How do you make a viral video?
AdChat had the opportunity to sit down with Wes Myers, VFX supervisor, and Joey Cade, VFX producer with Burning Tractor, to get the lowdown on the on the recently viral Mizzen + Main spot with Phil Mickelson. Mizzen+ Main, a DFW based company, are purveyors of performance menswear. Mickelson, is a well-known golfer who has won forty-three events on the PGA tour, including five major championships: three Masters titles (2004, 2006, 2010), a PGA Championship (2005) and an Open Championship (2013).
In addition to being an incredible golfer, Mickelson can do the worm and fan kick like a pro.
AdChat DFW: Tell our audience about the Phil Mickelson Mizzen+Main spot viral success you just had.
Wes: Well, the client’s goal was to make a viral video, which so often is the case, while actually achieving it is very, very rare. It’s one of those things that happens organically – all the stars have to align, so it wasn’t what we focused on. We knew the ad was going to be funny, but we also nearly had to kill ourselves to meet the deadline. By the time it went to air we were pretty much numb to it. The next thing we know, it’s on Good Morning America, The Today Show and CNN. It was playing on Sports Center. I was getting texts, “you’re top trending on Reddit, bro” – for days! It literally exploded. More so than we could have ever expected.
Joey: Yeah, people were posting GIFS everywhere of Phil dancing. It was so great.
Wes: People started doing the dance themselves and posting response videos to Phil’s, some great parodies. There were countless news stories on TV, web and print. I told my guys, “cherish it, these don’t come around very often. We may be looking back 10 years from now like, yeah… remember that Phil thing…. that was awesome.”
AdChat DFW: So, how did you get awarded the project?
Joey: A friend called saying Mizzen+Main was seeking VFX experts for a crazy idea they had. Once I heard the concept I knew we’d be on board regardless of budget and schedule factors.
Wes: Yeah, all we knew was that a shirt company was going to get a famous golfer and needed Photo-Real CG golf course at night. We had about two days before our first creative meeting with Mizzen+Main so, put all hands on deck and built a CG golf course… We literally finished about 15 min before our first client meeting. At the meeting, they began showing us reference imagery of a nighttime golf course and were able to jump ahead and show them the CG set we had already built – both the structure and renders of the look – and that was it. We got the job… then we found out about the schedule, TIGHT.
Joey: Yep, we believe in leaning hard on previs – or previsualization. Previs is the work we do in CG before the shoot. For instance, when planning a complicated action sequence, it’s smart to build the sequence in CG prior to filming it because you can test it out and make changes to get it just how you want it much cheaper than if you film it more than once. We take the opportunity whenever possible to get ahead of the game creatively and think it through visually to flesh out ideas, so that we can get the train moving down the track really fast once we get into production.
AdChat DFW: And where did you shoot it?
Joey: Phil had really limited time available so we went to him. He had exactly 3 hours to spare – 1 hour for the still product shoot and only 2 hours to shoot the dance spot, including teaching him the choreography! The studio we shot at was between LA and San Diego. We had a fully green set and brought in real grass, which helped us get the look we wanted. Everything in the spot other than Phil is CG. Even the lighting and swaying trees. Little touches that add realism.
AdChat DFW: What was pre-production like with such a short time span?
Joey: There was so little time and money in the project, but we were on board to go for it because it was such a fun concept. Phil is almost always in the news and sportscasters and fans were looking forward to what he was going to do at that next tournament. So, the spot dropped the morning the tournament started and took over the news for the next several days.
AdChat DFW: But, Mizzen+Main didn’t use an agency, right? How did that work?
Joey: There was certainly plenty opportunity for things to go wrong. Two hours to shoot a complicated dance sequence with someone who isn’t a dancer, a low budget, super tight schedule and a brand making their first broadcast spot, without an agency. But again, the stars aligned, and it all went absolutely perfectly. The Mizzen+Main marketing team thankfully come from production and agency backgrounds, so they were on point. Their Creative Director, Richard Ross, directed the spot and Lindsey Sullivan, their Director of Marketing, produced the shoot with local crew in California.
They’ve been producing their own successful brand content for years and had built a following with their fun social campaigns, but this was their first big jump into broadcast. They believed they were ready, and they were right. They had a great concept. They got the right athlete attached and they had confidence they could do it on their own, which was another part of the magical star alignment that happened. We were impressed with how confident the Mizzen+Main team were and that kept the shoot really harmonious.
Wes: They were impressive. With only two hours to teach Phil the dance and shoot it, we weren’t sure what we were going to get it… if anything. But he killed it! There were a few different pieces, on Sports Center etc, about them being certain that it was a body double, that “there’s no way he could do that”. But we saw those moves first hand, and are still impressed!
I mean, who knew Phil Mickelson could do the worm!?! Or the fan kick! He was pretty amazing. Each take, he just kept getting better and better.
Joey: Exactly. He got noticeably better every take. As a matter of fact, the last two takes were the ones we used. An actor can get more frazzled, so it was cool to watch the training and psychology of an athlete in action with something as silly as that dance. And, again, the confidence of the Director, Producer and crew really made for a completely perfect shoot.
AdChat DFW: What about post?
Wes: The schedule was so tight that I edited the first rough cut on the plane flying back to Dallas, and then we banged out finishing the CG, audio and multiple edits in the following week and then it was on the air. Poof! We really loved how everything went and are stoked to have had the opportunity to work with Mizzen+Main, and are looking forward to working with them again in the future.
Watch the spot…
Watch the making of…