Last week I told you about the thrifty spending behind the Kaching commercial and how we had produced the entire spot for less than $500. Today, I want to tell you about the pre-production process and the planning it took to pull it off.
The whole process began back in June when Joel Comm came to me and said that his publishing company would be interested in working with us to create and run a 30-second television ad to promote his newest book, KaChing. Joel asked me to start thinking of some ideas and to report back to him when I had something. So, with the only direction being that it must include a tagline at the end to visit a KaChing website, I began talking about ideas with our incredibly creative graphic designer and we soon had a long list of ideas, including the eventual winner. We had a meeting with Joel and other members of our staff to discuss possibilities and in the end, we had dismissed all of the ideas as either being too hard to produce, or just not compelling enough. That’s right, the idea that finally won out was originally dismissed. It got new life when we revisited the idea and decided that we might actually be able to pull it off using some nifty graphics and a little bit of luck in finding a location.
Once I had Joel’s buy-in on the idea, my first task was to try and locate a location to film it. I knew that finding the location was going to be the hardest thing for this shoot. There are tons of cornfields here in our part of Colorado, but how in the world could I find out who owns them and who to ask for permission to film on them when so many of them lacked any sort of residential structure? For that I turned to the Colorado Film Commission’s website. As luck would have it, they had a listing of popular locations for filming that happened to include a cornfield in nearby Weld County. I was able to use the contact info to get in touch with the Weld County Chamber of Commerce, who told me that they would be happy to find a field for me to use. And the best part is that they expected nothing in return. It was like hiring a location scout for free.
Now that I had the Chamber folks out searching for a location, I turned my attention back to writing the script and developing the idea into a viable ad campaign. Given that the spot was only going to be 30-seconds long and that the last five seconds needed to be a call to action, I was left with about 25-seconds in which to tell my story of a farmer encountering some form of intelligent life whose message involved a crop circle in the shape of a dollar sign. Sounds easy, right? Well, it wasn’t too bad, but I can tell you that the finished commercial is not exactly like I pictured it when I wrote the script. I’ll speak more about that later.
With my script in hand and a phone call telling me that my contact at the Chamber had found a farmer willing to let me play in his cornfield, I started assembling my equipment needs. Although we have a pretty nice HD video camera here in the office, I really wanted to give this commercial a film-like quality that it couldn’t produce. So I called up a friend who is a photographer and had recently purchased a Nikon D300s, which shoots 720p video. I went and tested the camera with him one afternoon and experimented with his different lenses and decided that it would do the trick. The audio needs would be handled with equipment we already owned, and since we were filming outdoors, our lighting would just consist of the sun and some bounce cards.
The only thing left to do now was shoot the commercial. I’ll cover that and my post-production process in the next post, so be sure you check back.