Posted by Glenn Lazzaro for his series “Adventures in Television”

National Video. 1989

In 1989 most MTV producers were trying to out-cut each other using blinding-fast edits. There was one exception. John Payson. John had come to MTV from the Harvard Lampoon so the majority of his work was comedy based. He was less concerned about “being cool” and concentrated more on linear storytelling. (but with a decidedly MTV feel) Between 1987 and 1990 John was responsible for helping make “Randee Of The Redwoods” the face of MTV.

Mysterious Man

When John shot the “Mysterious Man” promo he intended it to be one long 60-second shot. Sadly when we got into the edit we had to put a few cuts in just to bring it in on time. We created the soundtrack in the edit stealing bits of music from classical CDs that John brought in. (in those days no one was worried about licensing music)

He shot the “Mysterious Man” in color but wanted it to have a “noir” feel. We turned it black & white but John felt it needed something else- some strange “Randee” kind of thing. We put some color back into his hair because, as John said, “Not even Film Noir could contain Randee.”

Randee Gets a Job

While working at a gas station Randee has a run-in with a “yuppie.” The most hated stereotype of the 80s and his obvious archenemy. The edit is pretty straightforward with the exception of Randee sucking the car into the gas nozzle. Doing it today it would be simple. Just shoot the car separately against a green screen. But MTV shoot budgets in those days wouldn’t allow that so John shot the car in the gas station. In order to separate the car from the background we cut mattes by feeding the shot into a TV monitor under the title camera. We then traced its outline off the face of the monitor onto a piece of paper with a sharpie. We cut the shape out and put it under the title camera and used it as a matte to separate the car from the background. Using an ADO I shrunk and distorted the car frame-by-frame to get it into the nozzle

Note: The explosion at the end was borrowed from a UK show called “The Secret Life Of Television” that I had lying around the edit suite. In the show they dynamited a stack of televisions just to see what would happen. The explosion found its way into many, many MTV promos over the years.

Bonus. As part of a marketing stunt, Randee became the dark horse candidate for President and John had Artist Peter Max do the campaign poster. I got a signed poster for working on the project. Sadly mine is gone but it looked just like this one.