I recently made a quick trip to Columbus to give a capabilities presentation to the creative services department within Nationwide, and a few months later we were in pre-production for what turned out to be an incredibly successful project.
The scope of the production was to depict college football and basketball players practicing their sport and interacting around campus. The final assets would initially be used for a recruitment campaign and also live in Nationwide’s photo library for a potentially wide range of use down the road. Nationwide has two internal photographers; Laura Sauer and Thomas Griffin, and while they would be bringing their first assistants and equipment with them, we were tasked with finding a college campus, casting real athletes, coordinating hair/makeup/wardrobe/prop styling, bringing on supporting crew members and producing two shoots with two independent crews over the course of a single day.
It was a big undertaking, but we were given the freedom to develop the most efficient way to accomplish the project. That meant we had the ability to shoot this right at home here in the Philadelphia area, which allowed me to bring on my local crew dream team who I knew would help knock this project out of the park. Additionally, the Philadelphia region is home to a wide range of amazing colleges and universities, many of which I knew had great athletic programs and picturesque campuses.
Initially, we had hoped that in conjunction with a shooting location, a college might also be able to provide their actual student-athletes as our talent. However, considering the quickly approaching start of the school year, the time it could have taken to go through the proper channels for such a task, as well as NCAA rules regarding college athletes and limitations on using their likeness for commercial purposes, I knew we’d have a big hurdle to jump over. So, while we still planned to approach the subject with the colleges while scouting to gauge interest/capabilities, I knew we had to have a backup plan for talent, which is why our first task was casting.
Since we wanted real people with athletic abilities, rather than professional models with representation, I reached out to our friends at Heery Loftus Casting to help us find 5 female basketball players and 5 male football players. Given Heery’s extensive experience, this was a walk in the park for them. We captured traditional studio shots of each talent that showed up for the casting day, and then also captured video content of each person running football/basketball drills outside to gauge their athletic skills.
While the casting results were being reviewed, I set our location scout loose to find us our perfect college. Michael Lehman of P&L Locations was phenomenal, and his hard work allowed us to present a range of options to Nationwide. The universities we were looking at all cited NCAA rules regarding their athletes/students…so I’m glad we had our backup casting plan in place. I knew that the colleges would still be able to offer what we were looking for in the way of athletic facilities and a beautiful campus.
In the end, we decided to go with Arcadia University, and I couldn’t have imagined a better location. The campus offered a ton of perfect shooting areas including a basketball court, classrooms, a perfectly manicured outdoor common area, a football field at a partner school across the street, and a perfect staging area. The overall campus layout was also super manageable and made for a smooth transition when it came to the logistics of moving two teams from spot to spot throughout the day.
Once we had our location and talent, my focus turned to styling, and I reached out to wardrobe and prop stylist Lisa Russell. I was confident that she’d be able to bring on a team to coordinate all of the athletic equipment/apparel that we’d need, while also being able to manage a mid-day wardrobe change since all the talent had to switch from sports to campus lifestyle shots. I also had the pleasure of bringing on Megan Ambroch and Carrie Gehman to manage the hair/makeup styling for our talent, who both made that task a breeze.
Our shoot day arrived before I knew it, but not before I had the chance to take the Nationwide team out to a pre-shoot-day dinner at The Broad Axe Tavern. Did you know that The Broad Axe Tavern is America’s oldest tavern? Now you do.
An early start to our shoot day was welcomed with the most amazing weather the region had seen in months, which I was happy to take credit for planning. The day went off without a hitch, and the very light equipment footprint along with a well-planned itinerary, allowed each team to easily transition between multiple locations and setups throughout the day.
The production was a huge success! It was delightful to collaborate with the entire Nationwide team and our crew. We wrapped everything up just in the nick of time, as students started moving back to campus with classes starting at Arcadia just a few days later. Here are a few of the final results:
And here are some behind the scenes shots including one with some of our crew and the Nationwide team:
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