Seemingly impossible drone footage in Minneapolis bowling alley ad stuns top filmmakers

It's not often you see a bowling alley promotional video in general, much less one that grabs the attention of millions of people. But that's exactly what a video made for Bryant-Lake Bowl, a bowling alley in Minneapolis, has done. Not only has the spot gone viral on social media, but it's also caught the eye of top Hollywood directors who are praising the tricky direction and camerawork it involves.

The almost-90-second footage begins with a drone camera hovering above the street outside the bowling alley before swooping down through the front doors and zooming around inside the building. It starts off "Okay, this is cool," but by the time it's halfway through it's clear that this isn't your average drone camera work.

With impressive speed, we're taken through small openings above the bowling lanes, back behind the pin machines, through narrow corridors no one ever gets to see, under people's legs, through people's conversations, around the bar and theater, and ultimately right smack dab in the middle of some flying bowling pins. It's impressive.

So impressive, in fact, that it caught the eye of Lee Unkrich (director of the hit Pixar film Coco), who retweeted the video from James Gunn (director of Guardians of the Galaxy), with both men sharing their gobsmacked reactions to it.



The surprising cinematic hit comes from Minneapolis-based Rally Studios and was created by cinematographer Jay Christensen and directed by Anthony Jaska. According to the Star Tribune, Christensen and Jaska made the short film to help bring some attention to local businesses that have been struggling.

"If you think about all the small businesses and COVID, their business has been hit, obviously," Christensen said. "I would go in there and notice that it was pretty empty." The pair reached out to the bowling alley owner with the idea of showcasing the uniqueness of the place.

The speedy tour in, out, up, and around the various parts of the bowling alley is dizzyingly cool, but the fact that it was all shot in one take is what gives it that "unbelievable" feel.

"It is a true one-take," Jaska told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "There's no CGI. That was kind of interesting. But also the positive nature of it — people seeing the skill that it takes and the unique ability it takes to combine the skill of an amazing pilot, the technology of a drone, and the story that can actually be told through a one-take."

The perfect shot came after 10 or 12 tries in a 2-hour period. They shot the film after hours (for COVID safety) on March 2 and added audio after the fact, since the drone's buzzing sound interfered with the natural sounds of the bowling alley.

According to the Tribune, Christensen had been doing lots of work with FPV (first-person view) drone camera work since last spring, but he'd never shot drone footage indoors before, which makes the feat all the more incredible. But as remarkable as the camerawork inside the bowling alley is, he said the most difficult shot was actually the very first one—getting through the front door. It was a windy day, he had to make sure no pedestrians were around, and he had to maneuver around a parking meter that was right where he wanted the drone to be.

The hard work paid off, though. Todd Vaziri, a visual effects artist who has worked on blockbuster film franchises such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and Marvel, tweeted: "This kind of wonderful photographic innovation adds to the language and vocabulary of cinema. Just beautiful."

Director James Gunn not only praised the footage as "incredible" and "stupendous," but he also said he wanted the duo to join his crew in London when they shoot Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Christensen and Jaska said they've had multiple directors reach out to them, which has come as a surprise. When the Tribune asked about the possibility of working with James Gunn, Jaska said it "seems crazy, but who knows?"

Talent is talent, and sometimes it's found in the oddest of places. Looking forward to seeing where these guys' drone work takes them as they explore future projects with the best in the business.

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