Being the Ricardos: Inside MOCEAN's Classic Yet Modern Trailer

Matt Lian explains the craft, from music to dialogue to type design
Being the Ricardos - Official Trailer | Prime Video

Last year, MOCEAN was one of a number of talented agencies afforded the opportunity to be a part of the campaign for Being the Ricardos. The team at Amazon Studios and the filmmakers were clear—this film is not a traditional biopic … it is a glimpse behind the curtain during a pivotal week in the life of I Love Lucy. The goal for the trailer, which was the payoff to Seismic Productions' teaser trailer, was to evoke what it felt like behind-the-scenes of one of the most iconic television comedies of all time with a trailblazing couple who changed the course of television history. The payoff trailer was also perfectly timed to seed the award campaign for the film, which resulted in three Oscar nominations. 

Collaboration Into Creativity

Great trailers are built on talent, passion and collaboration. In my role at MOCEAN, I'm fortunate to work with a team of incredibly talented people. On this particular project, I was serving as creative director while my colleague Dylan O'Neil was the editor. Each time I work with Dylan, it is made more clear how much our tastes align. Considering that we've known each other since our days at film school and have worked together for many years, we have developed an easy shorthand. He never fails to astonish me with his visual storytelling and his ability to create emotional and engaging work.

Molly Albright, our client at Amazon, was also a key collaborator. She and I have been working together for more than two decades and have an implicit trust and understanding of one another's sensibilities. From the jump, we landed on a couple of key elements that we wanted to highlight in the trailer—a reimagining of the iconic I Love Lucy theme song, and the distinctive rhythm and beauty of Aaron Sorkin's dialog.

Paying Homage

We knew we wanted to reimagine the I Love Lucy theme song for the trailer. Thankfully, Sanaz Lavaedian, SVP of music at MOCEAN, was ready for the task. She's passionate about her work, is a superfan of I Love Lucy, and always knows just who to turn to for original compositions. She immediately recommended we partner with the team at Totem. I described the broad contours of the idea in my mind to the composers—a slow burn at the top that teases the melody without giving it away before the big reveal. I was beyond delighted by what they came back with. Elevated, artful—the blink-and-you-miss-it melody in the opening bars that builds to the lush, sweeping orchestrations of that oh-so-familiar melody in the back end. The studio and filmmakers were equally impressed.

Process

When possible, I begin trailer assignments by watching the movie as if I'm an audience member. Then, I begin asking questions. What makes this movie special? What are the resonant scenes or standout performance moments? How can we create the most compelling distillation of it? After watching it once, we'll then go through a couple of additional times to pull visual and dialog selects. 

When you have the good fortune to be working on a film as exceptional as Being the Ricardos, it's not hard to find compelling trailer moments. Our job was to find a way to balance the many threads of the narrative—the struggles in Lucy and Desi's marriage, the stress of making the show, and the looming political scandal that threatened ruin. How best to tie it all together and simultaneously showcase Mr. Sorkin's words and the wonderfully nuanced performances from the entire ensemble?

At a pivotal moment in the film, Ricky's famous catchphrase "Lucy, I'm home!" takes on a whole new meaning and stops Lucy short. We thought that starting in a scene with this moment would be an interesting opening gambit, and from there, a seamless segue into a baton toss of dialog to carry the audience through the trailer. After the emotional grid of Lucy's back end dialog takes us to the title, we thought ending with a smile would give the piece a nice lift. What better way than with Nicole Kidman's laugh, a pitch-perfect imitation of Lucile Ball's. In a stroke of inspiration, Dylan pulled that laugh from a different scene and used it to punctuate the button—a wry exchange between Lucy and Desi. Maybe it's because I grew up watching and loving I Love Lucy, but I'm moved and delighted every time I hear that laugh.

Look and Feel

In addition to stunning dialog and performances, Sorkin's film captures the glitz and glamour of a golden age in Hollywood. That was another key element that we wanted to highlight with our visual choices. This meant not only pulling the most intriguing shots, but also nailing down the look and feel for the internal and end card design. For the main title, our goal was to honor the title design from I Love Lucy but with a contemporary touch. We subtly incorporated the iconic heart without letting it overshadow the rich aesthetic our design team developed. We were even able to integrate the main title font from the print campaign. 

Our entire creative team, with the steady hand of the team at Amazon to guide us, poured our hearts into making sure each individual aspect of our work was executed to the high bar we hold ourselves to. When you're working with people who are passionate about what they do, it makes doing the work fulfilling and in this particular instance, the result is a trailer that we're proud to have been a part of. 

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Matt Lian
Matt Lian is creative director/senior editor at MOCEAN.

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