Coming to you live from Minnesota, where we’ve been in production on 6 new spots for one of our healthcare clients. Shooting and editing is easily my favorite part of my job. You’re finally giving birth to something that (in this case) has been nothing but an idea for months. There’s a confluence of creative energy between agency, clients and crew that you can’t find in any other job. It’s electric, it’s emotional, it’s challenging, and it’s never boring. And that’s what makes it great.
This shoot had several tricky aspects. First, they’re testimonials. I’m not anti-testimonial, because if they’re done right, they work. But I think it’s easier to do them wrong than to get them right. And when they’re wrong, they’re really, really bad. Painfully bad. Bad to the point where they do infinitely more harm to a brand than good. Sometimes, real people have their lines scripted for them, which makes them sound like robots instead of real people. Other times, actors get passed off as real people. Note to agencies and production companies considering this: it never works. Ever. And again, the lack of authenticity is devastating to both the commercial and the advertiser. Charm becomes smarm, and any interest I might have had in what you have to offer vanishes long before your 30 seconds with me are up.
In our case, we’re using real people, and we’re not scripting their lines. So while we knew we would get some great, authentic stuff on film, we also knew the real work would start when it came time to compress it down to 30 memorable seconds. When real people talk, they don’t do it in soundbytes. I’ve never worked so closely with a script supervisor as I have for the last two days. Every time we heard something we thought we might be able to use, we gave our “scriptie” a nudge so she could mark it and try to get a time length on it. We’re going to have to use her notes and a full transcription of conversations that lasted about a half an hour to find our final edits. Oh, and we still have to maintain a sense of linear narrative to the stories.
Our people for this campaign were chosen because they’ve lost weight, and a lot of it. One woman we spoke with has lost 198 pounds since 2005. One guy dropped 100 pounds in a little more than a year. We also have someone who lost “just” 48 pounds in a little less than a year. Each person did something unique to take the weight off, but that’s not the part of the story we’re after. We’ve been probing the reasons they got heavy and stayed that way before deciding to make a lifestyle change. Each person had lifestyle barriers to overcome, and each person made excuses (sometimes for years) for why they couldn’t do anything about their weight. Since our people are more accustomed to talking about what they did to lose weight and their results, it’s been a highly emotional process asking them to reflect on being heavy and what they were feeling at that time in their lives. Most of our takes were 20 minutes or longer to allow the conversation to unfold naturally between our talent and our director (thank God for RED CAM). Credit to our clients for understanding that we were searching for audio nuggets like pigs hunting for truffles, which required us to allow our talent to spend a fair amount of time talking about things that we had no intention of using.
So now, it’s on to the edit, where we’ll be cutting :30s, :60s and full-length webisodes. In many ways, the work is just beginning, because there are at least 50 ways we could tell each person’s story. A combination of agency strategy, client considerations, and the realities of what we have on film will determine the final product. With so many variables, I’m actually happy to have a hard (and fast-approaching) launch date for the campaign staring us in the face.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more from the edit suite.
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