Tag Archives: viral video

Laver Cup Chicago Promo

Tennis Australia handles the PR and social media promotion for the Laver Cup regardless of which continent the event is played. We thoroughly enjoyed working for them at a promotional event in Manhattan during the summer of 2017. Thankfully they asked us back and invited us to take part in a stunt, this time in Chicago, to encourage North American ticket sales in 2018.

The piece and the day itself went through numerous revisions in the weeks prior as celebrities and locations were added to the itinerary. The final script called for Tried & True to provide a production crew consisting of five camera operators and two field audio technicians. With enough advance warning, I put together a staff of talented professionals who had all filmed social media videos about Roger at other tournaments. From the Red Sox, Billie Weiss and Lauren Foley were brought on. Direct from Indian Wells, Ian Davidson and myself flew in. Mark Reidy from Tennis Australia, Joe Miller and Dustin Berta rounded out the team.

Roger Federer’s agency, Team8, with the USTA and TA is a partial owner in The Laver Cup. They are pursuing a marketing strategy using Roger as a primary draw for fans. When we filmed this video, Roger was still the number one player in the world and was still fresh off an 18 match winning streak for 2018.

Using Roger to amplify the video worked very well. For example, The Laver Cup’s Facebook page reached 60,000 views. But Roger posting the video natively to his Facebook profile meant that we achieved the maximum possible audience. Without an ad buy, Roger’s celebrity was a strong enough generator of earned media to achieve nearly 500,000 views on Facebook, over 600,000 views on Instagram and over 200,000 views through Twitter.

Interest was further amplified by the inclusion of 1990s NBA all-star Scottie Pippen and the international superstar soccer player, Bastian Schweinsteiger. Bastian is married to a retired female tennis player, Ana Ivanovic. They live in Chicago and have a strong social media presence. Scottie made for a good representative to lead Roger through The United Center where the Laver Cup will be played. Mike Tirico is notable to American audiences as he is fresh off of anchoring his first Olympics as NBC’s replacement for Bob Costas. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is currently perhaps America’s best-known mayor, having served as a pugnacious congressman from Illinois and later President Obama’s Chief-of-Staff.

We had one day of location scouting and then four hours with Roger, John McEnroe, Rod Laver and Nick Kyrgios. We were fighting Chicago traffic and a tight schedule that allotted ten to fifteen minutes per stop. We shot very run-and-gun. There was no time for rehearsal with the talent. The crew reviewed the script carefully and were prepared to film enough to satisfy the requirements for each scene. We split into two teams with an operator shooting telephoto and others running gimbals. We received a permit from the city to fly a drone above the stunt at the Bean too. Tried & True used GoPro Hero6s in the cars in addition to DSLRs and Westcott Ice Lights to provide even lighting on the faces of multiple generations of tennis players. GoPros were attached to the headrests of the front seats. The ice lights were taped with gaffers tape between those two seats too. Ice lights are a great LED long-running option to provide soft, continuous lighting.

We filmed Roger’s plane landing at Midway Airport and his departure with McEnroe in a Laver Cup branded Mercedes SUV. Lou Malnati’s is a chain of iconic Chicago pizzerias. We captured the four generations of professional tennis players chatting and eating. We stopped by the Chicago Theater with the pretty interior and iconic marquee and swung by the United Center as mentioned above. The Bean stunt went off without a hitch thanks to the efforts of MVT PR. Members of the media were present as were tennis fans, security was in place and the black Laver Court looked perfect in front of the Bean. Kyrgios and Roger definitely had fun with their hit and giggle in front of the crowd. Afterward we proceeded to a rooftop photoshoot and then a press conference.

We covered the press conference with six angles and immediately produced a VNR for international media consisting of the best broll and soundbites. The edit of the social media piece went well. It took one day to organize data from ten camera sources and two audio techs. The next day was spent listening to the material to find the best bites. Prue Ryan of Tennis Australia and Kellie Morgan, the producer on the piece, were instrumental in the scripting and vision for the deliverable. The video production team departed after the shoot. Editing and revisions were completed remotely, but the piece was finished by deadline. Tickets went on sale and hundreds of thousands of tennis fans saw the promo. The Instagram video was completed at a 4:5 ratio, meaning that it is taller than it is wide. As a result, the piece took up more room in an Instagram feed. The fact that this version of the video was optimized for phone consumption is partially why the content overall performed the best on Instagram.

