Seattle-based photographers and filmmakers Chris Cumming and Greg Sweney, co-owners of Motofish, recently worked with Smithworks Vodka to shoot a campaign for Smithworks Vodka Hard Seltzer Lemonade, their new ready-to-drink line of canned cocktails. The campaign, which included video and still photography, stars country music singer Blake Shelton, an A-list celebrity best known for his role as a judge on “The Voice.”
Chris and Greg’s agency, Motofish, is a full-service production agency that has been working with Smithworks Vodka on various projects for a little over five years. Along with Motofish’s ability to handle everything from inception to execution, the quality of their work has made them the client’s go-to for photography and motion content.
This was a good project for us because it utilizes every tool we have. It’s also nice to have a client that you have a multi-year relationship with, so there’s a level of trust there.
Through their work with Smithworks, Motofish has photographed and filmed Blake Shelton before in his role as the company’s spokesperson and co-owner of the brand. Because he’s a professional, he is used to being in front of the camera, and he knows exactly what to do on set.
Blake has been involved from the beginning. He’s very professional and easy to work with. We worked with him on the initial brand work, shot him in concert in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and did a holiday spot with him in Colorado a few years ago.
The shoot took place in Texas at a lakeshore during the pandemic, and to help minimize plane travel, Motofish hired local crew and talent out of Dallas. To reduce risks, they also had rapid tests done 24-hours prior to shooting for everyone who would be on set.
Aside from the challenges that arise from shooting a project of this scale during a pandemic, when you’re shooting a celebrity you also have to be conscious of timing, as you only have a small window of time with them. The team had to have everything ready to go ahead of time, including a tight script and storyboard so that they could capture everything they needed.
There’s a lot of choreography that happens before he [Blake] gets to set. We mapped everything out, including the lighting, and shot the whole thing in an hour and a half. To maximize time, we also captured stills for point-of-sale merchandise while filming.
The final video ended up being a 30-second cut that Smithworks Vodka used for social media and on their website to promote the cans. The concept, which shows Blake at the lake having fun while enjoying Smithworks Hard Seltzer Lemonade, showcases the celebrity in an approachable way and reinforces the “easy-to-drink” nature of the product.
Everyone was pretty happy with it. Blake even put it on his Instagram feed – which is not typical. He’s a regular guy, and we wanted to show him and the cans in the most authentic way possible.
The Smithworks Vodka Hard Seltzer Lemonade is a refreshing ‘sessionable’ summer beverage, making a leisurely summer BBQ or relaxed outdoor drinking occasion the ideal backdrop for enjoying the drink. A key visual in both the video and stills is a close-up of Blake holding a piece of pork while grilling and tailgating with the cans.
It was a new product so we had to make sure that the product itself looked great. There was more of an emphasis on the food styling than what we’ve done in the past with them – with ribs on the grill, for example, you have to make sure they look appetizing.
Chris and Greg’s key takeaway from the shoot was that you have to be ready to think outside the box, as you never know what’s going to happen. Looking back at this shoot, and the work they’ve done in the past couple of years, Chris from Motofish noted that “every production gives you more experience that you can draw on in the future.”
At the start of the pandemic, it was hard to imagine any work was going to happen, and then you have a project like this that involves travel, celebrity, and talent come up. You have to be up for anything and think creatively about how you’re shooting and producing something.