James Patterson & Kwame Alexander | Becoming Muhammad Ali

This hard-hitting animated book trailer, entitled “Introducing Me” lifted a title belt at the 2020 Addys!

These commercials for Becoming Muhammad Ali don’t fit into your usual box(ing ring)

Becoming Muhammad Ali was one for the books. This was our first on-set shoot back since COVID had shut down the world and we. were. ready! We had a fairly small crew for the project and quite a bit of obstacles to overcome, but overcome them we did! 

For this project, the goal was to make the commercial look like a boxing movie that was set in the 1950’s to set the stage for Muhammad’s teenage years. For this we rented out a boxing studio, Sweet Science Boxing Club, to get the authentic look. Then, our Set Decorator, Melissa St. Clair, went in and greeked (taped over all the logos) all the punching bags and followed up with brown and black makeup to make the bags look worn; she even ripped the tape over the logos a little to give more of the “beat up” illusion. To add to the legitimacy of the shoot, Melissa found vintage items to use! She brought in a vintage radio, old boxing gloves, a vintage water cooler, a stop clock for working out, and a metal fan. With the props in place, the rest was up to the gaffers to set the scene with the masterful placement of lights.

For this, our Gaffer, Collin Ingram and our Grip, Alesso Graci used a center-lit approach and played with god rays to get the right feel. Lastly, we added haze to help create the feel of an authentic boxing movie.

With all the props in place and lighting set up, it was time we started Becoming Muhammad Ali! Our 1st AD, Sebastian Chamaca hopped in the ring with our talent, a professional boxer, to get those fighting shots on camera. As our boxer lunged and threw punches, Sebastian was there with the DJI Ronin Gimbal, running circles around the fighter, getting the perfect shot.

After we were done shooting, it was time for our post-production team to shine! One of our biggest difficulties was digitally altering the flags that hung above the boxing ring. The ones in the boxing club were certainly not around when Muhammad was training and while we did our best to shoot around them, we needed to fix the ones on screen. With that, they also used post effects to haze up the picture for that authentic look and feel. With the picture looking good, it was time to add the voice over, recorded by the talented Harrison Thacker aka 16os, to it. 

Along with the live action commercial, we created an animated version. For this, our Animation Director, Seth Johnson worked with a very talented artist to bring the animation to life and the author, Kwame Alexander, provided the voice over for this commercial. 

Together, these commercials won an Addy award, further cementing Becoming Muhammad Ali as one of the greatest successes in children’s lit in the last few years.




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