Meet long-time IVY Member Jeff Ayars: filmmaker, producer, actor, and Portfolio Management Specialist at NBC Universal. You may already know of Jeff from his comedy group, Cannibal Milkshake, which he co-founded with a fellow Cornell alum. They specialize in well-produced, comedic parodies, some of which have now garnered over a million views. Jeff’s work has appeared on the Funny or Die Homepage, College Humor, Splitsider, Fast Company, Gizmodo, Yahoo Movies, Z100, Channel 101 NY and Rooftop Comedy, as well as featured at film festivals around the country. Read Jeff’s story below, and connect with him on IVY to get involved!
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What aspect of filmmaking would be the biggest surprise to people who aren’t in production?
The editing process. When I was in 6th grade, I started making short films. My dad put me on this big editing machine and started teaching me how to edit. It took twelve hours to finesse my two-minute video and I’ve loved editing ever since. My projects have gotten slightly more complicated since then, and my appreciation for the craft has grown exponentially. So much of what an audience absorbs goes unnoticed. There are layers upon layers of color-grading, dialogue, sound textures—not to mention visual effects—and if done well, the audience digests it in without a second thought.
It sounds obvious, but a lot of comedy editing boils down to timing. You can turn the worst gag into the funniest one (or visa-versa…) by tweaking the pace of the scene. You just have to have an intuition for it. How many seconds do you hold on the actors face before cutting to the wider group shot? When do you cue a sound effect? How long before the other person responds? It feels like problem solving, and I love solving problems. Now, though, it’s become impossible for me to go to the theater and enjoy a movie, because I’m constantly observing the things that I would have done differently.
How are the ways people are consuming shows changing?
I’m in a unique position because I’m seeing a lot of this behind the scenes at NBC Universal. The “TV Everywhere” and direct-to-consumer models are becoming more and more prevalent. For instance, I was part of launching this new experience for NBC’s “Aquarius,” for which all thirteen episodes became available online after pilot aired. I think this is the direction the industry is going and you’ll definitely start to see the Netflix model adopted by the traditional television networks. It’s definitely an exciting time, the medium has never been more accessible to new voices and story-tellers.
What are your top three movie recommendations?
Amélie will always have a special place in my heart. The vision of the director (combined with the masterful editing) definitely gave me a new definition of what filmmaking could be. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good love story.
Then, Spinal Tap. The idea of a mockumentary really captivated me. There’s a long-gestating project of mine that I chip away at every year: it’s me as a rap artist who can’t write a single lyric, which he blames on his lack of a romantic muse–a problem that the character tries to solve by joining an online dating site. A lot of friends say it’s their favorite project that I’ve ever done.
I love comedy but I also frequently find myself watching and studying the most depressing movies of all time. One that I have seen, probably more times than any reasonable human being, is Blue Valentine. I just love the way that the story unfolds, how raw the acting is, and it doesn’t hurt that it stars Ryan Gosling. I also consume a lot of bad B-movies too, basically anything that could eventually be parodied.
What’s your biggest quirk?
I am the most James Bond-obsessed person you’ll ever meet. Anything that’s in the movie—sunglasses, pants, watches, you name it—I’m probably either wearing them or looking for them online. In this one category, I am slave to marketing. I actually did a college essay about the marketing strategies and capital that are poured into each film to try to wrap my head around my obsession.
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If you could give a TED talk on anything, what subject would it be?
Style, particularly at the work place. Anyone from my grandmother to my boss could tell you that I have some very particular opinions on the matter. In college, I somehow became the default counselor to people who were embarrassed by their boyfriends’ clothing. I’m not going to lie, it’s probably just a result of me mimicking the clothing I’ve seen in James Bond movies.
What are the best ways members can help support you?
Watch, enjoy and share! I would love to meet and collaborate with more like-minded people in IVY (and beyond) as my projects expand in scope and complexity, so please don’t hesitate to reach out. This summer I’m directing and producing a web series with my colleagues from “Canadian Sniper” that we’re targeting for IFC and similar digital outlets. During our down time, we’ll be performing in a comedy competition at UCB this July and hope to see the audience full of IVY members!
Jeff Ayars is an IVY Member (NYC). Connect and collaborate with him on IVY. To learn more about IVY, please visit www.ivy.com.