The mockumentary about Granny Gamble is now complete . This is the story behind how "Granny Gamble Builds a Bingo Bankroll" went from bingo blog to full scale video production.
(The videos are in Danish. Contact us if you want to discuss video content production for your brand. Available in 70+ languages.)
Episode 1 - Granny Gamble Goes to the Bingo Hall
It began ten years ago. Roy Pedersen, the original author of the article about the gambling grandma on bingoguide.dk, sat in discontent in a basement in Greece whilst frustratingly contemplating how to prevent his company from going bankrupt. The company is All-in Translations, who provide language services for the gaming industry. It turns out that a client who had recently placed the biggest order that All-in had ever received were not in a financial position to provide payment despite all tasks being completed and delivered.
An email that made Roy say "...bingo!"
Pedersen received an email from bingoguide.dk. He had met representatives of the company a few times previously at gaming conferences and All-in Translations had translated a fair number of texts for the same company. They now wanted some original content for their new bingo site, and thought Pedersen was the right man to call upon. Pedersen is always overjoyed at getting an order from a dependable payer who also craves something creative. He immediately began building a character on which the articles would be based on. She has purple hair, glasses thicker than the bottom of a Coca Cola bottle and smokes 40 cigarettes a day; a stereotype of your average bingo goer. Her mission is to become a winning online bingo player, by any means possible.
This is (also) the foundation for episode 1 of the satirical documentary. We wanted to portray Granny Gamble (Lillian Thode) as being an unfazed cynic who is the loudest to laugh when she gets her way. The only problem was that the night before recording, the initial manuscript failed to convey this. Good advice came at a cost, when director Angelique Muller landed in Copenhagen at 10pm. Muller has worked with Pedersen back when they both had Customer Support at Expekt.com 13 years ago. Ever since then, she has established herself as a very promising film producer (IMDb profile here) and manager for the Valletta Film Festival. Muller also worked as the assisting producer of the television series Game of Thrones, which was filmed in Malta and in 2015, and she made a spoof for All-in Translations called iGame of Thrones.
Scripting with inspiration from the perks of online bingo
The clock had struck 11pm, Muller and Pedersen were sat at a restaurant ordering food, when they turned to the manuscript - which clearly had big potential for improvement. Something drastic had to be done and we needed to dig deep into the essence of the plot in order to find a solution. How do we wish to portray her? We wanted to show that playing online is more convenient and profitable than playing ‘live’. But we were unsuccessful in finding a bingo hall where we could shoot the video and it was unlikely that viewers would be interested in watching a video of other people playing bingo on the internet.
Our conclusion was that we must focus on how bothersome and unrewarding it can be to play in real life, and place Granny Gamble in situations where playing away from the screen becomes more challenging in each episode. We decided to broaden our horizons, and compare online bingo with other types of live games: Bingo in a bingo hall, going to a casino, betting on the football in a kiosk, slot machines at the pub and last but not least - the safety of the internet compared to the safety of the streets.
After midnight, Angelique underlined that it was more effective to show the viewer something rather than to tell it. This was hard to contest. An important suggestion was that we start every episode right in the action in order to immediately grip the viewers’ attention. In episode 1 we meet Lynne Kirk who plays the interviewer. Standing with the microphone at the ready outside a bingo hall on Studiestræde in Copenhagen, she sees Granny Gamble’s red walking aid. As soon as she starts to explain that we will be meeting her today, Granny Gamble comes running out from the bingo hall in a fit of laughter. She hurries over to the walker and tells Lynne that she has stolen the false teeth of a male bingo player, whilst he was smoking a pipe. The man had simply become too annoying with all of his shouts of 'BINGO'!
"Try to say Bingo without teeth! Bimbo! Bimbo! It is completely impossible!", guffawed Granny Gamble whilst her toothless opponent screamed back at her, "come back with my teeth, you bloody bitch! I am going to destroy your walker." Lynne and Granny Gamble disappear around the corner and the episode ends.
A crazy granny, and a hectic schedule...
