The Vancouver Opera is a former client of Boxcar Marketing so we like to champion them and follow their marketing initiatives.
Worth calling out is their 15-second TV spot and transit campaign for season opener West Side Story, which also got a lot of play online.
Not only was the online and office campaign really cool but the 15-second tv spot behind the campaign was created by our colleagues at Giant Ant Media, who make awesome commercial videos for local and international ad agencies and organizations.
Watch the Vancouver Opera TV ad for West Side Story.
I managed to catch a free moment with Giant Ant Media co-founder Jay Grandin and asked him a few questions about the creative process for the West Side Story 15-second TV spot. Here’s a summary of our chat.
BX: Vancouver Opera opened the 2011-2012 season with West Side Story, which is a spectacular 21th century production. Given the popularity of the production and its iconic nature, how did you approach the project brief?
JG: One thing that we really tried to do with the Vancouver Opera’s West Side Story spot was to find a way to allow Vancouver and VO to own it. We wanted the tv spot to be about the Vancouver production of West Side Story, not just about West Side Story coming to Vancouver.
We pitched a concept where we would tell the whole story in 15 seconds, which included iconic imagery unique to Vancouver.
Science World was used as a backdrop in the kiss scene. But, the icing on the cake (which was the first frame we presented to the VO team) was West Side Story spelled out in the sky using the iconic Woodward’s W.
This was our closing shot in the TV spot which resonated with all of us so it was also used in the print campaign.
Transit busses wrapped in VO branding go by all day long outside of our Chinatown office window ... which is awesome.
BX: West Side Story is a classic musical theatre production, which has been presented by opera companies before, but how did Vancouver Opera want to address that in the ad campaign?
JG: Vancouver Opera briefed us by stressing that this was NOT an opera. The story they wanted to tell was that the FULL SCALE musical was coming to Vancouver.
BX: So, where did you start?
JG: The creative process for us involved a lot of time at the black board with the team.
We wanted to
- Pay homage to the time period
- Pay homage to Vancouver
- Tell the entire story, and
- Give the audience a taste of the audio in a way that says “musical”, not “opera” .... all within 15 seconds.
To solve 1), we settled on a Saul Bass inspired style reminiscent of his famous title sequences + poster art from the mid-century (including the original West Side Story).
For 2), we used Vancouver as the backdrop, which we just discussed.
3) was difficult in 15 seconds but, in a sense, we were telling Romeo and Juliet. So, we picked the scenes that we felt covered the basics of the story without spoiling the ending.
4) The finger snapping of the opening sequence became our rhythm for the piece, increasing in tempo to a climax.
We used music from West Side Story layered with sounds that would put the viewer into the context: the squeaking of sneakers on pavement, the sound of the sirens far below when you’re up on the fire escape…
BX: What about the dancing? Vancouver Opera replicated Jerome Robbin’s original choreography, which was awesome!
JG: The dancing in West Side Story is very tightly choreographed. The men make big sweeping movements, but ones that also have a hard edge to them.
Because there wasn’t enough time to really explore the choreography with our characters in the TV spot (aside from the one big kick), we treated the camera as though it was dancing to the beat of the snaps.
Each finger snap marked a new movement where the camera glided from one scene to another, or to another vantage point within the scene. It was important to us that the audio and visuals were in sync with one another in a way that was wild and expressive, but also had the containment of a dance.
BX: And who on the Giant Ant Media team worked on the campaign?
JG: The creative development of the spot was a great example of our collaborative process. We spent hours at the chalk board with the entire team—me [Jay Grandin], co-founder Leah Nelson, and our team of designers, editors, animators, and music composer. This includes Scott Tolan, Derek Pante, Ryland Haggis, Shawn Hight, Teresa Toews.
We chipped away at the ideas until we felt like we had a strong direction. In the actual production, I worked quite closely with Shawn, who did the majority of the design and animation, and Ryland, who created the sound scape using a snippet of licensed West Side Story audio, filling in with sound effects.
Thank you Jay Grandin of Giant Ant Media for taking time to chat about the creative process with us.
Giant Ant Media is currently working on the tv spot for VO’s The Barber of Seville, opening March 17, 2012. Watch for it.
For more on Giant Ant Media, check out their demo reel.