With North American schools ready to return for another academic year, creative agency Crowdiate has launched a campaign for MadeGood. Titled, ‘For All the Good Reasons’, the campaign positions the brand as a fantastic back-to-school snack choice due to the product’s nutritional value - with specific reference to the fact that, unbeknown to children, MadeGood has vegetables (!) in it.
Launched August 15th, ‘For All the Good Reasons’ released with three films directed by Stash Capar through Noble Content: ‘Lunchbox’, ‘Planet’ and ‘Back Seat’. Employing an observational approach, the spots playfully show child-actors enjoying MadeGood, before their shocked reactions are captured when they hear the news that MadeGood, in fact, is made with vegetables.
Stash sat down with LBB’s Josh Neufeldt to speak about how this campaign was brought to life.
LBB> What was the brief for this project like? What immediate ideas came to mind when you first saw it?
Stash> It was a great brief from Crowdiate. Simple, elegant and centred around the breaking of the fourth wall moment. Counter-intuitively, the first idea that came to mind was a cinematic, polished, observational approach, as opposed to something overly handheld, voyeuristic and candid. While it’s trendy to shoot kid spots in a ‘mom filming in her own kitchen’ type way, I knew it wouldn’t work for this. If things felt too ‘user generated’, then the breaking of the fourth wall moment would not come as a surprise. In that voyeuristic approach, where you’ve got a handheld camera shooting from the perspective of an intimate friend or family member, it’s practically a given that the talent will look into the camera at some point. It’s part of the charm, but it’s also expected. Therefore there’s no surprise.
However, when you’re shooting from the perspective of the cinematic ‘Eye of God’, with a polished and observational frame, it feels like we’ve somehow transgressed when that fourth wall break comes. The moment stands out.
That was the basis of my proposed approach and the team at Crowdiate, especially creative director Ian Mirlin - who is a very smart, experienced and clever person - immediately understood what I was after. Once we were aligned on this major point, everything else fell into place.
LBB> What type of equipment did you use for the shoot? Was it all standard, or did you do anything differently compared to other projects you’ve worked on?
Stash> We had some pretty special lenses, namely Kowa Full Frame vintages made with glass from the ‘70s, rehoused in a modern body. Although the spots take place in the modern day, I wanted a touch of timeless nostalgia for each scene as they are all so relatable and immediately transport one to memories of their own childhood. The lenses, with their vintage character, served that purpose perfectly and Evan (cinematographer) had a great time shooting with them.
LBB> The two-line idea of kids knowing things like all the planets in the solar system or how to spell Mississippi, but not that they’re eating vegetables is pretty funny. Did you have any input on the writing process? And was there room for improvisation once you started shooting?
Stash> The two line script was so well done, but I had nothing to do with it. It was all locked in by Crowdiate and the client prior to me coming onboard. Where I saw potential was in character-building to help elevate those lines.
For example, we’ve got this kid who knows everything about the solar system - how can we capture that idea through the room he’s in? The girl in the car? Why is she there? Where is she going? Diana (art director/set designer) and I had a lot of fun with this.
LBB> Following up on the idea of shooting locations, how did you determine the best locations for the ads? And where did you shoot?
Stash> The locations were perfectly laid out in the brief, with some flexibility for the school themed spot. There were ideas of shooting that one outside at a picnic table, or on school steps, but in the end the classic classroom prevailed. We shot in a Toronto suburb with a single location serving all three spots. The classroom was actually built in the living room of a house, with the bedroom upstairs and the driveway outside. Movie magic!
LBB> The kids featured are exceptionally cute, and their reactions to realising they’re eating vegetables are hilarious. Were you involved in the casting process? And do you have any fun stories from working with them during the filming process?
Stash> Yes, I’m always deeply involved in casting from day one. If we cast wrong, I will have to work very hard to come back from that, so it’s important to get casting right.
We ran the sessions as loose prototypes of what the kids would get on shoot day, first getting them entranced in a mundane task (chewing carrot sticks or apple slices), then helping them find their eye-line on queue, then finally, reacting to a surprise piece of information about the food they were eating, which I would randomly throw out at them while we rolled 50/50. I would make up the most outlandish fake facts to draw out a good reaction. ‘You’re actually eating tree bark’ was particularly effective and popular with the kids.
LBB> What is it like to direct kids for a campaign? Do you have to approach filming differently?
Stash> I’ve been working with kids from the very beginning of my directing career, so if anything, working with kids has shown me how to best work with adults.
In short, I use what’s called ‘process-based direction’, as opposed to ‘result-based direction’ for all talent, regardless of age. It’s just a fancy way of saying, ‘make your talent organically stumble across what you’re looking for.’ Entire books have been written about this method - the best one being Judith Weston’s ‘Directing Actors’ which I first read nearly a decade ago. Once you get it, you can’t work any other way.
LBB> How involved were you in the post production/edit process? What directions did you give to the post/edit teams (if you didn’t edit yourself)?
Stash> Structurally, the edits were simple and we actually managed to do some rough cuts live on set, which the MadeGood team appreciated as it eliminated all doubt that the gag would not work. We were getting a lot of laughs in the video village, which was fun and created a nice mood.
When we got to post proper, there was a lot of experimenting with various versions. I worked with Tom Mountain and Jay Smith (editors at Upstate) for a few days, handed over something that I thought was perfect to Ian [Mirlin, CD at Crowdiate] and crew, then walked away. The final edits were basically just a more polished version of that initial cut.
LBB> What are your favourite elements of the project, and what challenges did you face during production? Do you have a favourite spot?
Stash> I’m proud of the emotional/tonal consistency of the entire campaign. It feels like three separate chapters of the same story, which I love.
One of the kids didn’t like the taste of the product, which was surprising - literally the only person on set who didn’t like it. This slowed us down a bit but luckily the next kid loved it, and we got right back on schedule.
The ‘Lunchbox’ reaction is priceless. It took nearly 30 takes to get it (she was the one who didn’t like the product) but in the end it came out so natural, and was well worth it.
LBB> Is the advice to ‘never work with children or animals’ a myth? What are your thoughts on it?
Stash> I think it’s a true test of one’s directing ability to work with children. I love the challenge and the process. In another life I trained/coached kids in martial arts, so I’m familiar with how to steer them. Usually it’s a case of making them think it was their idea all along. It works with adults (and romantic partners) as well. ‘Process based’ direction at its finest.
I haven’t had the opportunity to work with animals much, but that’s another area I would love to explore.
LBB> Did you know that MadeGood has vegetables in it?!
Stash> I had no idea. I assumed they were just another sugary product full of empty carbs. I learned quickly that I was very wrong, and by the end of production I was a fan. Ended up taking three boxes home from the set with me. I finished the first box on the drive home.