Practical lighting and filtration inspiration board

collage of a woman with lighting and filtration to distort images

Final shot

woman's face distorted by refracted light

Wardrobe & Styling

Wardrobe was obviously a key visual component to the story. Working with Kesha and her incredible design team led by @turnerturner we created two personas. The first pulled on a vintage 1970’s style in palette, set design, and wardrobe.

Wardrobe and Palette 1: “Vintage”

collage of women wearing 1970s style earth tone colors

The second persona was more of a space Barbarella character steeped in the cool tones of turquoise and blues. But after auditioning outfits on Key Art Day, she preferred more of an Occult Conjurer Dame character in a custom made black dress that she sports in the second half of the spot.

Wardrobe and Palette 2: “Wonderland”

collage of women wearing 1970s style blues and pinks

The transition into the wonderland (originally called the “rabbit hole”) started off as an infinity mirror. We wanted to figure out how best to execute as a practical in camera element. That is always the goal for us. We played around with real mirrors, experimenting with ways to hide the camera. In the end, working with our G&E team, we decided to build a frame of Astera Titan tubes that could be fully programmed to run through various colors and patterns. Kesha’s request was that the colors not be too ‘80’s. No ultra saturated Miami Vice-like pinks and blues. Instead the colors needed to complement the ‘70’s vibe we established in our opening scene- the more muted orange, yellow and rust. Using the Unreal Engine, LED screens, and a custom built neon light portal created practically by our friends @littlegiantlightingsf, @tandy_graham, @electric_skillet and @gomezica we were well on our way to a truly trippy transition between worlds.

image of woman standing in a lighted frame in front of a mirror
image of woman standing in a lighted frame in front of a mirror

The wonderland scenes were carefully curated and created as we wanted to feature locations that were authentic to the series and appear photorealistic. Featuring a blend of marketplace scenes, original photography and a custom created 3D scene by AlterEgo designer & animator @somega our journey takes us from a 1970’s vintage hotel lobby into the dingy interior of an abandoned asylum, a haunted forest after dark, and a desolate midwestern field with a view of our galaxy.

UNREAL is legitimately unreal. There was a ton to learn and the capabilities became endless. We could write an entire blog all about shooting on an XR stage (and we probably will). Being able to adjust lights, angles, textures, and geometry live on set is bananas. The great thing was that since we were shooting two cameras, we were able to set the MoSYS tracker system on the wide/jib, which allowed the LED wall to interact with the camera position, creating live parallax and a realistic setting for Kesha. Using the longer 50mm and 85mm lenses on the MoVI cam, we were able to treat the LED wall as an actual practical real life setting. To keep things efficient, we pre-programmed our custom lighting setup per scene, so as quickly as we could load up different locations on the screen behind, we could instantly have matching light which allowed us to quickly move through many locations.

photograph lighting setup  around a women standing in front of a foreset scene
man capturing a woman by holding the camera above her and tilted towards her
woman in photo shoot
cameraman holding a large rig and looking up towards it

In addition to using UNREAL on the LED wall, we also were able to use it on the full green cyc for a custom hotel lobby. After going through a ton of imagery as inspiration, we created this room from scratch inside UNREAL ENGINE, carefully measured out to be a dead match for the live action scene below. As we filmed, we could see a LIVE fully composited output, completely tracked, while we were on-set. It is incredible. We were then able to take the live camera tracker data right back into unreal, which played a massively efficient role in our post workflow.

computer generated room with measurements of 10 feet by 18 feet by 14 feet
room with furniture and orange paint and decore
room with furniture and green paint and decore

Set design and props for the 1970’s vintage opening scene were inspired by Danish minimalism and mid century modern motifs. Our muse: Stanley Kubrick's classic The Shining, a favorite of both Kesha and Heather. Days of shopping and sourcing were meticulously handled by @michaelasulka_tv and her production design team. Finding the right patterns and material to compliment the scene was crucial, so needless to say, we were prepared with options.

1970s style furniture collage

Post production and Music composition

Once the shoot was in the can, it was off to post. And a campaign at this level for Discovery+ requires almost 200 unique deliverables against four creative stages: teaser, trailer, tune in and a ‘rave review’ spot when the press is good. And the press was phenomenal. My favorite hailing from The Beast, “Kesha Hunting Ghosts Is the Most Fun TV You’ll See All Year.” Between The Today Show, Seth Meyers, People, Rolling Stone and so much more- kudos to the Discovery+ and Team Kesha because this series was OUT THERE!

To complement the conceptual shoot-based launch creative, TRVL’s campaign also called for a trailer and Creative B that more directly explains the series featuring the show footage front and center. Using Kesha’s voiceover as the foundation to explain the series, we introduce the audience to all of her friends who have joined the journey to explore the supernatural. To get to the dark heart of the show while scripting and editing we identified the scariest locations and searched for the best otherworldly occurrences that Kesha and her friends conjure up with their presence. The series was beautifully shot with a trove of trippy cutaways and transitions that help distinguish the show from other ghost-hunting entities. In addition to identifying the right moments, pacing and storyarc were essential to achieving a hairraising extrasensory experience that leaves viewers wanting more, just like Kesha herself says in the trailer. This is where we bring in good friend and brilliant composer @iamburnboy to see what he’s got that elicits just the right balance between creepy intensity and contemporary pop influence to be worthy of backing up a superstar the likes of Kesha. We were in-luck. He just so happened to have a perfect track at the ready and he was able to go a few rounds back and forth to make it fit the edit seamlessly, working with us in edit to create the perfect rises, falls and long creepy builds.

As creative made its way through the pipeline we were thrilled to hear that the Conjuring Kesha campaign was elevated to gold priority status. With this pivot we landed back on earth to tap into our meticulous and tech-minded team to execute and deliver nearly 200 deliverables across multiple platforms. With that wrapped, it’s now officially time to get scary! Here’s to Conjuring Kesha transcending all expectations…and haunting your algorithm with its Discovery+ debut.

Fun Fact

Kesha has a cat that she loves very much. And as soon as we wrapped, we were able to share a moment of honor by putting a still of him up on the massive LED wall behind her. This may have been the all time best end to a shoot in our entire run of doing this.

woman standing in front of a huge cat