Behind the Scenes for Mt. Pleasant
By: 1st Prize Winner, Hugh Brownstone
Our Mt. Pleasant video began with a change of heart: while we loved coming up with concepts for the Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter campaign and were excited that one of our concepts won, we hadn’t intended to go beyond that point. As a very small company with many other plates spinning, our thought was that we didn’t have room for pro bono work at that moment.
Yet we simply changed our minds at the last minute. We decided that we wanted the experience of moving through all of the phases of a production under tight deadlines, and figured we’d learn a great deal in a very short timeframe while promoting a worthy cause.
We took the storyboarding process that we’d applied in the NAPA campaign to plan out the shoot for a renegade concept we felt we could actually produce. We loved our Speed Dating concept, but we knew that it would simply require more planning, permission, time, equipment, staff, and budget than were available to us. The concept that we ran with — Pet Concierge — began with our fond memories of the movie THE PARENT TRAP. This quickly morphed into an homage to the Eloise books and was one that we’d brainstormed during the concept phase but forgot to submit!
Claudia and I batted ideas around script ideas like we always do, and it wasn’t long before we had our script — and were off and running.
But we then faced multiple, simultaneous challenges:
- What hotel would let us bring in a dog, take over their lobby — and do so on such short notice?
- Where are we find the right dog?
- Where were we going to get the actors?
- Who could help us with the actual shoot?
- How would we shoot the opening sequence when it called for — but we didn’t have access to — a stabilizer?
- And how were we going to mic this when we only had one wireless lav set?
We were immediately fortunate that a dear friend of ours and filmmaker and photographer in his own right, Tom Hartmann, jumped at the opportunity to pitch in as our sound and lighting guy. He says he’s not a gearhead, but he’s in major denial — luckily for us!
The very next thing we did was contact a really beautiful hotel, The Hotel Monaco, in Philly. We’ve stayed in a number of Kimpton hotels and know they’re really stylish; staffed with really nice people; and are pet-friendly.
And we’d scouted it earlier for another project.
Yet they turned us down — nicely. After all, we were asking them to make this happen on very short notice, on one of the busiest weekends of the year — Memorial Day! They loved the idea and wanted to help, but they just couldn’t accommodate us.
And we hadn’t even found a dog or acting talent.
We thought “OK, we tried. But it really IS too much work; we don’t have any of the other pieces; so that’s that — let’s call it a day and plan on going to the beach.”
We were walking our own dog later that same day (Sophie is way too big and…frenetic, shall we say?) when we bumped into a neighbor and we thought “wait, a minute, THEY have the PERFECT dog.” By that night, we’d firmed it up with Eileen Provost: she’d make her mini-Doberman mix, Bella, available for the shoot.
Now we reversed ourselves again. We reached out to a number of other local hotels, but they all — to varying degrees — had the same response: great cause, but not practical on such short notice at such a busy time of year.
Once again, we thought, “OK, we really tried, but it’s just not happening — and we don’t have the actors yet anyway.”
And again, but…
That’s when we got an email from a friend of a friend — a great guy named Steve — saying he’d be happy to play the role of concierge and oh, by the way, he had a daughter if we were still looking for a young girl.
OK, now we HAD to find a way to make this work.
We thought about the very reasonable objections the hotels couldn’t overcome, most especially inconveniencing guests as they were checking in or checking out.
And that’s when it hit us: what if we filmed at the hotel when the guests weren’t IN the lobby?
Like, say, 5:30 AM?
We went back to our first choice, the Hotel Monaco. Kristin Huxta, their area public relations manager, was fantastic — and with our new proposal, was able to get us to “yes.”
We were in! IF we could get Steve and his daughter Audrey — and Eileen with her Bella — at the hotel by, yep, 5:30AM.
The rest, as you now know, is history. Everyone was absolutely wonderful and eagerly contributed to the Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter mission (Eileen actually came in the night before so that Bella would be well-rested and ready for her close-up). Steve and Audrey were troopers. And we wouldn’t have gotten the shots without Tom’s lighting (we’ve cut over to all LED’s now).
Finally, with all that, we were still packed up and out by 8:00AM!!
We learned so much in the process — and felt so good doing it — we’d do it again.
NOTE: The two people you don’t see in these photos who were instrumental in making the spot are Hugh’s partner Claudia Davis - who among many other things took these photos - and Kristin Huxta of the Hotel Monaco for pulling out the stops to make filming there possible.