“They wanted a whimsical take on Olympic events,” explains John, who shot the locations in Los Angeles, London, and New York and the models in a studio in Manhattan. Read on for his hilarious account of how the shoot came together, along with equally hilarious commentary by Droga5 art director Kenny Kim…
Agency: Droga5, New York
Creative director: Joachim Saul
Art director: Kenny Kim
Copywriter: Sophie Isherwood
Art buyer: Maggy Lynch
Producer: Vanessa Griggs of Little Giant Productions
Studio: The Space Studios, NYC
“First off, this trip was one of the most interesting shoots I’ve been a part of. Lets just say there’s a reason why you always have a producer and an account manager on projects. John and I were basically two kids, cut loose, armed with a camera, a Jeep, and a credit card. Long story short, we ended up climbing cliffs at 4:30 in the morning, eating at diners that served Coca-Cola in coffee mugs, and maxing out a Jeep Wrangler at 110mph on a dry lake bed. Google Maps became our best friend, but we still somehow ended up getting lost a dozen times.
The project was a global OOH campaign for vitaminwater. Vitaminwater’s brand positioning is hydration, only better. As official sponsors for the 2012 London Olympic Games, what better way to bring this to life than to make games, only better. The campaign is all about taking familiar Olympic games and putting a fun, surprising and noncompetitive twist to them—long jump becomes a couple jumping into a lake, track cycling becomes a casual bike ride, and so on.
We went with John for a multitude of reasons. This project had an aggressive timeline and a challenging budget, therefore would most likely require a clever production. John proposed a fully composited route. He has pulled off lots of stellar post-heavy projects, which was a huge pull for us. Simply, his talent and experience were the key reasons we selected him. Plus, he’s sexy.”
“I would have preferred to shoot everything for real, but our budget wasn’t able to stretch that far, so we shot the background and talent separately. We didn’t have much time to prepare, as often seems the way. Kenny and I went off to shoot the backgrounds in L.A., landing at the airport and racing off to Big Bear Lake to catch our location scout before sunset. Kenny was navigating, and I was driving. It turns out he was a much better driver than navigator.
On our way to Big Bear, we were excited—the views are magical. We met our scout, who is a wizened film-location scout who isn’t fazed by anything, and Kenny being younger than both me and the scout was understandably keen and wanted to see more options. And in a wizened, stoner kind of way, the scout mumbled and politely grumbled his way through saying that we already had the best options. This left Kenny speechless.
After a night of wrestling with nylon sheets, I bounced up at some ungodly hour to have breakfast and attack our first shot. We got there on time, watched with nervous wonder as the sun rose, and started scrambling for options. Kenny was keen for as many options as possible. When his desires were somewhat satiated, we started our drive through meth villages to El Mirage, passing a federal penitentiary and the biggest FedEx/UPS hub I have ever seen in the most remote place I have ever seen.
We arrived at El Mirage behind a trailer with what looked like a hot rod with a parachute system built into it. As we checked in, the parks attendant’s smile and explanation of there being no rules and no speed limit on the lake bed made me look at Kenny and our white Jeep and realize we didn’t fit in at all. As we too smoothly drove into the lake bed, all we could see was the desert and a sort of Mad Max scene of mashed-up hot rods, small airplanes, and motorbikes, if you can call them that. Suddenly, I felt very metrosexual and completely underpowered. And yet the Jeep had seemed butch when we picked it up at the rental agency…
Even Kenny, who had been so eager for scouting as many options as possible, seemed tempered by the emasculation caused by our environment. So we shot a few options and decided to try for the land-speed record in our pretty white car. We maxed out at a pathetic 105 miles per hour. (Though both of us felt a bit scared and exhilarated by the speed we reached.) Dejected, we drove in silence out of the park and headed back to L.A., stopping off for our second Mickey D’s meal of the day.
Santa Monica, our next location, was supposed to be a cinch. A beach shot in L.A.—what could be easier? But…marine layer came in. Slightly panicked, I looked at my Weather Channel app, which told me that Pismo Beach was the closest place with sunshine. Pismo Beach is halfway to San Francisco! But it was clear, and the forecast for L.A. was marine layer the whole day. So off we drove—175 miles each way, only to find out that by the time we made it there, the marine layer had caught up with us! That was a depressing drive back, with both Kenny and me staring at the road ahead like zombies. It felt like a scene from Mystery Train…
A week later, I got the beach shot back in New York, at the Rockaways. You gotta love the Rockaways. I also shot in London, where the weather was predictably miserable, and yet I somehow lucked out. Plus, the models were fun and easy to work with.
At the end of the day, nothing could compare to the trials and tribulations of locations and weather—and a very nice art director!”