All five of the episodes in the mockumentary about Granny Gamble were recorded in one day. This places great demand on the actors, production team and planning. Many underestimate how much time it actually takes to make a professional video and with five 90 second episodes all in one day, this only leaves a minimum margin for error, before risking the entire production going down the drain. The director Muller has a lot of experience, but the actors had mostly been extras in previous productions. All the more reason why their performances were met with great enthusiasm.
Apart from a few minor difficulties at the start, they handled themselves tremendously. The interviewer Lynne, ordinarily works as a drama teacher and possessed the most acting experience, which was evident, as she performed to a high standard in each and every single take. Lynne had also been cast for the role of Granny Gamble, but she was too young. Two days before shooting began, we asked her if she wanted the role of the interviewer and she happily accepted. Granny Gamble gave a brilliant casting and she had exactly the right energy we were looking for. Many of the scenes were heavily improvised, which she handled expertly. Granny Gamble’s friend Violetta also worked excellently in the role as the more sympathetic side kick. The two best friends travel around Denmark acting as extras in various productions and it’s obvious that they have a passion for it. They took the challenge of finding five different costumes -one for each episode - well in their stride. I truly hope that I will have such a close friend when I enter my years like these ladies. It was truly admirable. If it had not been for everyone’s unfailingly positive attitude, the production never would never have worked.
Episode 2 - Granny Gamble Goes to the casino
The whole idea behind the satirical documentary Granny Gamble, and the point we wanted to highlight, was that in all essence ‘live’ bingo is a lot of hassle - at least compared to playing on the internet in the comfort of your own home. If you ignore all social aspects, it could be argued that by leaving the house one is ‘getting some exercise’. However, Granny Gamble's interests don't much pertain to exercise and, with a public smoking ban, it's evident there are few remaining reasons to play ‘live’.
Getting the big idea across (why Granny Gamble chooses online bingo over live games)
We got the idea for episode 2 in April, while we were doing some planning in Copenhagen and attending some meetings for the Nordic Affiliate Conference. We settled on the idea while we were at a casino one of those nights - which quite frankly turned out to be the worst casino experience I have ever had. We'd perhaps had a few too many beers, but we were under no circumstances drunk. I had the impression that casino hosts were always happy to welcome people in high spirits. On the contrary, we were met with an angry tone. Those of us who had remembered to bring our IDs were demanded to pay 100 Danish kroner in order to enter. I have been to many casinos in my life, but this was the first time I have had to pay an entrance fee. A similar situation happened in a Dutch casino in Amsterdam, however we were given our money back in drinks. After a mere 10 minutes of losing at the the black-jack table I found a taxi and went home. You can’t get a taxi ride for free, and to make matters worse, the casino was situated quite far away from the hotel I was staying at. Back at the hotel, in the bathtub, I placed a bet on Bet365.com and I must say that this experience was far more enjoyable.
The introduction to episode 2 takes place outside a casino in Copenhagen. Granny Gamble comes rolling into view with her walking aid. Frustrated, she yells at the interviewer. The atmosphere was tense. She had forgotten her ID and as a result was unable to enter. "Tell me, at my age, who needs an ID card?" Bellowed Granny Gamble. In the next scene, we see the interviewer, Lynne, smoke her seventh cigarette, whilst waiting for her interviewee to arrive in a taxi. Granny Gamble is in the worst possible mood you could imagine. "200 kroner for a taxi! As if I have come from the moon and back", she scoffs. She sets eyes on Lynne, and beckons to her to get up and keep up.
Granny Gamble only spends a short while ‘inside’* the casino. After a few seconds, she comes out again, this time followed by a doorman. "You are not welcome here’" he says, but Granny Gamble waves her handbag at him frantically. No wonder she has a face like thunder after she had discovered that it costs 100 kroner to enter the casino. "What the hell is this? Ibiza?" she screams, as she and her walker are escorted away.
