Recently I just finished work on a new set of TV commercials for the Acura RDX. It was a great opportunity to do some spots with special effects, which I rarely do. Work with some very talented British directors, Dom and Nic. And spend quality time in some fancy Westside edit bays.
And anybody who works in advertising knows, the latter is the real reason any of us got into this business in the first place.
You see at the edit facilities, where the film is cut, the sound is recorded and the special effects are effected, writers and art directors are treated like kings and queens. It's a magical world filled with impossibly attractive young women, omnipresent deference and in-house chefs eager to prepare elaborate breakfast delights with exotic meats and fresh farm-picked herbs.
As a freelancer, I'm not often involved in production, so this was pleasant reminder of days gone by.
Of course it wasn't always like that.
When my partner, John Shirley, and I were in charge of the ABC account we had a chance to do a lot of fun work. Most people remember the big yellow outdoor boards that blanketed the cities. What most people don't remember is that in the span of one year we produced more than 75 TV spots for ABC. All of them produced for a combined cost of less than one of the aforementioned Acura spots.
How did we do it? Well, one of the joys of having a media company as a client is the "opportunity" to save money and use their production facilities. You'd expect ABC, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Disney company, to possess the finest in state of the art production facilities.
You'd be wrong.
A trip to their Silverlake campus was, as my partner once put it, a trip behind the Iron Curtain. Akin to visiting Czechoslovakia in the late 1960's. It was dirty. It was primitive. It lacked any of the qualities that made post production a joy.
One time, we met with the editor, handed him the film and told him what we were looking for. The sausage maker...er,...editor turned around and said he'd have a rough cut for us in 30 minutes. 35 minutes if we wanted it to be title-safe.
I also remember a voice-over recording session where the engineer, the talent and myself were all in the same room. There was no sound proof booth. We literally held our breath for 30 seconds as he gingerly read into the microphone.
I hated it then, but I'm proud about it now. Because we turned these limitations and obstacles on themselves and used it as inspiration for work that still stands the test of time.
James Cameron spent over $200 million dollars to make a movie about the Titanic. Here's how we did it for $13,000.
Update: it should be noted this spot was written by the great Michael Collado.