‘Tis the season. Snow and cold are blanketing much of the United States. In fact, three feet of snow fell recently near the Lawrence & Schiller office in Deadwood, SD. It’s the kind of scene that fits perfectly with upcoming holidays.
Four Months Ago, It Was a Different Story
Four months ago, when Taco John’s was producing its Nachos Navidad Christmas commercial, the temperature was pushing 100 degrees, literally making it one of the hottest days of the year. Four months ago, we needed to find a way to turn summer heat into a winter wonderland.
Watch the final spot and then scroll down for a behind-the-scenes look at how it was made.
Studio Shots, Inside Taco John’s and the Chromakey
Some of the shots were easier because they were produced indoors. But even these scenes required careful execution to produce a realistic winter look.
- The shot of the girl looking at Christmas lights through the van window was completely staged inside the studio.
- Blackout shades and snowflake window clings gave a real Taco John’s restaurant the necessary dinner-after-dark-in-the-winter look.
- A green screen chromakey was used for the final shot. (Notice how the boy was wearing shorts AND a stocking cap while they set the shot.)
Shooting Winter Scenes Outdoors… That’s When It Really Got Interesting
Working from detailed storyboards, production plans were made and set design specialists hired. Their mission was to turn a quiet cul de sac north of Omaha into the kind of snow-covered street that could be found anywhere in Taco John’s 25 state territory.
- Christmas decorations were added to three homes. Lights and wreaths were hung, light-up reindeer and toy soldiers were placed on lawns and a fake snowman was even built.
- Lights were set to illuminate the scene but not overpower it. A crane held high a huge reflector measuring more than 50 feet square and that provided soft, diffused light. Even two evergreen trees in the background were specially lit – you can see them between the houses during the opening shot.
- The most critical element was the fake snow. While neighbors gathered to watch, crewmen sprayed a water-based concoction on grass, shrubs, flowers, anything that needed a blanket of white.
Block Parties, Snowball Fights and Christmas Charities
The success of the Nachos Navidad commercial shoot can been measured on many levels.
- Curious neighbors were drawn to the production site, creating an impromptu block party. One young entrepreneur opened a lemonade stand. Some, wearing summertime attire, took Christmas card photos in front of the fake snow. And when the shooting, wrapped the kids enjoyed playing in, and throwing, the fake white stuff.
- Snow on the ground during 90+ degree heat is a rare combination. A few phones calls to the local stations led to a television interview and some earned media for Taco John’s.
- The ultimate test of the Nachos Navidad commercial will be how many sales it drives. Those numbers aren’t in yet, but in the spirit of the holidays, more than 30 Taco John’s franchisees are pledging a portion of the proceeds to local charities. And unlike snow in August, this is a generosity that can’t be faked.