Pre-production was the name of the game for Austin, Texas-based photographer Philip Edsel, who created a dynamic campaign that fused motion and stills for New Balance. After a photo editor colleague in New York told Philip she used Wonderful Machine to find photographers, he immediately went home and became a member. After only two days on the site, VML agency reached out to Philip about shooting and directing this campaign for New Balance.
What was the idea behind the campaign?
The concept for the campaign was Be The Exception, a new campaign slogan for New Balance. We shot three different versions of the same new shoe, all with this “exceptional” mindset and attitude, but each with its own unique personality.
How did you decide to go in this creative direction?
The creative direction came from the agency VML and was based on shapes, lines and urban geometry, which was a perfect fit for my style and some recent pieces I had created.
How did you approach a project of this size (3 different sets in one day!) – what was involved in planning/preproduction?
It was a ton of pre-production. About two months of planning with my producer, the agency, and the client. I created multiple mood boards for each location, which included location photos from the scouting I did, as well as set styling. I made shot lists and storyboards, as well. The goal was to create environments that played to each style of shoe and athlete, not only in attitude but in complimentary colors as well. We shot the project in Dallas, TX but most of the team came from NYC, so there was a lot of coordination involved and many moving parts that had to be timed perfectly. The creative approach was based on natural light and contrasting hard shadows so we had to accomplish all three sets from sun up to sun down.
How did you juggle moving back and forth between creating the motion and stills content?
Thankfully I had a talented Director of Photography, Chris Bourke, shooting motion. Another tricky part was that we had to shoot for three formats (horizontal, vertical and square), which we accomplished by shooting on an 8K RED horizontally, which also displayed vertical framing as well. Because it is such a huge file, our cropped vertical framing was nearly 4K as well, which for IG stories might still be a little overkill, but nice to have. I directed the motion and shot stills during the action. Thankfully I had done a lot of scripting and shot lists so I was able to keep track of our shots pretty easily, while still moving at a super fast pace.
What were the shoots like?
We shot it in January so when we started early morning it was freezing. My producer actually ran to a nearby convenience store to get extra sweatshirts and gloves for the team. It warmed up once the sun came out though, and we were moving so fast, I didn’t think twice about it. I’m also not sure my DP or I ate anything all day, but we had a great time and managed to accomplish it all.
What did the creative process look like on set?
The many hours and phone calls spent in preproduction really helped get everyone on the same page before we shot the campaign. On set, the whole team stood nearby watching on a director’s monitor giving feedback too. One of the things I had on hand was a bank of athletic movements. That really helped me direct the talent without wasting any time.
Did you face any challenges with this project? If so, how did you overcome them?
There are always challenges when trying to capture that amount of content in that short of a time frame, and issues always arise that you never would have considered. For example, one of our talent had no hair on his ankles, I guess from wearing tall socks frequently, and it looked a little awkward. Our hair and makeup stylist came to the rescue though and quickly shaved a more natural fade. Now I know to ask for ankle photos when casting models for footwear campaigns. The biggest thing though, for any shoot, is just to have a good attitude and keep everything upbeat. I remember jogging to catch the last light at our last location after a nonstop almost 12-hour day, because I wanted to keep the energy up. Everyone on the team is looking to you as the photographer/director/creative for that cue, and it’s important to be mindful of that.
See more of Philip on his website.
Producer: Curated Artists
Director of Photographer: Chris Bourke
Stylist: Jane Black
Hair & Makeup: Erica Gray