On-Set: Behind the Scenes with Tim Tadder & Mercedes Benz
When Tim called us to shoot alongside him for a Mercedes Benz spot, we were ecstatic! It would be a lifestyle commercial involving different scenarios happening inside of a Mercedes Benz. We would shoot in different locations throughout San Diego, mount cameras to the car and drive around filming each situation. Though the nuts and bolts of the production happened weeks in advance, the leg-work started Monday morning when we met with the team over a good breakfast at The Hard Rock Hotel in downtown, San Diego. After discussing schedule, locations, and scope of work with the client, we set off for our location scout. We began our scout downtown where we wanted a modern, urbanscape with trees. Finding trees at the perfect height for filming out the window proved to be quite tricky. At least our next location would be easier. Our next location to scout was about 45 minutes North at Lake Hodges. This location was going to be easier as we already had it pre-approved with the city and had 2 police officers to direct traffic and close roads for us. What we found surprised us… This was the day that we learned even when you have a permit, and cleared access, you can’t control road construction! Who knew? When we arrived to scout our easy location, we realized there were road-workers, in our spot, with a giant hole dug into the street. We spent the rest of the afternoon driving around testing other locations to remedy the city’s failure to communicate. In our line of work, we often have to be problem solvers, which is just what we did. And while scouting, I even got to be the stand-in actress! That evening we went home happy, packed up the last remaining gear and set off for dreamland early for a good night’s sleep before the early morning call.
The alarm sounded way too early on Tuesday! The clock looks blurry as I open my eyes to see 4:15 blinking back at me. My first thought is how early it is, second thought is how dark it is, third thought is how cold it is, and fourth thought is: COFFEE! After a couple mugs down the hatch, we were awake and ready to make movie magic! Armon, our first, was here by sunrise, the boys loaded the truck and we set off for adventure day 1! We arrived at the lake to find our grip crew already there, eager to get on with the day. Dougee and Tony proceeded to rig a tray onto the passenger side door of a brand-new GLA that we would then rig a Red Dragon to. The idea was to drive with the camera mounted to the car shooting the kid in the backseat through the window. This is tricky for many reasons. First is not damaging the car in any way! There were two guys on site, Steve and Armando watching every move we made to ensure the car stayed as perfect as it was when they unloaded it off the truck. They were not only there to babysit the car but also to modify it for shots, for example removing the rearview mirror and front passenger seats when they impeded the camera’s view. It was chilly and looked like rain. We were ok with this since the shot we needed involved having a rainy window. But just because we were ok with the rain doesn’t mean the camera is. By the looks of the clouds and the weather forecast we made the call to bag the camera. Bag the camera = make a raincoat for it! Once we were mounted, framed, focused and bagged, we were ready to roll. With our talent strapped in his car seat in the backseat and our stunt driver in the car with him, we all piled into a 15 passenger van and pulled into position behind Officer 1. Our shoot car pulled in behind us and then was boxed in with our second patrol car. We hit the record button and we were off! From inside the van we watched the action on camera via wireless monitors. Tim directed London what to do via walkie-talkies. The shots looked beautiful and everything went off as planned. By noon we were done with location 1 and headed downtown for shots 2 & 3. When we arrived to our next location, things weren’t looking so hot – literally. It was only moments later that it began to pour rain. While shot 1 did call for rain, the rest of our shots called for SUN! And here, in San Diego on December 16th, there was a whole lotta rain. Looked more like Seattle than San Diego; Not only was it wet, but it was cold. We bundled up and powered through; Dougee and Tony built the rig under the transport truck while we did dances for sun in hopes that the eye of the storm would come over us and dry us with it’s beautiful rays. The sun peeked out every now and then, but it was just a tease because the clouds never subsided and we ended up spending the whole day shooting in the rain. As much as we wanted to call it and shut down production, the client was in town and we had a job to do. We wrapped at sunset that evening, my socks had been soaked though since 1:30. It felt really good to climb into bed Tuesday night.
Wednesday started just as Tuesday had – super early! We were again on the road by sunrise but today we had a bit more of an adventure in front of us. Today our shoot location was the desert, Borrego to be exact. We were excited because we knew these shots would be amazing! There aren’t many landscapes more beautiful than a desert road! And for shots 4 & 5, our brand-new Mercedes C-class looked damn sexy on it. Our gorgeous actors Lauren and Matt made it shine even more. “RICH” became the word of the week. The epic landscape and the magical light flares we got in their shot are to die for! They totally sold the happy couple and had fun doing it! It was definitely a photographers dream day!! Our 3rd actor of the day was a tiny, adorable little girl. Her role was to sit in the backseat strapped in her car seat, hold a teddy bear and sleep. That proved to be really easy to do on the long windy desert road. The one gig where you get paid to sleep…how can I get that job? HA. Seriously tho, shoot day 2 could not have gone more perfect. That’s why the three of us are posing it out in that one shot below. Such a rad day. The only change I would have made to the day would have been to have raised the temperature from the windy 40’s to a dry 70. Hey, what’s wrong with wanting it all?!
Wednesday was supposed to be our last day of shooting but because of the rain on Tuesday afternoon, we needed to reshoot 2 shots on Thursday morning. By Thursday the alarm going off in the dark is completely normal (ew). We’re up and back at our downtown location at 5:58 just in time to watch the sun rise over the city. Today’s rigging was quick and smooth since we’d done this before… Another early morning was totally worth it as all of the shots were so much more beautiful than they had been on Tuesday in the rain. It was well worth an extra day to reshoot once we saw how stunning the images were without the rain speckled window and dreary sky. We could not have been more grateful for our officers who drove around with us, lights on, blocking traffic, ensuring we got our shots. We even rigged the camera to the roof of the police car for our last shot! That might be a once in a lifetime experience! In the end, it was such a wonderful experience working with ultra talented and super cool, artistic, driven and like-minded people. The Joelsons are so excited for this amazing opportunity to partner with Tim Tadder and his team and all of the talent from MBUSA. Making movies and making memories – work doesn’t get any more awesome than this! Thank you to every single person on set who had a hand in the magic that was made this past week – you all RULE so hard.
All photos here shot by yours truly, except for the out the window shots of the car in the desert, which were shot by Mark. Our flarey desert portrait with Tim and our early morning Joelsons portrait are credited to Armon. All images were shot with a 35 prime on the Sony 7R with the addition of a handful of iPhone images scattered about. And for those of you left wondering about the actual spot, stay tuned, I’ll post it when it’s live! X