Behind the scenes at a Gard video shoot

On a rainy Oregon winter day earlier this year, the Gard creative team, including creative director John Plymale, video storyteller Dan Thoennessen and associate Jabriel Pierce, headed out to shoot a video spot for our client, ODOT’s Transportation Safety Office.
A videographer and a director standing outside a pickup with an actor inside behind the wheel.
Gard creative director John Plymale (right) and video storyteller Dan Thoennessen (center) braving the elements for an ODOT video shoot.

What they ended up capturing was everything needed – and then some – for a 15-second video called “Father-Son Showdown” to help convince drivers in Oregon to buckle up. They also got some behind-the-scenes-footage showing what went into the shoot and, after the fact, some insights from John Plymale on how we worked with ODOT TSO on everything from the concept and storytelling to picking the actors, finding a location and what it took to bring the video from initial idea to final product.

Here’s a look behind the scenes:

And here’s John on some of the magic behind our video process:

ODOT’s Transportation Safety Office is always looking for ways to remind drivers to practice the lifesaving habit of buckling up – every trip, every time. Oregon has a high rate of usage among its general population, but there are still some people who forget to use their safety belts. Older and younger males, especially in rural areas are one of those groups.

The idea came up in a meeting to create a series of short spots to be shared on streaming channels. In brainstorming, we thought of a son being a positive influence on his father, rather than the other way around. We also came up with a date scenario, where all is going well until the guy makes one wrong move. We knew we wanted these spots to be told without voiceover, and with eyes and facial expressions. It’s always a challenge to fit a story into 15 seconds, but we kept it simple and recognizable so the idea is quick to get.

This message came more in visuals, so it was fun to craft. The punchline, “Buckle up. Pass it on.” became our line to tie multiple spots together. We always focus on the positive behavior, telling people what to do, rather than what not to do.

It’s always fun to go from “in my head” to a story told in individual shots. When writing the script, we create the visuals in words and then Dan translated those to several shots – many of which we knew were extra, just in case – to cover every angle and have plenty of options. Wides, closeups and different reactions.

A man holds a video camera and films another man sitting inside a pickup truck.
Dan captures an angle inside the actor’s truck.

We wanted a location that could read as two, with a house and some kind of barn or shop. Our senior producer, Jenna Rose, searched rentable spaces, used specifically for shoots and events, and found the perfect location to fit the bill. The hosts were very accommodating and even provided us with a separate Airbnb unit to use as home base.

A cameraman talks to an actor inside a barn, looking out onto a green yard and red farmhouse.
Gard senior producer Jenna Rose searched far and wide for a location that would serve multiple purposes for the video shoot.

For “Father-Son Showdown,” we knew we wanted actors who looked rugged – as if they work together on the farm. Jenna did a call for head shots and auditions, and we matched our talent pairs and gave them direction for wardrobe. “Dad” even came with a truck. Bonus.

A video camera viewing screen looking on a black pickup truck.
One of the actors we worked with for this shoot even had a pickup we could use in the spot.

Capturing every angle with a variety of lenses is always a must for easy editing. We go through the motions many times until we know we have what we need. The challenge on this shoot was definitely Mother Nature. We knew we would be facing rain, but the wind created additional challenges (A tent provides shelter from the rain but doesn’t help much if it wants to blow away!).

A man stands near a pickup truck in a showdown kind of pose.
The weather may have been nasty, but it didn’t prevent us from getting what we were after.

We chose music ahead of time, put together rough cuts that were slightly long and then got to chopping and timing. Essentially, we’re always trimming any fat and trying to get the balance just right. Fifteen seconds goes fast, but Dan is a great editor who also works fast!

The client joined us on the shoot, so she was well-primed to see the final edits. She was pleased to see all the work brought to life on the screen and the stories come together. We hope to someday do full-length (30-second) versions to show even more of what we got that cold day in January.

Shoots definitely take a lot out of you, but they’re always fun and rewarding when you’re working with great people, and for a great client with a mission. We put so much work into every step, it feels good to see the finished result.

And here’s that finished result: