Working with the Gracie family- A privilege & a delight.
Several months ago I was fortunate enough to work again with the fantastic team from Pinnacle Marketing and with Rener and Ryron Gracie. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the history of the Gracie family, they are the most famous family in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu arena after their grandfather Helio Gracie effectively founded Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the early 1900’s as we know it. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu has become a household name through popular MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) TV shows and events such as world wide phenomenon known as the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).
Riding on a marginally successful ‘Gracie Combatives’ advertising campaign, which adhered to the template ‘1800 number infomercial’ styles you are relentlessly hounded with during late night television, it was time to up the ante and as with the previous Criss Angel commercial I had done (see my blog here), I wanted to go out on a limb with the Gracies and try something different… break the rules yet again and just see what would happened. Again, the guys at Pinnacle were very receptive to a new approach and gave me relatively free reign on the concept of the commercial.
So what infomercial rules did we break? Well, basically all of them. After several sit down meetings with the Gracies in Los Angeles, Rener and I agreed we would do two things;
First of all, do away with the whole ‘1800 call now’ authoritative voice over, brainwashing garbage which in my opinion automatically installs a subconscious pulse of channel changing into the viewers finger tips and replacing it with a simple website address to go to. This was probably the single biggest rule to break in the infomercial industry & no doubt made Pinnacle Marketing a little nervous! You see, the final 20 seconds of a standard infomercial is known as the CTA (Call to action). This is the, most important, never to be tampered with, crucial few seconds of the script where the viewer is so caught up in the wonderful product they have just been brainwashed to buy, that they pickup the phone and in a bid to avoid missing out on the greatest product in the world which will inevitably change their lives, they dial the 1800 number and order.But if there is no 1800 number or voice telling you to order, how or why would anyone part with their hard earned cash for the product?
Well, the second element I wanted to add to the commercial was intrigue. Install an element of intrigue into the viewer which was derived from the images they were seeing on screen, so instead of wanting to change the channel, they wanted to know answers, they had a wiling to ‘investigate’ further and therefore the commercial’s CTA was now internally driven by the viewer- they wanted to see more about the product on screen.
Now that we had broken the biggest fundamental infomercial rules in the business and were staring down a marketing campaign which was against the grain of 1000’s of successful commercial before it, we were ready to shoot.
As Smooth Motion Films USA had done before, we chose to shoot in the old CBS Studios on Sunset Blvd. The character and ‘smell’ of years and years of history in live television radiates through the walls and gives you a sense of nostalgia with no matter what production you’re shooting… Not to mention the beautiful 45 foot green screen! Led by producer Jason Baguio, we set out to find the right crew behind the job. The biggest decision for the shoot was the right Director of Photography. I wanted the images to look dark and mysterious. I wanted this infomercial to look nothing like the bright, colourful, plastic traits possessed by a regular infomercial, so I brought on feature film Director Of Photography Guy Livneh (Brothers in arms and Second Unit DP for the Academy Award winning film ‘Monster’ starring Charlize Theron). Guy had only shot high end narrative films before and had never shot an infomercial in his life – this is why he was perfect. To me, we were not shooting an infomercial, we were shooting a small slice of a movie. If viewers were channel surfing with their remote and stumbled across our infomercial, they would stop and watch.
Now that we had the right crew in place it was down to half a day of fun working with Rener, Ryon and the crew. Shooting was extremely streamlined thanks to a previous night of storyboards I had drawn up and the several meetings I had with Rener prior to shooting. Director of Photography, Guy was extremely efficient but precise with lighting setups. Every shot in the final commercial is exactly how he wanted it lit and with the whole CBS studio and lighting rig to ourselves, we were able to quickly and easily run a 12+ lighting setup for some of the shots.
**Note: The free training video on Lesson1.com was only made exclusively available for the duration of the advertisement campaign.
Rener and Ryron Gracie were as one could expect from champions of mixed martial arts; incredibly disciplined guys. It was an interesting dynamic; a fairly scrawny Australian guy telling two incredibly dedicated, disciplined fighting machines what to do and sometimes, how to do it so their movements adapted well to our on screen visions. Despite their confidence and MMA family fame, they were incredible receptive to taking direction on set and humble in their ways. After spending quite some time working with the boys both on and off set, I personally believe that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the legacy they hold on their shoulders, has not only made them disciplined to the highest level in the cage and under the limelight of international fame, but kind and honorable human beings in both their personal lives and in business. I now have an immense inner respect for both the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu craft and for the honorable Gracie family.
All in all, the shoot was a delightful experience and although we broke some fundamental rules making the commercial a fairly big risk, and the big wigs at the top a little nervous, it proved that sometimes you have to go out on a limb, because that is where the fruit is. Oh, and by the way, after our new ‘Lesson 1.com’ commercial went to air on USA cable television, sales quadrupled from the 10% generated by the old ‘1800 Call now’ commercial to an impressive 400% ratio… Success.
Thanks to the following key cast & crew members for a successful shoot and another happy client. -A.J. Carter
Executive Producers: John Linton, Jonathan Flicker, Brett Saevitzon / Pinnacle Direct Marketing USA
Cast: Rener Gracie, Ryron Gracie
Producer: Jason Baguio
Director of Photography: Guy Livneh (Official Website)
Production Coordinator: Niv Gat
Production Company: Smooth Motion Films
Marketing Company: Pinnacle Direct Marketing