Monday, December 14, 2009

Behind the scenes at the flu shot shoot

Last Friday, I posted our latest TV campaign for the Public Health Agency of Canada.

For those of you who aren't in the advertising or production world, it would be quite an eye-opener to see what actually goes into making those 30 seconds.

This ad was shot over three separate days in two cities — Ottawa and Montreal. The main reason for this is that Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, is himself extremely busy managing Canada's response to H1N1. So we had to shoot him in his Ottawa office on Saturday morning, just as he was about to catch yet another flight.

A funny 6 degrees of separation thing happened to me at the shoot. The night before, I was talking to my Mom on the phone and mentioned we were shooting Dr. David Butler-Jones. She said, "there can't be two of them — ask him if he ever lived in Kingston." So I did, and it turned out he was a friend of the family when I was just a kid, attending my parents' church and even visiting us at our cottage. Small world.

The balance of the commercial was cast, shot, and produced in Montreal, where the production house SOMA is located. We do a lot of shooting in Montreal because it's handier to Ottawa than Toronto, and its homegrown movie industry means that it's brimming with talent and resources.

Shoot day two was the following Monday, in a house in the north end of Montreal, for the scene between the man and his pregnant wife. This was an important human touch for the ad, since all the other scenes were in a more clinical context. It was also the one where the interplay between the actors was most crucial.

This is why it might be kind of surprising that the husband-wife scene is the only one in which there is a different actor in the French and English versions.

Most of our government ads are silent shoots, since the verbal information is dubbed in voiceover. But this one had actors speaking on camera. Usually, that would require double casting of each speaking role. But Montreal is different. All of our roles but one were filled by fluently bilingual actors. The sole exception was the husband.

See if you can see a difference in the way the actors play the scene together:

Day three was the "clinic" scenes of a doctor's office, and a public immunization clinic, both shot in a vacant office building in downtown Montreal. I wasn't present for this day of shooting, but it looks like the team was getting pretty tired by that point.

Following the actual shoot, the offline edit was done on Wednesday. This is the point at which the commercial actually comes together in recognizable (if rough) form. Acart people are both on-site at the studio, and watching cuts remotely, to approve the edit for client consumption.

Following the offline, new edits had to be made before the commercial went to final colour correction and online (broadcast-ready) approval. We also had to brief a composer for original music, and get every aspect of production approved.

It's great to have this ad on the air in time for the Christmas season, which is a particular concern for public health officials during a pandemic.

Check out more production pics here.

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