We really wanted to outline the paradox between having to pay entrance fees at Copenhagen casinos, whilst online gaming companies are practically throwing offers and bonuses in your face as soon as you make your initial deposits. It had been suggested that part 2 of the second episode, should be set in Granny Gamble’s apartment, where she sat on the couch, and playing online after such a catastrophic visit to the casino. In order to emphasise the contrast, we came up with the idea of having pan pipe music playing in the background, with Granny Gamble sitting with her legs up on the table – as if surrounded by an oasis of port wine after hiking the desert in high heels. We had also considered having a ‘webcam’ – set up inside the apartment, but we decided that watching someone looking into the screen of a laptop would not make for good television. We thought it would be more visually effective, to portray all the contrasts between the problems Granny Gamble faces when she plays ‘live’ bingo, compared to playing on the internet.
A decisive match and World Cup betting come into play
The actor playing the doorman is Christian Møller Larsen. This was pleasing to me, as it meant that I would not be the only one watching the decisive World Cup Group C match between Denmark and Australia. The timing could not have been better, we had just managed to film the final take of the scenes outside the casino, as soon as the match kicked off. We watched the first 10 minutes on my mobile phone in the taxi on the way back to the apartment. The rest of the first half was on in the background as we laid plans for the next episodes and whilst the actors changed their costumes.
* We were never actually inside the casino, since all forms of photography are forbidden. We only filmed outside. The casino featured has no specific association with the content shown in the video.
Episode 3 - Granny Gamble Tries To Bet on VAR
I had mixed emotions when I realised that Denmark were to play against Australia on the same day that we were to film the satirical documentary about the cynical bingo blogger Granny Gamble. On one hand, it is a privilege to be able to experience the atmosphere of watching Denmark play in the World Cup with my Danish brothers in Copenhagen. On the other hand, there is a great deal of uncertainty in the air surrounding an event such as this one. The streets will be packed with Danish fans, but how will they react to Granny Gamble? The result will certainly have an huge impact on their mood, so how should one plan the manuscript?
We concluded, that we must focus on the production value. This was something I had learned what was whilst watching an episode of Stranger Things a couple of years ago. The kids directing the movie on the series were talking about production value when they were shooting a scene in their horror movie just as a train drove past in the background. We had the same vision with the Denmark vs Australia match, but there were only 15 minutes remaining of the match by the time we had finally made it out of the apartment on Studiestræde, with Granny Gamble dressed in Danish colours, we decided that walking to Tivoli would be the quickest option. We wanted to film Granny Gamble in front of the masses of red and white fans who were desperate for Denmark to steal a late winner.
After walking about 200 meters, our interviewer Lynne had stated that she was in danger of getting blisters because of her high heels, she thought we were going to take a taxi. I then ran back to the apartment to fetch some more practical and comfortable shoes for her to wear. I caught up with Granny Gamble and Violetta just outside Tivoli, where the score-line was still 1-1 with 5 minutes plus stoppages left on the clock. We managed to hook Granny Gamble up with a microphone and started recording her and Lynne as they spoke to a few of the many fans who were on their way out.
The idea with episode 3, was to show how much more complicated it was to place a football bet in a kiosk, as opposed to doing it online. We had provided Granny Gamble with a few betting slips, and directed her to ask other fans to explain what she had to do. I got the idea when I was placing a bet on the Champions League semi-final. I was waiting to be picked up by a friend on the way to the pub. There was a kiosk close to where I was waiting, which happened to be a licensed bookies. I hadn’t placed a bet in a kiosk for many years. I do all of my own personal gambling online, where better odds are offered with fewer complications.
But since I had nothing better to do at the time, I thought 'why not'? Upon entering the kiosk, I had decided that I would bet on more than 3 goals being scored in the match and that both teams would score. It turned out that this was simply too complicated for the bookies system to accommodate. So I tried something else, which also didn’t work. There were too many rules on what one could or could not do, which games you could and could not combine on the same betting slip and matches that were unable to bet on alone. In addition, the odds were so low that I decided to just give up on it. I went online and placed the bets instead. I knew about such complications in kiosks back in Norway and I suppose the systems are similar in betting kiosks in Denmark.