All 3-day ticket bundles under $2500.00 for the three-day Laver Cup event sold out two days after the release of the video. Again, we extend our thanks to Tennis Australia for tapping us to cover another Laver Cup event.

Biden Time

One of the largest shoots I have directed took place during 2012 in Charlotte, NC. That year Charlotte was to host the Democratic National Convention. Amir Behdani, a realtor at Peters & Associates Luxury Realty contacted me about an exciting idea he had for selling an eight-million dollar mansion.

Amir said something like, “What if we had impersonators for the President and Vice President? Let’s get them visiting the mansion under some pretext and make a viral video.” I ended up writing the script with my cousin, Todd Hardy. We put in as many, now dated, 2012 jokes and references. Scott C Reynolds, a SAG equity actor, starred in “Biden Time” as The Onion’s version of Uncle Joe. We found a young UNCC student who looked enough like President Obama that it kind of worked. As with SNL, some willing suspension of disbelief is required for our little story.

The fun parts of the shoot were driving to DC to get our own clip of Marine One departing from the White House lawn. The Presidential Experience is a traveling exhibit with a replica of the Reagan era Oval Office and Air Force One. It popped up in a big empty parking lot in Charlotte a week prior to the convention. I called the exhibit and secured permission to film inside before it opened to tourists with our Obama, Julian Ireland. Having a dressed Oval Office set come to Charlotte was a very happy coincidence.

Next was the house itself. What a place! The show Banshee had been filming there in Waxhaw, NC for a few months. Down the street was the mansion where ABC had finished shooting a season of the Bachelorette. Waxhaw is a quaint little southern country town that happens to have a pocket of millionaire Charlotte bankers, race car drivers etc. An episode of Homeland was also filmed nearby.

Concord Airport granted permission to shoot on an unused runway. Silver Fox Limos provided the Secret Service detail and motorcade. I cut decals of the presidential seal, affixed double sided magnets to them and stuck them on the side of a limo. I put flags on the hood too. When we shot the motorcade scene in Charlotte, the actual President was expected in town just days later. We turned a lot of heads. At one point we stopped to regroup, review footage and discuss the next shot. Coincidentally the limo with the presidential seal happened to be parked in front of a Charlotte strip club. Some guys walking in remarked, “Oh he’ll be in trouble with Michelle! Don’t let him in!”

The city was dressed and prepped for the convention. That backdrop served the production well. A group of men who provide private security stepped in with their S.W.A.T. team gear and semi automatic weapons. These guys were ex-military, and very professional. The search of the house was the most important scene to the realty company. It was how we were going to give a home tour without giving a conventional home tour. Our special ops guys slayed it in short order. They hit their marks with perfect takes.

The pool party scene was more difficult. There were more people, a lot of staging and direction because of the dialogue. There had not been time to rehearse this section of the video in advance. Our Joe Biden’s white hair turned back to brown while he was in the pool. The MUA had already been dismissed. I ended up rotoscoping a matte to desaturate his hair in post.

This was a long, exciting multi-location shoot that I enjoyed directing and shooting alongside my friend Eric Brown. Later the next week I ended up working events during the convention supporting MSNBC’s production of Hardball with Chris Matthews and a town hall meeting hosted by Chuck Todd and then journalist, Chelsea Clinton. After each show I talked to the hosts and ended up handing out copies of “Biden Time.” Peters & Associates Luxury Realty also did their best guerrilla marketing to get the piece in front of as many eyes as possible in conjunction with the convention.

The video was moderately successful and the house eventually sold. But still today I marvel that we filmed a presidential motorcade, shot in an Oval Office and had a full S.W.A.T. team at our disposal. Five years later if I were to do this again the production quality would be much higher. We would have actual rehearsals with the actors. The story and editing would be much tighter too. But for what it is, a slapdash self-produced, almost no-budget video, I think it’s still mostly watchable.