Today, comedy fans everywhere are finally able to experience "Friends from College," the highly anticipated new Netflix Original Series from Nick Stoller (Neighbors, Neighbors: Sorority Rising, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek) and Francesca Delbanco. Since May, the network has been releasing teasers and trailers showcasing the show's all-star cast, which includes Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele, Keanu, Don't Think Twice), Cobie Smulders (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Avengers, How I Met Your Mother), Annie Parisse (Vinyl, The Following), Nat Faxon (Married, American Dad, Ben & Kate), Fred Savage (The Grinder, The Wonder Years) and Jae Suh Park (The Mindy Project, The Big Short).
With the debut of the series, Chicago-based design-driven production company Sarofsky can now present the :45 main title sequence created for the first episode, and detail its work conceiving, designing, shooting and producing that key storytelling segment – as well as seven more custom versions created for episodes two through eight.
The insights into Sarofsky's creative endeavors are courtesy of president, owner and executive creative director Erin Sarofsky and executive producer Steven Anderson. Complete project credits are available upon request. To watch "Friends from College" on Netflix, please visit https://www.netflix.com/title/80117485.
According to the series' official home on Netflix, "Twenty years after graduation, a tight-knit group of college friends reconnects and discovers that love hasn't gotten easier with age." During the creative briefing from series executive producers and writers Francesca and Nicholas (Nicholas also directed all eight episodes), the invitation extended to Sarofsky's team was very open. According to Erin, the creators provided extensive background, and also spent considerable time discussing the comedic tone, character development, key situations and themes, and also, the "A+" level of the show's production design.
"The show's look is quite pristine and high-end," Erin began. "We wanted to make sure the title sequence fit into the world they created… which meant we had to match that with our art direction and production design decisions."
Now extremely adept at concepting and pitching for every genre of feature film, television and even commercial storytelling genre, Sarofsky's creative team presented a wide variety of solutions, and one immediately attracted Nicholas and Francesca. Steven pointed out, "The idea they chose had high production value, it elegantly communicates the characters' long history together, and since it documents a series of shared meals enjoyed together over a long period of time, it conveys a strong family feel."
Sarofsky's approach to the key storytelling sequence setting the stage for "Friends from College" captures six friends coming together at a table where time passes from their college days to the present. Again emphasizing the series' highly polished production design, Erin explained how absolutely no detail was overlooked.
"While it may seem like we just filmed a wide variety of meals and cut them together into a fun edit… I assure you a ton more thinking and planning went into it," she said with a smile. "First, we decided that in the college years, there would be more disorganization, smoking, bad posture and in general, cheap eats. Moving into our twenties, the food gets a bit more refined and features some home cooking. Toward the end, the meals become more restaurant-focused, high-end cuisine, better wine and impeccable lighting. We even snuck in some key life events like a wedding and a baby shower."
To heighten the challenge, Sarofsky's production did not have access to the show's actual cast. Addressing this led to painstaking efforts to present the story authentically using body doubles (casting was handled through Chicago's O'Connor Casting Company). With a sparkle in her eye, Erin added, "If you look closely, we even have Keegan-Michael's character's hair go from a little afro to receding, and eventually to bald."
Teaming again with director of photography Michael Bove, with whom Erin shot the main titles for TNT's "Animal Kingdom," principal photography with the six body-double actors took place over two days in Chicago. Shooting with the ARRI Alexa, 18 setups were photographed in all, with the utmost care taken to style each actor individually over a span on 20 years. Erin and Steven admit, it may have been a dream job or a nightmare for wardrobe stylist Tinna Sullivan.
With the series representing such a virtuoso undertaking uniting a dazzling array of talents, the full-length :45 main title sequence presented in episode one is sure to stand tall in introducing viewers to "Friends from College." Proceeding on into subsequent episodes, viewers will see customized versions pared down to ten seconds apiece, where each one uses the framework of the full-length version but adds something specific to that episode's narrative.
Editor Tom Pastorelle of Chicago-based editorial company The Colonie earned high praise from everyone at Sarofsky and Netflix for his unique storytelling artistry and editorial craftsmanship. Credited with delivering "a million versions for us to see how it all could best play out," Erin also points to the strengths of the 10-second versions as merits of his skills. Accolades also go to colorist Fred Keller of Filmworkers Club Chicago.
"Essentially," Erin concluded, "the biggest challenge was that we had so many great moments in each setup. It was really difficult to choose! But in the end, we were able to tell the audience that these friendships have withstood the test of time, and that they are no longer just friends from college - they are family. As everyone knows, lots of good comedy and drama can be expected in that situation."
Visit http://www.sarofsky.com to learn more and go behind-the-scenes of this and other recent studio projects.