Improvisation can make for some interesting conversation
Back to Denmark and June 21st. The match ended 1-1 and the fans are fairly happy. It was somewhat disappointing to not beat Australia, but at the same time many people knew that, with their team acquiring four points from their first two games, the chances of advancing into the last 16 were quite high. The biggest talking point, as it has been ever since the 2018 World Cup in Russia had started, was VAR (Video Assistant Referees). Denmark had conceded a penalty as a result of the new VAR system. Then I received a text message from the owner of Bingoguide.dk, who had informed me that he had also been watching the match in Tivoli, so we arranged to meet outside.
"Get Granny Gamble to ask about VAR" he said. He approached some nearby Danish fans and asked for their consent to our filming, which was granted. Granny Gamble fired away with her questions. "I want to bet on VAR’ she exclaimed". "You can’t", one of them replied, and then showed a tattoo he had on his knee. Surrounded by a good and positive atmosphere, we walked over to a kiosk, to ask them if it is possible to place a bet on VAR. The man behind the counter is completely oblivious to what we are asking, but the conversation was going well and he gave us his consent to uploading the video on Youtube.
Granny Gamble concludes that she would rather go home and play bingo on the internet, but someone had stolen her walker! The interviewer shows clear signs of being the culprit and that she had had quite enough of Granny Gamble for one day. It was 5pm and we were running on schedule for the first time that day. We head over to a city pub where we will be recording the next episode.
Episode 4 - Granny Gamble goes to the slot machine pub
"I wish I had full control of lights and sound" said Angelique Muller, the director, as we shot episode 4 of the video blog about Granny Gamble testing live gaming versus online bingo.
"What?" I asked.
"To have control over the lights and the sound at the set" Muller explained.
She had to say it twice to outshout the increasingly rowdy Danish fans. Our strategy of buying their silence with beers had backfired. The staff at City Pub Copenhagen had been extremely helpful and friendly, even if we were 3 hours behind on the time we'd agreed the evening before - but now we had officially overstayed our welcome. They were refusing to turn down the music and didn't love the fact that we were shushing their guests (fair enough). A guy who was playing on one of the slot machines when we came in, and who was kind enough to step aside, was now getting a bit itchy as well.
Persistence and perfectionism is must in video content production
But video content production is often about persistence - about not giving up before the perfect take is saved on the camera memory card. And then, to do another take just for safety. People are often surprised by how many takes are needed, and when people inexperienced with video production are involved the repetitiveness can sometimes feel unnecessary. The three main actors for the Granny Gamble production were lacking experience in big roles, but had all spent a lot of time at movies sets as extras. If anyone knows how much time it can take to shoot a scene - it's the extras.
So there we were, in City Pub, trying to get perfect takes for different scenes;
- The interviewer coming in to look for Granny Gamble, only to find her friend Violetta instead, who is playing slots and much too busy to talk.
- Granny Gamble coming out of the toilet, only to find Violetta having occupied the slot machine she had been feeding the whole afternoon.
- Granny Gamble ordering some drinks and tricking Violetta to get up so she can get her seat at the slot machine back.
- Violetta winning on the other slot machine, Granny Gamble not loving it.
- A sneaky guy in the background (played by me) giving a long look when Violetta wins, and showing particular interest in the orange handbag where the winnings are placed.
- Violette ordering some shots.
The statement we were trying to make with episode 4 was that you can clearly never count on your favorite gambling machine being available when you play live. And nothing is more typical than someone else winning the jackpot on a machine you have been feeding. Online however this is never a problem in online casinos or online bingo halls as the seat is virtual and always free.
We also wanted to use an efficient cinematic tool called set-up and payoff. It basically means to establish something (set-up) that pays off later. It's not to be confused with payoff from a betting context where payoff is used to describe the return on a bet. My favorite set-up/payoff is from Shawshank Redemption. You probably remember it: "Salvation lies within".
