I just finished the first of many new commercials for a re-branding campaign for Walmart. Working with director Mark Zibert, we set out to tell the story of a mother grappling with the demands of parenthood. The spot is narrated with the mother’s inner monologue, while visually the viewer is taken through a quick paced flurry of the exhaustive day to day of having kids and managing a household.
We aimed to make this piece run through a gamut of styles. We started with a very docile and familiar tempo and feeling as the new mom sees her child for the first time, and then break this calmness as she starts to imagine her not so distant future. We kept the camera fairly static through this portion and let the editing do the heavy lifting, often shooting in ways that would allow for graphic matching and wiping cuts from one shot to another. As we move through all the different baby food prep, we used close up controlled and dynamic camera moves, spinning with the objects or around them. Then into some reserved handheld through the babies crying, and then back to calm and controlled as mom falls into the silent water. Into a spaghetti western style through our western scene, and then come out of the TV from the western scene into all out handheld frenzy, barely trying to keep up with the characters hectic activities. From there, the next few scenes needed to seamlessly move from one thought to the next, moving between and office, to a dreamworld sea of shoes, and then snap cut to her flashback of how her second baby happened. For this little “love scene”, we went after making it a cheesy soap opera style scene. Even to the extent of smearing the lens with vaseline. Hadn’t done that in forever. Slam cut back into Handheld hysteria, tracking at times on Segway. We stayed in handheld or Movi for wider shots though to the basement, and then let the handheld cameras really react as the house starts to come apart, along with moments of super slow motion with handheld to let the audience really examine the action.
We finally slowed things down once she gets in the store. holding the cameras steadier. Finally when she shops we decided to keep one perspective through the shore, keeping the attention on our central character as she roars around the store. We rigged the camera to the shopping cart, and shot the whole scene on a 12mm lens, making the store feel massive and the speed to the shopping piece feels super fast. Then the camera becomes disengaged with the shopping cart as our mother finds her perfect gift for her daughter, the little tiara. To execute this, I want all the lights in the store to feel like they dimmed down around her, like the spot light of her mind focused in on this gift. Of course we couldn’t dim down the store, since they were all fluros and controlled somewhere in Texas I’m sure. So we created the illusion through amplifying our lighting on her, and ramping the exposure on the lens, matching the stop on the lens with our lighting as it dimmed up. We were able to get the timing bag on and the illusion of the whole store dimming down was achieved. In post they added the little spotlight overtop.
The commercial ends with the complete madness of an nine year olds birthday party. Piñata, bouncy castles, and food fights…Trying to create total parent nightmare of a party…and able to examine this is super slow motion….
This was an exhausting project. So much coverage to tell all the little details. Director Mark Zibert really set us all up for success on this one with such a clear vision and plan, outlining all these styles and transitions clearly in prep. I can’t thank my crew enough for enduring the tight cramped locations and amount of days with crying babies on set, as well as the incredible insight they all gave me to make this piece a reality.
Here are some set stills, frame grabs and the full 3min web version spot. The on air is a 60 second version cut down from this.
Key Crew was as follows:
- 1st ACs – Marc Pierce, Mike Dawson
- Gaffer – George Petras
- Key Grip – Derek Teakle
- DIT – Gavin Keen
- Movi tech – Matt Bujok
- Camera – Arri Mini’s
- Lenses – Zeiss Master Primes
- Movement – Dolly, Movi, Segway, Handheld, pipe dolly, jib arm.