The Challenge of Producing My First Acura TV Ad Using A Process Trailer

The past summer we were hired by the ad agency Tier 10 Marketing (same one as my Honda Accord campaign), under the creative direction of Scott Rodgers, to produce and film a new tv ad for Acura via the New York Acura Dealers Association. I've been an advertising photographer for years, but I co-founded a video production company, 8112 Studios, a few years back along with my friend Nicholas Cambata. We have been very busy with a variety of crazy challenging and fun projects this past year and this ad job was no exception.

The advertisement starred the amazing Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees driving around the new Acura MDX. The underlying themes were strength, dependability, perseverance, and dedication. This was my first time using a process trailer and police escort, which was pretty wild to arrange and setup, as you can see. You use a trailer so you can film driving shots, but be able to mount the lighting and camera anywhere. The trailer also can stretch wider in case we wanted to dolly around the car, which is a cool aspect of what the process trailer is capable of. Obviously it would be a hazard having a driver or actor driving the car around New York City with 12k watts of  lighting and diffusion and camera mounted to it. The tow truck has a generator on board so we can power the gear on the fly. Thankfully New York City provides a free police escort with your film permit. You technically need to have a police escort if you are filming any production on the streets of New York and have anything video-related mounted to a moving vehicle.

As a producer on my own shoots, I’ve learned that painstaking planning and pre-production is crucial on big video shoots like this. In fact, the shoot happens 80% in the planning and actual filming is merely following through the motions. That’s a lot different than with photo shoots, I have found. When we started out with video production, I put emphasis on the shoot day, not realizing that if I planned everything out beforehand, I would have a lot less to worry about since video productions have so many moving parts. You know, talking about film production is an entire post all in itself, but I will say that since I have started to produce video shoots, I kind of laugh to myself when people explain how tough a still ad production can be. Trust me, nothing compares to large scale video production. It has cut years off my life. Even when you plan ahead, SOMETHING always goes wrong. It's just the nature of things in that business. This shoot was a perfect example of such a situation.

I had EVERYTHING planned out for weeks from the crew to the very exact location, weather contingency plans, insurance, all the necessary crew, and I even hired an entire real little league team to be extras on a school day. 2 days before our shoot, my client calls and asks me to turn on ESPN. There is New York Yankee Mariano Rivera, the star of our ad, writhing in pain on the baseball field after just butchering his ACL. Poor guy and poor everyone because the ad had to be postponed indefinitely, but rightfully so! Wouldn't you know that after a few days later the client calls and says that Mariano will do it as long as he doesn't have to walk in the ad and the ad had to happen in 2.5 days. Holy COW. The agency and I revised the storyboards to remove any walking scenes and replaced them with additional driving scenes, got client approval, and my team and I SCRAMBLED to get everything re-scheduled, prepared, and the permits with police escort and our driving/filming routes filed (you need to tell the film office and police EXACTLY what route you will drive and when, especially using a setup like this) with no moments to spare. I mean, what I spent weeks doing to prepare for this ad, I had to essentially do all over again in less than 3 days. I couldn't believe we made this happen, but that's the nature of producing. You get it done even when everything in the universe is saying you cannot, that is what a producer does.

Mariano Rivera, the star of our ad, is an incredible guy. Aside from being a baseball legend with incredible talent, he is really one of the most genuine and kind public figures I have ever met. Just being around him, you are inspired by his gentle warm nature. Seriously, could not say enough things about that guy. Despite blowing out his ACL a couple of weeks previous, he powered through and helped us shoot a great ad.

Feel free to ask questions about this shoot or production in the comments below. I promise to have full behind the scenes videos for big shoots like this in the near future.

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Filming with our the Red Scarlet mounted to the back of the process truck with the trailer removed for chase shots


Our two "stunt" vehicles from Paragon Acura in NY being delivered


Setting up  one of the cars for filming on the trailer


Mariano getting his close-up


Mounting the red to the side of the car for interior driving shots


Filming the car stationary with a bunch of little league extras. Did this in the early morning when the sun was low. We used large reflector boards and natural light. Click to see larger


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Von Wong's picture

what's with the white backdrop in the shot at the end of the video? 

Douglas Sonders's picture

white backdrop? im not sure what you mean. The last process trailer photo on the post here?

Von Wong's picture

whoa. my bad. for some reason the fence looked like a backdrop directly behind the car. 

Crazy setup :) 

Douglas Sonders's picture

oh ok i was going to say!

Tam Nguyen's picture

Smoking too much crack?

Thanks for the video. What type of lights were used? 

Douglas Sonders's picture

a variety of 5k, 10k and 1k HMI Pars

James's picture

10k !  where ?

Hey Douglas, glad to see you contributing to f-stoppers. The ad looks great. My one reservation, however, has to do with the concept/copy.

The ad starts out by defining loyalty pretty broadly: "loyalty is everything", "it's being faithful to what you love" etc. Then it cuts to Mariano who says "for me, it's my Acura". Now, I agree that Mariano is an amazing guy. He's 42, married, got 3 kids and a salary of $15m in 2012. But the one example of loyalty he can give is to his beloved SUV?

I know it's an ad, but it feels a little forced and contrived. It just seems like the copy tries too hard to connect the dots between brand loyalty and true, unconditional love. It's like he's saying "I like my wife, kids and $100m career, but I really love this mid-range SUV".

Don't mean to be rude though, because everything else has a high production quality.

Douglas Sonders's picture

the client's concept came from the fact he has always owned Acuras since he moved to America, thus, he is loyal to the Acura brand

I just filmed with Nick down in Sioux Falls a few weeks ago.  He told me about the little mishap with the 12k, lol. He's a pretty cool guy. Hope I get to work with him again.

Scott Gold's picture

Would love to know the budget on a shoot like this.

Douglas Sonders's picture

it was a respectable amount but Im not retiring to Fiji this year. haha

Thanks for sharing this. Curious as to what the estimated cost associated with the "Process Trailer" rental (Trailer, Driver, Gen, etc?) And if you have any other advice on using/renting a Process Trailer. Can you recommend the renal company? Thanks again.