How to Film Five Commercials in One Day
For some reason, I didn't blink an eye at the need to produce five high-quality commercials in a single day for a sufficient but in no way advantage-offering budget. I'm used to doing far more for less, but unhappily back in my Atlanta salary days. So, now as a freelance producer and as the writer of the original commercial concepts, I had the advantage to not worry about profit margin, deliver myself a reasonable enough rate, and spend everything else gleefully on great crew, gear, and other items that a lot of production companies cheap out on. Of course, I called in easy favors, always paying, but maybe not as much as I hope to pay in the future, and set up the best people I knew for scrappy production needs.
Even though the five commercials are fairly different, we rented one house for the whole day. Art department had their work cut out for them. Set dressing was immense, we went over budget so we had to return everything, props were reasonable and resourceful, and the client paid for an Animatronic gorilla to be with us on set.
Next, scheduling and time management was key. I placed myself, in addition to being producer, as the first assistant director to keep track of schedule and work closely with the director, Andrew Ruse of Adult Swim's controversial World Peace and Million Dollar Extreme. I always refrained from 'rushing' the production, but I was in constant communication with Andrew about how and when we had to move on. Inevitably, we had to chance shots and even a key element of one script to stay on track and make the day. Full-service freelance producing urges me to make sure that everything gets done, because then neither of my clients would be happy.
Andrew himself told me, "if we were doing three spots instead of five in one day, they'd get three bomb as spots. I'd have room to experiment." These videos are still in the editing process, but here's to hoping the client is satisfied with the product. I've seen the footage and everything looks fantastic for the budget and time restraints. It's all about figuring out where to sacrifice, where to take risks, and how to ask for favors. Even I got one additional location for free, as one sketch comedy skit commercial required a set of large bushes--larger than our main location offered. So I walked up and down the street and played the role of resourceful freelance producer and met a classic Los Angeles celebrity who graciously offered his front bushes, especially for a back shaver product, something which he himself has a need for.
It's good to be in charge, when you have faith in yourself and your abilities. Every time it will be easier and when I get to do one commercial in one day for an even larger budget, my life as a freelance commercial producer will be so much greater, along with the final product (and everyone's rates).