A little while back, the folks over at the XPeerience Group came to us and wanting create a series of commercials for their upcoming ‘O Course Crucible’ event, which is an obstacle course race inspired by the Crucible, a 72-hour stength and endurance test every U.S. Marine needs to go through before ‘graduating’.
The idea of this campaign was to showcase five individuals (we ended up scaling down to four) preparing for the race. In talking with the client, we established that the most impactful way to go about this was to create a series of ‘stories’ focusing not only on the preparation of our subjects, but on their Journey, on what doing this race means to them and how it relates to their life story.
We decided that before going out and shooting the subjects we’d do in-person pre-interviews with them to get a really good sense of their stories. This was a key decision because it allowed us to actually connect on a personal basis to these people that, quite frankly, have amazing stories! We took notes during our pre-interview and so, in the end, the narration that you hear in the videos isn’t written by us for them, but is just a re-shuffling of things they’d candidly said in the pre-interview. Now, of course, they’re all non-professionals, and we wish we had more time in the recording so we could really achieve a tone that reflects that better, but we can’t always do things the way we want, and we had to stick to under an hour for each character’s narration, and record in their homes as opposed to a studio (actually, in a stinky locker room for Jesse)!
The way we say it, we’d make this into a cool micro-campaign, similar to the stuff Nike or Gatorade would make. We were also heavily influenced, aesthetically, by the SportChek ‘Mothers Day’ commercial – we loved its way of telling a story with voice-over and gritty, ‘real’ images.
Maybe we’re our own worse critics, but the in the end, the pieces we made aren’t perfect. There’s ‘mistakes’ and flaws, but where it does succeed, we think, is in conveying the stories of our characters. But enough of what we think. Check out the four videos below!
For this gig, instead of working with a RED, we decided to go out on a limb and test the newly released Magic Lantern hack for the Canon 5D Mark III. The reason for this was two-fold:
First, we wanted a camera with a small form factor that would allow the camera operator (Bowen for most shots, and Reggie for the glidecam work) to shoot ‘on the fly’ and handheld. We had the time and leisure to set up our shots, of course, but weren’t looking for a highly polished look, instead trying to achieve a sense of gritty reality – working out is a painful thing, something that takes effort and de-stabilizes you.
Second, we wanted to put the money on the glass as opposed to the camera. We splurged and got ourselves a set of Zeiss CP2 cine lenses, which were fabulous to work with, with their impeccably sharp rendering, colour, and a focus ring so much more accurate than the photo glass we usually use (though, to be honest, I think that was a tough transition without an AC pulling focus!).
For lights, we had Arris, Kino Flo Divas, Lowell Totas and DP lights, reflectors, scrims and gels of all sorts, with a bunch of heavy-duty c-stands, etc. Come to think of it, we actually had a relatively compact kit that basically all fit inside a Toyota Corolla (because we’re gangster like that)!
One thing that was important for us with the Journey campaign was to extend the project beyond the videos we created. So, we came up with a social media strategy that included complementary content such as inspirational image quotes, tweets and blog posts with recipes, workout plans, and more general motivational words from people that have decided to change their lives in a big way.
A month later, having wrapped production, we’ve definitely become attached to Emme, Stephen, Jesse and Catherine. Our hope is that our retelling of their journeys, which they have graciously accepted to share with us, can help people find the courage to make their own step forward. Too often, people go through challenges of their own, and that stuff can beat us down, or make us lose track of who we can be. But as Emme eloquently put it:
Remember that the world can’t tell you what to do, or what patten to follow. It’s all in your hands.