City Pub is a small and relaxed place in the center of Copenhagen, and the interior is a great fit for a video scene. The lights of the slots looked great as a contrast to the dim lightning.We got there in the end - much thanks to Aleksandar Bundalo, who is the regular sound editor on the video content productions at All-in Translations. He is widely regarded as one of the top sound editors in Malta - a place known to host an abundance of big movie productions. Bundao's bigger productions are Tom Hanks' Captain Phillips and Simshar (his IMDb profile here).
Episode 5 - Granny Gamble's friend gets robbed
Episode 5 of Granny Gamble's video blog was actually the first one we shot and, as it turned out, by far the most difficult. We gathered in the Airbnb we had rented in Studiestrædet at 7:30 AM which was tough, considering we had been up most of the night reworking the script.
The apartment was perfect - it really did look like the dwelling of a modern grandma who's been successful at online bingo. The location in the Latin Quarter was ideal because of the proximity to other shooting locations. Copenhagen really is a beautiful city and the Danish capital is famous around the world for outstanding urban planning and striking contemporary architecture. The sun was shining most of the time we were there, and there really is something astounding about the atmosphere in big Nordic cities when the air and the people is warmed back up after a long winter.
With its classical touches, and natural wear and tear, the living room looked great on screen with beams of morning sun shining through the 4th floor windows.
We had 4 scenes to shoot at the apartment:
- Interviewer arriving at Granny Gamble's front door, explaining that she would follow her around that week as she tries her hand at playing live, but Granny Gamble had already left for the bingo hall (to be used for scene 1).
- Sneaky guy going through Violetta's orange purse and being caught in the act by the interviewer who is on the way into the apartment. He runs out.
- Granny Gamble waking up after celebrating Violetta's win last night. This meant we had to dress up the living room to make it look like there had been a party.
- Violetta waking up, realising her purse is gone, running after the sneaky guy.
- Granny Gamble checking her phone to see how she performed online this week. She had won the bingo jackpot - of course. And she mocks Violetta because her own winnings are still in her account.
- Granny Gamble lights a cigar and sits back in the armchair, smug as a pie.
- Thug life glasses rolls into the screen and is placed ovwe Granny Gamble's eyes as gangster rap starts playing. The end - at least for now.
This last part with the thug life glasses had to be animated of course. Luckily the director Angelique Muller was already working with the very talented and Malta based Andres Algeciras. He also fixed the animation in each video intro, and the rolling face of grandma in the middle of each episode.
The biggest challenge in the apartment scenes was for the actors to remember their lines since we had changed the script so very last minute. But we agreed that they would improvise more, and after a while they got the hang of it.
Another challenge was that we were missing the sound making bottom part of the fog horn which Granny Gamble was going to use to wake up Violetta. The customs officer didn't allow me to bring this on to the plane from Norway to Denmark, and there was no open shop to buy this before we started shooting. We decided to add the sound in post production, and that Granny Gamble would simulate pushing the button next to Violetta's ear, but we got lucky and caught it on camera when the balloon which Violetta was using as a pillow blew up. I am not sure what is more unpleasant - being woken by a fog horn in your ear or an exploding balloon. We ended up using the crippled foghorn in episode 3 when Granny Gamble meets Violetta during the Denmark game.
And now for the best part: the wrap dinner
And that's a wrap! And what happens after a video content production wrap? A wrap dinner! After a very long day it felt incredibly nice to sit down at the legendary restaurant Grøften inside Tivoli. And if it felt good for me, I can only imagine how good it must have felt for Granny Gamble, Violetta and the interviewer. We were all running around the city for the most parts of the daylight with very little complaining, but in addition they had to perform in front of the camera. A stellar performance had to be recognised so we ordered a three-course meal with plenty of fluids next to it. Most of us had fried flounder - a Danish specialty that deserved a 5 star review.
The only person who fell asleep was a random Danish supporter who had joined us from City Pub. He fell asleep on my shoulder after two gin tonics, and had to be escorted out by the very nice personel at the restaurant. He was nice enough to say good bye though, and I imagine he slept immediately when his head hit the pillow that night. Same went for the rest of us. A big thanks to everyone involved!
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