This is a short catalog of our roughly 20 hour Quest for Crunch commercial from beginning to end so if any one ever asks you how to shoot a commercial on a small(er) budget ($5,000) you will know how it is done.
The most important part of any production is preparing for the work ahead. We meet with our client and find out what our client (Bigrentz.com) wants to accomplish with this commercial. In this case it is exposure as well as increase sales. We decide in order to showcase the value that Bigrentz brings we need to tell a story that involves a seemingly impossible task that is solved with the right equipment. From that point the production is funded and we meet with each department (Art, Props, Production Design, Camera, and G&E (Grip and Electric).
We talk through the project, review the script, breakdown each scene and create a shot list. Then we go over all the equipment we need to complete those shots.
Saturday - The Night Before The Shoot
In order to save money I rented a 15 Person Cargo Van from Alamo (LAX) and picked it up the night before the shoot. If you're looking to use this as a replacement to move a large group of people be aware that there are not many 15 passenger cargo vans available to rent anywhere and if you need one you're going to have to drop by a major airport hub. They run about $100 a day depending on what day you need it but when I got to the airport we had to settle for a 12 person cargo van instead.
In order for us to make the best use of our time we made our call time early. If you shuttle your crew to the site instead of making them drive it can save you both time and money. Each crew member is paid a 12 HR day rate but by driving people to the site you are able to have well rested crew members who can take on the day! It took our crew 3 HRS to get up to Landers from Orange County and while most of us looked like Curtis (pictured below) our 3 department heads (Art, Direction and Camera) reviewed the days shot list, and went over our shooting schedule.
First Shot. After about 30 minutes of paperwork with the on site contacts we were underway. First shot, a wide of Sonny throwing out all the buried treasure. David divided up the shots into shots that could be made with the same lighting and camera position so we were able to cycle through shots efficiently (ea. we had a wide shot of Sonny throwing treasures out, a wide of me being pulled up by the mini excavator and a wide of the mini ex slowly making it's way towards the hole)
One of the things we learned from filming in the desert is that the camera you are shooting on will get battered hard if you don't protect it. Some of our later shots came in the afternoon after we dug a hole so the wind was billowing through the hole into the RED's camera sensor. It took us a few minutes each time to clean the camera after a lens change so if you can avoid filming in the desert in the after noon I would.
Lunch: About 9 hours into our shoot we had our second meal provided to us by Whitehorse Ranch. Mac n Cheese, Grilled Chicken, Beans, and Pie.
Back to work.
When the sun is at it's highest point it and starts to set it likes to make these harsh shadows across peoples faces. In order to counteract that we have an 8x8 muslin that helps us diffuse the light. The muslin acts like a shade that evenly distributes the light across the hole. One for the issues you will run into with a muslin is it cuts down the available light so you're going to want a lens that can compensate for having less light. It's a little small as far as muslin's go but it's a good thing it was small because when the wind picked up not even our 40 lb bags could hold it down.
Wrap. We took our last shot at around 5 PM because we needed a shot of the sun falling behind the mountains. Luckily, because of daylight savings time we were able to squeeze out another hour of light. You won't see it in the commercial we submitted because we took it out but here is a picture I took on my 6D (above). After this shot we realized that one of our actors Kurtis had lost his keys out in the desert. So we all lined up and searched his car and the dark dark desert diligently only to later realize 2 hours into the search that it was in his lunch box.
Home. It took us about 3 hours to get back from Landers and another 2 hours for me to get the car back to LAX.
We didn't have Betty White, but...well we can't all have Betty White.