Cape Couple Play Key Role in Warrior Commercial Featuring Paul Rabil

Major League Lacrosse player Paul Rabil between takes while shooting his commercial for Warrior Sports at Johns Hopkins University.
Jesse Huffman - Major League Lacrosse player Paul Rabil between takes while shooting his commercial for Warrior Sports at Johns Hopkins University.

The name Paul Rabil may not be a household name to most Americans, but to those who follow lacrosse he is perhaps its biggest star.

In a 2010 New York Times article the long-haired golden boy of lacrosse was referred to as the LeBron James of his sport.

Although his feats speak for themselves—he has been named Offensive Player of the Year in three of the past four seasons for Major League Lacrosse, and set a record with 72 points this past season while playing for the Boston Cannons—a Falmouth couple are hoping to propel him onto the national stage, thanks to a commercial they shot this week in Baltimore, Maryland, where Mr. Rabil played collegiate lacrosse and not far from where he grew up in Gaithersburg.

Both Daniel Cojanu and his wife, Elise Hugus of Woods Hole, traveled to the Mid-Atlantic state this past Saturday as part of a production team tasked with helping to tell Mr. Rabil’s story in a 30-second spot for the Michigan-based company Warrior Sports that will be featured on the web and potentially on ESPN at the end of April.

The pair were joined by director Lukas Huffman of Brooklyn, who has developed a partnership with Mr. Cojanu since the two met roughly six years ago while both were in Romania. At the time Mr. Huffman, a former professional snowboarder, was taking part in a snowboarding film and was introduced to Mr. Cojanu, a Romanian-born cinematographer who has worked as a cameraman on such films as “Bunraku” (Josh Hartnett, Woody Harrelson) and “Adam Resurrected” (Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe).

The two have remained friends since that initial encounter and began a working relationship that started in 2010 when Mr. Cojanu served as the director of photography on two short films Mr. Huffman shot as part of a series of vignettes titled “Five Ways to Leave Your Lover” that made its way through the independent film festival circuit last year.

They have continued their collaboration on several PSAs Mr. Huffman directed in New York City as well as a documentary, “Dear Pina,” which showcases a dance-and-theater tribute to the late German choreographer Pina Bausch that was performed at Shelburne Farms in Vermont, last summer.

Developing a Sports Niche

Mr. Huffman landed this latest piece thanks to the work he and his twin brother, Jesse Huffman, have done in capturing sports content in what he termed “a more mature and dynamic way.” Among the more recent pieces the pair have produced was “Beach 87th St.,” a 14-minute short that focuses on the Rockaway surf community in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

“We’re known for doing a good job of mixing athletic sequences with emotional stories,” Mr. Huffman said. “So an agency in Burlington, Vermont, which does all the creative work for Warrior  [Sports]—Paul is sponsored by them and that’s who this commercial is for—they contacted Jessie and me to do this project.”

A former lacrosse player growing up in Montpelier, Vermont, Mr. Huffman said, he was thrilled to have the chance to help push Mr. Rabil further into the nation’s public consciousness.

While Mr. Huffman agreed that Mr. Rabil is the best in the game, there are many who are unfamiliar with who he is because lacrosse is far behind, in terms of popularity, other sports like football, basketball and baseball. “It’s a pretty new sport and it has an image of upper white class educational elitist,” Mr. Huffman said. “It is as though only private school kids play the sport.”

So part of the goal with the commercial is to break down those stereotypes by using Mr. Rabil as the catalyst. “Our idea was to show those same feelings of what it is like to be really successful in lacrosse like Paul is,” he said. “It is the same emotional journey, which is about perseverance and inner strength, that you need to call on in any sport, whether it is soccer, football or hockey.”

Both Mr. Huffman and his brother worked on penning the script for the commercial with input from Mr. Rabil.

Mr. Cojanu was tapped to create the visual look of the piece, drawing inspiration from the gritty, reality-based feel that the television show “Friday Night Lights” has made popular. And Ms. Hugus lent her talents to the spot as the sound designer.

Although the forum in which they have to tell Mr. Rabil’s story is extremely short, Mr. Huffman said the challenge to do so is exciting. “You just need to be really precise about the images you show and the voiceovers you use,” he said. “I honestly love the short form... The structure in 30 seconds is still the same as it would be in a feature film, you just have to set it up more quickly.”

Mr. Cojanu said the shoot itself went well and he was thrilled to meet someone of Mr. Rabil’s caliber and help capture his story on camera. “I’ve done quite a bunch of commercials, but this one is not just simply talking about a product,” he said. “This one in particular tells a really good story. It’s meant to be shot in a documentary style and involve very emotional cinematography.”

When that piece features someone who is the best in their field, Mr. Cojanu said there is an additional excitement to the work. “You are talking about an athlete who is like the definition of success in this society,” he said. “He is young, the number one player in the world, but he comes from a community that is struggling a little bit. It is nice to explore his roots and his connection to this place, and what it means to him and his discipline.” 

To learn more about the work Daniel Cojanu and Elise Hugus are doing visit their website for their production company UnderCurrent Productions. Lukas Huffman's work can be viewed at his website here.

And to learn more about Paul Rabil visit his website here.


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