Thriving in the Eclectic Adventure of Producing with Arlene McGann
“We Got Now” is a campaign by New Balance that takes us back to the roots of why we fell in love with playing basketball. One on one; pushing each other as friends and opponents to see what we can bring. The manifestation of this advertisement was a vastly different endeavor for producer Arlene McGann who juggled location scouts, the communication and requirements of the two celebrities featured in the ad, as well as a slew of other aspects. The sublime simplicity of what is seen in “We Got Now” belies the complexity of what truly was involved in creating it; and this is the reason Arlene was hired. Her reputation as the ultimate planner/fixer makes her the choice of many to produce jobs that might otherwise exceed their scheduling and budgetary boundaries. A very different tone and production style from “We Got Now” is evident in Ms. McGann’s work on Apple’s “The whole working-from-home thing” which focuses on the pandemic home-work scenario. This entire production was done remotely during the Covid lockdown. Though vastly different in style and subject matter, these two commercials testify to Arlene’s skill in “making it happen” whatever the scenario might demand. The only thing we can be sure of is change. When this happens, it’s best to have someone like Arlene McGann alongside you to help attain your goal.
“We Got Now” commercial features two immediately recognizable celebrities; Grammy-nominated musician Jack Harlow and Los Angeles Clippers player Kawhi Leonard. With personalities perhaps even larger than their physical stature, the two men are seen challenging each other on the court. The mood is friendly but also touts an unspoken prompt to “bring it.” New Balance presented this ad to spotlight, “those championing action to inspire others.” The New Balance name and shoes are present in this one-minute long ad but they’re not the focal point. The hundred-year-old footwear company has the presence of mind to understand that consumers, particularly those who are athletically active, are inspired by action rather than prestige aesthetics. Directed by Similar But Different (the duo of Dani Girdwood and Charlotte Fassler), whose music videos for artists like Katy Perry, Chainsmokers, and others have amassed nearly a quarter of a billion views, this commercial boasts an energy which implies humor without working overly hard to display it.
(embed video here-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AV94Jqrw4sE)
The first challenge of Arlene’s role on this project was discovering a location that fit the tone of this ad while appealing to all involved parties. While the initial idea was to use an NBA level indoor court, Ms. McGann remarks, “The location is a vital ingredient in this ad. I briefed a location manager to search for basketball courts. I asked him to look for indoor, high spec courts but also to keep it open to outdoor courts. I then went on a thorough scout of all the options with the director and production designer. We all decided it would be a great idea to shoot outside but with that comes the risk of weather.” The no-frills outdoor court in which the action of this ad takes place immediately evokes a sense of friendly competition that is accessible to the regular public. It is an emotional cornerstone of the commercial. A cumbersome journey for the crew (the court rests atop a high hill) and cast, the vista of mountains and blue sky is both Spartan and picturesque, reinforcing the concept that this game is conducted only for the players.
The very inverse of “We Got Now” is found in Apple’s “The whole working-from-home thing” which depicts the indoor daily lives of office workers who never interact in the same physical space. This ad ideally displays how the industry adjusted during the pandemic to still create. In the same way that so many of us utilized technology to continue working, professionals like Arlene also found new paths. She relates, “This flipped on its head every system we normally use in production. The whole commercial was made remotely with just the Director (Mark Molloy) and DP (Oscar winning cinematographer Greig Fraser) in the small spaces. They were supported by a small crew based in other locations and doing drop offs to maintain social distance. The AD and I ran the shoot on Zoom with the client giving their feedback through web conference.” Arlene adds, “One of the most challenging and complex parts of this process is that a lot of the filming was done on the Apple devices themselves. We had to design a workflow where we remotely controlled all of the Apple devices and taught all the cast to use them. We then had to work with the DP to make sure the picture we were getting on the devices was of the desired quality.” Clocking in at nearly ten minutes long, “The whole working-from-home thing” resembles a short film more than a commercial and is full of the wit and comedy so needed during this time in history. This type of production and length had never been achieved prior to this specific production, making “The whole working-from-home thing” something of an industry touchstone.
(embed link here-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_pru8U2RmM)
Writer : Winston Scott