12:30 a.m. on a weeknight in New York City is surprisingly quiet — and it’s also primetime for filmmakers.
“There’s about three and a half hours that we know there’s less traffic and not as many people out,” said Scott Rodgers, chief creative officer of Tier10. “That’s about as quiet as New York City gets.”
It was during these brief periods of respite that Tier10’s production crew was up and about, filming the core Acura lineup for their “Movie Night” campaign.
“Movie Night” is a series of commercials featuring the 2016 Acura lineup for Tier10’s client the New York Acura Dealers Association (NYADA). In the spots, a group of friends travel across locations such as Queens and Manhattan to meet each other under the Brooklyn Bridge. Tied to the digital age, their main mode of communication is made through a series of texts — an optional feature available across the 2016 Acura lineup. “Movie Night” plays off new and old, invoking the nostalgia of a drive-in movie theater while also connecting the people and their cars to the modern digital age.
“Our idea for ‘Movie Night’ was kind of reverse-engineered,” said Rodgers.
It started with the hero shot – the 2016 Acura lineup positioned under the city night lights with the Brooklyn Bridge as their backdrop.
“[‘Movie Night’] was made around this whole shot,” said Devin Leisher, head producer at Tier10. “None of it would make sense unless we had that one shot.”
After solidifying their end shot, the team began conceptualizing the scenes leading up to the grand finale.
“We asked ourselves ‘How will the conversation start? Through text,” continued Rodgers. “[Then] ‘How will they respond? Which people are responsible to bring what to this movie night?’ Then they would all converge upon the Brooklyn Bridge.”
Movie Night’s characters were created to reflect NYAA’s customer-profiing data for each featured model, which pointed towards a trend of young, affluent, and tech-driven individuals.
- Canon C300 Mark II
- Canon EOS C500 4K
- Freefly MōVI M15 Stabilizer
- SmallHD DP 7
- ARRI Lighting Systems
- Kino Flo Lighting Systems
- Litepanels Lighting Systems
“[The Canons are] solid cameras,” said Leisher. “Their sensors can capture that energy [in a scene], and they can really handle a low-light situation, which we would need for our end shot.”
Tier10 also used their Movi stabilizer, Leisher said. “We use it for pretty much everything. It’s important to be able to get those sweeping shots without taking the time to lay down tracks.”
In terms of techniques, shoulder-rigging was a crucial technique to capture shots, including the opening scene that starts the movie night, explained Leisher. “Again, there’s that energy we wanted to capture and there are subtleties in that sort of [technique] that just worked well.”
3 Days / 4 Spots.
At 12:30 a.m.
Under the Bridge.
40°F & Windy.
“We pitched to our client four months before [the shoot],” explained Rodgers, considering it a generous amount of time. However, air dates were locked in and the client needed four different spots produced in a 3-day shoot that would feature the 2016 Acura MDX, TLX, and ILX.”
“The location we chose under the Brooklyn Bridge made filming tricky,” said Leisher. “Not only were we in permit talks with the city, but also with the owners of Jane’s Carousel. We also couldn’t have one [lighting] stand on the grass because it was considered park property. If we did, then we would’ve been [involved] in three different systems all in one location.”
Tier10 refused to take shortcuts and instead decided to shoot on location in order capture the true grit and reality of New York City. With pesky permits and time constraints, most agencies would have relied on green screen techniques rather than suffer the stress of shooting at the authentic location. New York City is iconic; there are dozens of studios that provide digitized backdrops to fill in “Movie Night’s” epic ending.
“We could have green-screened it. But, we wanted to challenge ourselves,” said Leisher. “When you have a lot of energy and excitement in a spot, you have to shoot it that way. You just have to. And that adds a lot of pressure — but it makes it so much more majestic. We didn’t just half-ass it. This spot called for it. You can’t fake that energy.”
The first problem: New York City’s electrical outages.
“We didn’t know Manhattan goes through rolling blackouts,” said Rodgers. “So as we’re shooting our hero shot, we started finding that every shot was somewhat different because some of the tall skyscrapers’ lights would go off.” Coupled with nighttime construction on the Brooklyn Bridge, Rodgers considered it a ‘wow’ moment for him and his crew.
The second problem: Winter in NYC
“Having to re-shoot our hero shot due to weather and wind was completely out of our control,” said Rodgers.
“No matter how much you prep, something will happen. And that was the biggest thing, our biggest shot.”
The crew sacrificed shuteye on their last day and ended up re-shooting their hero shot throughout the night and early morning hours. The last day in New York City was spent filming over 24 hours straight.
“Every shoot that we go on, something happens. And we try to control as much as we can,” Rodgers said. “You have to learn to problem solve. You learn to figure things out on the fly.”
“Movie Night” features music by independent hip-hop artist YONAS, who hails from New York City.
“We source our music from cool, interesting musicians instead of buying a track,” said Rodgers. “YONAS’s remix was perfect for the vibe that we were trying to get. We weren’t telling a story about a car, as much as telling a story about a group of friends who communicate through technology and drive Acuras.” Through YONAS’s music, “Movie Night” connected with car buyers by letting Acura’s tech-savvy lineup visually outshine explanation.
Leisher recalls the feeling once the “Movie Night” project was wrapped up: “We kinda sat back and were like, ‘we can truly do anything.’ There was so much involved with this that… anything that we put our mind to, we truly can figure it out.”
But mostly importantly for Tier10, it is during shoots like “Movie Night” that prove the rigor and tenacity the ad agency possesses.
“We’ve been doing a lot of cool things [with] the opportunity to travel and film in specific locations, and sometimes you just have stop and take it all in and actually realize the scope of what we’re doing,” said Rodgers. “[It] was an awesome opportunity. And I think we did a great job pulling it off.”
“We understand the consumer, we understand the Acura buyer, we know who we’re making commercials for, but the quality, the details, and everything else that we do is really for us. And our peers. [“Movie Night”] is thirty seconds — and most people will see [it] a handful of times, and it’s not long enough for them to stare at and look at all the details. But for us, this lives forever, and we’re going to forever keep coming back to it.”
“For what it was and for what we did…we really did this for ourselves.”
He then pauses, smiling.
“And our client.”
“Movie Night” can be watched below, or found on Tier10’s Vimeo page.
“Movie Night” 2016 Acura TLX (:30) – 2016 AVA Digital Award from Tier10 on Vimeo.
“Movie Night” 2016 Acura MDX (:30) from Tier10 on Vimeo.
“Movie Night” 2016 Acura ILX (:30) from Tier10 on Vimeo.
“Movie Night” 2016 Acura MDX, ILX, TLX (:30) from Tier10 on Vimeo.
Client: New York Acura Dealers
Campaign: “Movie Night”
Vehicle: 2016 Acura TLX
Duration: :30 Seconds
Location: New York City
Date: January 2016
Producer: Scott Rodgers
Director: Robert Angelo
Director of Photography: Erik Motta
Production Assistant: Alexander Pickering
First Assistant Camera: Nicholas Galante
Editor: Devin Leisher
Graphics and Effects: Alex Campuzano
Motion Graphics & Visual Effects: Devin Leisher
Copywriter: Liza Smith
Account Director: Scott Fletcher
Account Executive: Andrew Diffenderfer