This was only the first ever TV ad i did. I was lucky. I was working on Bud Light. They had huge budgets back then. If a TV spot came in for under half a million dollars that was considered being prudent and thrifty. and this was back in 1995. real money.
So i naturally went for big executional ideas. the money was there. I knew it. let’s take advantage of that.
This spot was shot over two nights at a railway museum in Sacramento CA. I remember driving up to the set and seeing these huge lights miles away from our railway station. I later learned these were movie “moonlight” creating superlights. first and last time i ever saw those. this was a big production.
any film shoot is a bit intimidating first time round. but this was like a real movie. it it starred a steam train. our idea was Dr. Zhivago meets the Road Runner basically.
it was a night shoot. and it was going really well. the director knew i was a newbie. we got along well but i’d never raised an objection to anything. i got my casting. that was huge. for a newbie!
and then, at about 4 in the morning as we chugged the steam train back for the millionth time, i looked into the monitor and saw that the director had changed my line “AT LEAST GIVE ME THE BUD LIGHT!” to “GIVE ME THE BUD LIGHT!”. i wasn’t having this. I spoke up.
I told him that “GIVE ME THE BUD LIGHT!” made the guy look like an alcoholic asshole. and that “AT LEAST GIVE ME THE BUD LIGHT!” made him into a loveable lover.
This erupted into a major battle. he claimed my line was too long for TV comprehension. and it was long but it was also as short as it could be. and totally readable in the time.
The director tried to intimidate me by shouting disagreement passionately at me. thinking he would bowl me over. he even promised that this would entail a further night of shooting at my expense. somehow. he ground things to a halt and tried to make me feel bad.
but he didn’t know that i had learned my craft from the biggest and smartest screamer in the ad game. i wasn’t afraid of someone shouting at me. not him shouting especially. who the fuck was he?
So i stood my ground. And i vividly remember looking around to my fellow agency types to back me up. only to find that they had literally vanished. scurried away. it was hilarious.
i was alone on the steaming train platform at four in the morning arguing with a then bigtime commercial director. I got my way though and i was right. and i knew it was right.
And i stood alone on the train platform for what seemed like an age as what i wanted got shot by the director i’d hired.
Then finally, after what seemed like another age, the gay wardrobe guy sidled up next to me and whispered “You were so fuckin’ right there! Good for you!”.