In this post, I’m going to dive into how we shot and executed all of our ideas for the Affinity Steel 2018 Super Bowl commercial.
In our post about Affinity Overhead Door Co, I already went over the gear that we used. Since we were shooting both ads consecutively, the gear package was the same.
One thing, I have to mention, is that, at the last minute, we had to make a casting change. One of our guys couldn’t get off work. In step the infamous Fowler. We had talked to him previously, but, his response was, if you can’t find anyone else, I’ll do it. We were out of options, so, we went with it. I jest… But, seriously, it wasn’t easy for him to get the time off and he still made it happen.
Much like the other television ad, I had really budgeted our time down really tight because we had one week to shoot both ads. Fortunately, I tightened it down to the point that we were able to squeeze another extra day out of the week. This was pretty important to us because we had just come back from SEMA and had no rest. So, gaining a couple days to take it easy was paramount.
For this shoot, again, we had no available power for lights, so, we essentially used the same setup as we used in the AODC commercial to harness the sun.
So, around rolls Thursday, which was when we started principal photography, and we had a jam-packed day. We started off, in the morning setting up our campsite for the first few shots. The location we picked was in East Lubbock and, given it was a business day, there was minimal traffic.
Ian showed up to help and we had our ever-faithful Dansby on set to help expedite the process. Not long after, the infallible Fowler arrived and production was well on its way.
We started off with “Frank’s” first interview. It was very clear, from the first take, that Ian was exactly who we needed for this job. The comedic chemistry between him and Fowler was impeccable.
The second shot we attempted was the campfire scene. In the original script, Bobby (Fowler) was supposed to just drop some firewood while Frank (Ian) was attempting to start the fire. After a few takes, it just wasn’t hitting us like we wanted, so, it was time for some improv.
I don’t remember whose idea it was, but, we had the idea that, these guys are in a competition and their relationship is love/hate, so, why not have Bobby drop some firewood, then kick over Frank’s wood pile? The problem was that we didn’t have enough time to set up and destroy the scene multiple times. Meaning, they had to get it right on the first try.
As it was, we ended up rehearsing (non-destructively) a couple times to make sure we had everyone doing what they needed to do. When it was time to call action on the ONLY TAKE, I called, then held my breath. It was partially out of the anxiety of only getting one shot at this. The other part was because I knew that if this turned out as funny as I thought it might, I couldn’t be laughing and shaking while hand-holding the camera, thus, killing the shot. I was really glad that I held my breath because I nearly lost it.
Their performance was flawless and I didn’t screw it up!
Bobby’s Imaginary TV
Next, we tackled the cutaways of Bobby watching his TV. There were a couple of gags going on here. As I discussed earlier, Bobby is going crazy and is imagining he’s watching TV while eating a pinecone.
If you’re familiar with Lubbock, then you know that we’re not exactly known for a surplus of conifers. So, it had taken me a bit to find a pinecone that looked like it had been eaten off of. The other part was that we had to have some way of giving the illusion of him eating said pinecone.
In the beginning, I knew that this gag had to be done right. I also had a solution in mind. Enter Gardetto’s Special Request Garlic Rye Chips! They could easily be cheated for pinecone chunks and their crunch was nothing short of perfect. The only issue is that once we opened the bag, it was all we could do to keep from eating them all before it was time to roll on this section.
Live Water Shots
After we wrapped the campsite location, it was time to get the live water shots. I knew that this wasn’t going to be the easiest thing so, I decided to limit the amount of shots that would be included as a part of this, partially for safety reasons, and because it was cold and we wanted to limit the opportunity for someone to fall in.
When we were scouting locations, we were fortunate that the location we picked we could shoot the campsite and the kayaks in water.
After a bit of time, we got the kayaks rigged and it was time to get the guys on the water. Naturally, I started rolling on the camera in case anything interesting, or, let’s face it, funny, happened. Much to my disappointment, getting them in their kayaks on the water was uneventful.
We got a couple of shots off, but, again, I wasn’t getting what I wanted. Mostly, it was situational. It wasn’t long after we started rolling that we had a guy, in his own kayak decide that he needed to paddle right where we were going to be filming, naturally. Because of this, we had to hold off for a moment while he cleared our frame composition.
Lucky me, it was during this time that Fowler decided he needed to be baptised in what we were calling the poopy-water. He fell in and started screaming like a little girl. I wasn’t able to get him actually falling in on camera, but, I was able to get some of it, and it actually made it into the ad.
Shortly after that, we had to break for lunch. At least, most of us had lunch, Fowler went home and took a shower. We were grateful, because the smell was just awful.
Green Screen Time
If you watched the ad, I’m guessing you did if you’ve read this far, then you probably noticed some whitewater and waterfall shots that were unlikely completed in camera. You would be right. For these shots, we enlisted our trusty green screen to send these two guys over Niagara Falls and through the rapids that clearly don’t exist in, or around, Lubbock. Since there’s not much else to say about them, I’ll let you watch the shots straight out of camera.
Honorable Mention: When Ian’s paddle breaks in half and he tosses one of the halves, that was completely improv. None of us planned it and the way Ian rolled with it, we had to use it. He also made sure that he only used a single half in the rest of the ad. So, props to you, Ian!
After we shot all of the green screen materials (all still on day 1) we packed up and headed to Odessa, to stay the night, so we could get the last couple of shots out in front of Affinity Steel’s actual location on day 2.
The next morning, we headed to Midland.
First thing we did was set up for their final interviews and to grab some insert audio clips. The comedic timing was, again, perfect. These guys were killing it and we had a ton of fun watching them interact.
The last shot we had to get was our big stunt shot. Having two guys paddle up to the front of Affinity Steel, on caliche, to end their journey.
Knowing what this would entail, we hired our dad to build some skid plates for the kayaks to ride on so we wouldn’t have to drag the boats themselves. The coordination for this was tough, though. We had each boat tied to a separate vehicle to be pulled at different speeds. This took several takes, but, in the end, we totally got it and the boat skids worked perfectly.
The “Oh Crap!” Moment
Once everything was shot and the ad was being edited, we quickly realized that there were not enough shots scripted to actually fill this thing out and make it feel like a reality show promo. We were going to have to grab some more shots. Problem was, we were about a month after production, and these guys not only had full-time jobs, but, Fowler had a baby on the way that could arrive at any minute.
With those parameters, we did what any self-respecting, guerilla filmmaker does and stole the shots. We met up with each guy, at their workplace and literally had them squat in front of the closest bush we could find. As long as the bush took up the entire background, no one would ever know that we literally shot both of those shots in the middle of town (except, I’ve told you and now you know).
It is worth noting that we also had to get back with Fowler a couple of times to get some extra audio bits with different lines to mix-and-match to get exactly what we were looking for. As always, he was very willing to work with us to make it happen.
All in all, we had a ton of fun shooting this ad. It was a cast and crew that I would love to work with again.
In the next post, I’m going to dive into the editing and visual effects shots that really made this ad as good as it is.