Behind the Scenes of "the Flavor"
When Cascadia Motors approached us to shoot a commercial, I immediately got excited. Playing with the concept of a car commercial sounded like limitless fun. On top of that, I get excited about figuring out how to make things look cool, and car commercials are a limitless place for slick, clean, stylish, and eminently spoofeable imagery.
After months of reading books on copywriting, I landed on the idea of marketing position. Many principles of copywriting revolve around the idea of inserting a brand into the customer's headspace, based on some specific aspect of the company itself. Cascadia Motors has many reputable traits - they're honest, they're kind, Weston knows a ton about cars, and he's an incredibly chill person. Any of those could have been the bounceboard for a great ad, and many outlines were written based on those positions.
But then I asked - what if, just for fun, we didn't use any of those? In fact, what if we used nothing at all? What if that's the point - that Cascadia Motors has a marketing position, and it's a sleek marketing position, it's a sexy marketing position - but nobody quite knows what it is? And then Taylor pitched "The Flavor" and I was like, yep. There it is.
That process, though - ideas, outlines, pitches, revisions, more ideas, script-writing - took months. But finally, it was time to buckle down and shoot. My favorite part of film production is...well, production. I like coming up with ideas, and I like writing, but it’s all in service of the chaotic, creative, all-consuming fever that is the shoot.
Production itself took only a month after the script was finalized. I cast Taylor in the lead (the conversation went like this: "Do you want to just play the main guy?" "Uh, sure"), I watched dozens of car commercials, I had many conversations with our gaffer Toby, we did a tech scout, and then I took my shot ideas to Taylor to have them drawn up (on top of being a hilarious person, Taylor also happens to be a professional-level comic artist).
My MO is to be as prepared as possible so the shoot goes smoothly. You make boards, you make diagrams, you make narrative shot lists, you make production shot lists, you make equipment lists, you get contracts ready and paperwork settled. The goal is that, when you get to set, there are as few decisions to make as possible - you simply glide through the day.
And, relatively speaking, we did. Taylor, of course, had a tantrum, and locked himself in the bathroom until after lunch, but we expected that and shot around it, and after we plied him with Pop Tarts and a fifth of whiskey, he was fine. The rest of the day was smooth sailing.
I’m just kidding. Taylor was a dream. I realized quickly that I hardly had to direct him at all - what he was doing was so funny that it was more fun to just sit back and let him work. In fact, some of the best stuff - him riffing off notes we threw at him - we were forced to cut for time.
In the end, I’m proud of what we did. Every shoot is a learning experience, and you are always, always getting better. But ultimately, we pulled off exactly what we wanted - and what more can you ask for?