THE SHOPS AT SANTA ANITA 2 – CARUSO STYLE
Executive Producers: Caruso Affiliated, ICG Worldwide, LA-18
Written by: Ron Wong
Directed and Edited by: Ming Lo
Producers: Mia Chan, Ming Lo
Cast: Father, Liang Wu ; Mother, Shirley Zhu ; Daughter, Casey Wu; Son, William; Pedestrian, Jennifer Lung.
Crew: Director of Photography, Alexander Brown; Gaffer, Cris Moris; Grip, Cameron Gordon; Make-Up and Hair, Randi Peters; Craft Services, Mia Chan.
Graphics: Ming Lo, Diego Taracena
The Project. This is the second of the Caruso series (see The Shops at Santa Anita 1), part of their campaign to encourage Arcadia residents to vote for approval of their mall project. The goal of this commercial was to show how Caruso is different from other mall developers. Caruso creates “town centers”, so that shopping becomes a family experience rather than a straightforward shopping trip. And it’s true, whenever I’m at The Grove, there are families, babies in carriages, and couples holding hands.
The Creative Challenge. Given the client’s goals, I wanted the commercial to take the audience on a journey from the “outside” world into the “Caruso” experience. At the same time, I had to fulfill the mechanical task of showing specific things – dining, shopping, the fountain, name brand stores, and so forth. To do this, I started with slow motion opening shots (all done in HDV on the Panasonic HVX-200, by the way) that build into very fast-paced shots of the busy family. Tell you a secret, I learned this from John Woo, who uses slow motion to build anticipation of an event. Then he quickly switches to fast-paced (often undercranked) action shots. So call this commercial “John Woo, extra light”.
Execution Challenges. Anyone who has worked with me knows that I spend a lot more time worrying about the execution than the concept. There’s always severals ways to shoot or edit a concept, so you often have “backup” if one idea doesn’t work. When execution fails, the entire project fails. This project had its own unique challenges.
– Logistics. This project was one huge exercise in logistics. We had to know our exact sequence of shots, and how long they would take, because we only had each location (such as the restaurant, the valet, and the fountain) for limited periods of time. We had to shoot on a weekend, so by 1pm, the Grove was overrun with people. Luckily, Caruso management was fantastic, and not only did they facilitate working with all the departments, but they also provided security to manage traffic flow. We shot the family walking with shopping bags at 2:30 pm, and had to clear about 50 feet to do the shot. Next time you’re at a mall, imagine clearing 50 feet of constant traffic.
– Casting. It never fails, I’m always worried about casting. This time, my friend Liang’s daughter, Casey, was interested in playing the daughter, so I said, “Liang, does the rest of your family want to be in it too?” Liang and Shirley have another child, too young to last through a day of shooting, so I brought in William, who you’ll see on Channel 18 often. Luckily, William’s mom, Connie came along, and took care of Liang and Shirley’s baby whenever they were shooting.
– Weather and Lighting. Weather is always an issue, because it affects light. This time, we were outdoors, and had to know the direction of the sun, or when it would come around a building. Also, we often used mirrors to reflect sunlight onto a scene. This was actually hardest on the family, because they had to look in the direction of the mirrors and making them squint. So I was always running to them and saying, “I know you’re squinting, but smile while you squint!” (Yes, that’s my added value as a director).
– Security. As producer, security is always an issue, and not fun. Having expensive equipment with lots of people around and lots of other things to worry about is a sure fire formula for problems. We were fortunate that day, but experience has already taught me it isn’t always so.
The Team. I was quite happy with how this commercial turned out. Again, I have to thank my producer, Mia Chan, who stayed on top of what could be a logistical nightmare; my cast, who are not professional actors and suffered through a day of often repetitious work; my DP, Alexander Brown, who took the time to scout the location and walk through shot concepts; the crew, gaffer Cris Moris and grip Cameron Gordon; and Randi Peters, who not only did make-up but sat and watched the equipment for most of the day. Yes, we eventually let her go to the bathroom. And of course, thanks for the Caruso team for all their effort and support.