It’s impossible to know just how many gigs photographers lost due to COVID-19. Countless assignments that had been lined up in 2019 were shuttered once March of 2020 finished up. In many cases, those jobs haven’t come back because of a variety of logistical obstacles. But some have, including one that benefitted Andrew Giammarco. The Seattle-based photographer was supposed to be one of a handful of creatives set to work with Burger King for a new ad campaign but instead became the client’s lone photog for a scaled-down summer shoot.
The original plan was to shoot ten homes in five states — all with an illuminated “Home of the Whopper” sign on their roofs. They wanted a local photographer from each of the ten states to shoot two homes. The final images would be used to promote a shelter-in-place-themed contest for Burger King’s delivery app. A producer from the L.A.-based production company Unicorns & Unicorns found me in a search for Seattle-based, architectural photographers. At some point, the main ad agency, DAVID, realized it would be smarter to have one photographer shoot the entire campaign, and I was lucky enough to be chosen for the gig.
The original schedule was set to take place back in February, just as COVID-19 was beginning to take hold in the U.S. Out of concern for everyone’s safety, the entire project was put on hold until at least August or September. Then in June, I got a call from the producer. He was calling to tell me that the project was back on, and that it would begin in just a little over a week. This time, we would be shooting just four homes, and they would all be located in the greater Los Angeles area. We went from that call to final, printed images in just over two weeks.
Those two weeks were “a mad dash,” as Andrew puts it, but not an impossible one to navigate. We’ve covered numerous instances of photographers working with Zoom to keep clients abreast of their progress, and the same practice occurred here.
With a new 7-10-day lead time set in June, we had to choose from hundreds of pre-scouted homes to find the ones that best match our criteria. Because of the pandemic, LA was not allowing any commercial filming within the city boarders, which further restricted our choices. None of the key players were on set for the entirety of the shoot, so it was up to the on-set crew to have daily updates via Zoom to plan for that day’s shoot. During these meetings I would discuss the different angles, setups, and set stylings, as well as the specific challenges that each location brought with the creative team in Miami. Then, when it came time for the actual shoot, I would reconvened by Zoom, shoot tethered, and share my screen with the production team in Los Angeles and the creative team in Miami so everyone could see the shots in real time and the on-site crew could make adjustments as we went along.
Ultimately, the fact that the client chose Andrew meant that he had a substantial amount of creative freedom and was essentially asked to shoot the way he usually does. All of that made for an easier time than one might imagine, given the disjointed nature of the workflow and the shortened timeframe to complete the assignment.
The creative team at DAVID told me that they chose me because of the kind of imagery I created. They described my work as something that would appear in a shelter magazine like Architectural Digest and they wanted me to apply that style to each image that I shot for the campaign.
Since they were hiring me to shoot the way that I always do, the pitch was pretty simple. I sent them the best exterior shots of homes that I had already shot with an emphasis on homes that were shot right around sunset. The sunset shots were especially important since the sign was going to be illuminated and had to be shot at a time when both the home and the sign illumination matched.
When you look at these shots — many of which showed up in places like The New York Times — you might think the big “Home of the Whopper” sign was digitally rendered into the shot in post. Nope. That’s a real (big) sign and a serious hazard if not managed properly. Andrew credits the production team for their expertise in handling a very delicate item.
One of the biggest challenges of the shoot was the “Home of the Whopper” sign. I’m sure most people would look at the images and think that the sign was dropped in during postproduction. This was not the case. The sign had to be manufactured to the creative and production teams’ specs. Thanks to the art department, headed by Daniel Clay Fox at North Pole Props, each challenge was met with great determination, skill and humor.
One of the hardest parts of the sign was installing it in a way that it could be securely fastened to a variety of surfaces and at multiple angles, but also in a way that would not damage the surface of the structure or fall on anyone’s head. It was a thrill to see Daniel and his crew work in all kinds of crazy environments.
And because the team did so well, Andrew got the shots he needed in the small windows of time allotted for him. Even with all that was going on at the time, this big team of creatives knuckled down and made it work.
Placement of the sign and time of day was key. Most of the day was spent installing the sign and planning for the shots. Our shoot window was pretty narrow. Everything had to be planned perfectly so that the stills, video, drone and 3-D virtual image crews could get their work done without getting in each other’s shots. Thanks to the efforts of the producers, Ed Bilbasoo and Lendi Slover, each day went without a hitch.
Creative Agency: David Miami; Contacts: Curtis Caja, Brenda Orsono
Production Company Unicorns & Unicorns; Contact: Sun Komen
Art Department: North Pole Props; Contact: Daniel Clay Fox
Freelance Producers: Ed Bilbasoo, Lendi Slover
Photo Assistant: Tyler Moriarty
See more of Andrew’s work at andrewgiammarco.com.
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