Sarofsky makes friends for new Netflix series

Filming “Friends from College”

The new Netflix original series, Friends from College, from writer/director Nicholas Stoller (Neighbors, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and spouse/co-writer Francesca Delbanco (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek) finally debuted earlier this month.

Directed and executive produced by Stoller, the eight-episode show delves into interwoven and complicated relationships, including former romantic entanglements and comedic explorations of old bonds. As everyone tries to manage their lives as adults, they also experience nostalgia.

While reviews (currently at 28% on Rotten Tomatoes) have not been well, friendly, there is nothing but praise for the outstanding :45 opening title sequence.

You can thank talented Erin Sarofsky and her team for that.

Since 2014, Erin Sarofsky and her team have staked their claim in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by creating design-driven main titles for six of the studio’s blockbuster movies (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 being the latest) – and in TV as well with hit series including Community, Shameless, and TNT’s Animal Kingdom.

Now, the company has just completed its first assignment for Netflix, the first which can be seen below:

“The show’s look is quite pristine and high-end,” Erin explained. “We wanted to make sure the title sequence fit into the world they created… which meant we had to match that with our art direction and production design decisions.”

Sarofsky’s approach captures the six friends coming together at a table where time passes from their college days to the present. Again, emphasizing the series’ highly polished production design, Erin explained how absolutely no detail was overlooked.

“While it may seem like we just filmed a wide variety of meals and cut them together into a fun edit… I assure you a ton more thinking and planning went into it,” she said with a smile.

“First, we decided that in the college years, there would be more disorganization, smoking, bad posture and in general, cheap eats. Moving into our twenties, the food gets a bit more refined and features some home cooking. Toward the end, the meals become more restaurant-focused, high-end cuisine, better wine and impeccable lighting. We even snuck in some key life events like a wedding and a baby shower.”

Friends from College

To heighten the challenge, Sarofsky’s production team did not have access to the show’s actual cast. Addressing this led to painstaking efforts to present the story authentically using body doubles (casting was handled through Chicago’s O’Connor Casting Company).

Erin added, “If you look closely, we even have Keegan-Michael’s character’s hair go from a little afro to receding, and eventually to bald.”

Teaming again with director of photography Michael Bove, with whom Erin shot the main titles for TNT’s Animal Kingdom, principal photography with the six body-double actors took place over two days in Chicago.

Editor Tom Pastorelle of The Colonie earned high praise from everyone at Sarofsky and Netflix for his unique storytelling artistry and editorial craftsmanship. Credited with delivering “a million versions for us to see how it all could best play out,” Erin also points to the strengths of the 10-second versions as merits of his skills. Accolades also go to colorist Fred Keller of Filmworkers Club Chicago.

Proceeding on into subsequent episodes, viewers will see customized versions pared down to ten seconds apiece, where each one uses the framework of the full-length version but adds something specific to that episode’s narrative.

Follow Colin Costello on Twitter @colincostello10.