Behind the Scenes: US Polo Assn. National Commercial
Making commercials are always fun in my book. At times, they can be the perfect balance of art and commerce. Recently, I was asked to direct and also DP a 30-second national commercial spot for US Polo Assn. Of course I immediately accepted the offer. It seemed like a fun and exciting opportunity with a unique creative concept behind it. I’m going to break down that concept for you today and let you see behind the scenes of just how the creative came together.
The Agency Pitch
When I was called into the Atlanta based agency to discuss the concept, the creative director had a full presentation prepared. We went through what had been discussed with the client and the current creative and scripting that the client wanted to move forward with. Essentially, it was a fashion piece for US Polo Assn., that highlighted one of their brand ambassadors, Ashley Busch. They wanted something that was quick, moving and left the audience wanting more. They also wanted to highlight the same key shirt across the entire spot. The spot essentially would follow the journey of this one shirt through various scenarios. It would paint the brand as one that provides consumers with their “ol’ reliable” shirt. The spot was dubbed at ‘The Journey of the Shirt’
Armed with this creative, this is where my work began as a director and cinematographer on this spot. It was now my responsibility to interpret this objective and creative vision into something tangible and could be placed on screen. So I got to work.
Always when I enter this phase of a project, I like to do hours of research. I want to see what’s been done before. I like the know what the status quo is. From that point I can then establish just how far I can push the creative to make it feel unique and fresh to the viewer. In terms of what’s been done before, I found a few spots that I wanted to reference in my interpretation. One of those was one by American Eagle. Check it out:
What I personally like so much about this spot was the fact that it had an energy to it. It moved. It shook. It left you wanting more. I loved that. From that point I knew I wanted a spot that was full of energy and not something that lulled or was just slow motion beauty work. It had to have personality and a little bit of spunk.
Then what came along next in my research was surprisingly an Applebee’s ad. Weird right? What does Applebee’s have to do with fashion? Well, once again, it was a spot with energy. However, what was unique about this one was the fact that it had a narrative through line that also helped to drive the piece. For those two reasons, I gravitated toward this piece as a reference too.
Then finally, I knew I needed another fashion reference. American Eagle wasn’t exactly the same type of vibe and demographic as US Polo Assn. I knew I needed to find a high fashion reference to counter the American Eagle vibe and then be able to settle on something that rested just perfectly in between.
I’ll be honest, I shot for the moon with this one. I’ve been a huge fan of the Jennifer Lawrence Dior ad shot by Emmanuel Lubezki. It’s simply beautiful. It has fresh clean lines, a crazy heightened sense of class, sophistication and beautiful imagery. Was it an exact match to the vibe that we were going for? No. But there were without a doubt elements in it that I knew we could pull out to work in our spot.
Now that we had all of our references, we were ready to pitch our interpretation of the creative back to the client, which we did to success. We were officially greenlit. Now time to move forward.
Production for this piece took place in Wellington Florida. It was shot here because the talent owns a home there and apparently that’s the home for US Polo. Who knew?
Armed with this creative we knew we had an awesome spot to create. There was only one problem, we had one day to shoot it with about a bagillion locations to film at. However, I had an awesome 1st AD to assist in making the spot happen in the timeframe we were allotted.
With an awesome mostly local Florida team, production went amazingly well and we nailed our day.
Of course we’re going to talk about cinematography. That’s my first and primary love. As the Director of Photography and cinematographer on this spot, we shot this on the Alexa Mini with a set of the Canon CN-E Prime lenses. As an owner of these lenses, of course I love them. They’re fast, sharp and great overall lenses. Personally, I love using them. Also, who doesn’t love the Alexa Mini. It’s the perfect filmmaking camera. It has rich colors and an amazing workflow. However, I’m still excited for the Alexa LF here soon!
In terms of style, I wanted to approach this with almost a documentary approach. Coming at it this way would definitely gives us that natural and organic vibe we were going for. We wanted to to feel a little unpredictable, just like a polo match. Luckily, this approach worked perfectly with our very short schedule. It kept us fast and efficient as we were work. 90% of the day we were just on an EasyRig to keep setups fast and organic. Only for a few shots were we on a dana dolly. But just when we needed a little bit more to the shot.
In terms of lighting, I wanted nice and soft beauty lighting coupled with a strong backlight that we could flare out from time to time. Most of the day we were utilizing and Arri M18 and Arri Skypanel to acheive this look.
Foreground elements were also something that I wanted to incorporate into the cinematography of this spot. Foreground elements are all around fashion commercial work and I wanted to bring in a little bit of that vibe. Honestly, the day before the shoot, I just went to Hobby Lobby and picked up a few crystal beads. We then just taped them on the mattebox of the camera on the actual shoot day.
The Finished Product
Overall, I’m really pleased with how this spot came together. It was a great blend of all the references that helped us to find something that was really unique and fresh. As an added bonus, the client loved it. The spot aired nationally on CBS Sports. Check out the finished piece below.