The gorilla in question is the shoot we’ve been planning for two months on behalf of Nova Scotia Business Inc.
NSBI has been searching for a creative way to get the message to video game developers that this province is a good place to set up shop. Benefits like the 25% digital tax credit and the low cost of living in Halifax make working here easier for game developers. There just isn’t enough knowledge about Nova Scotia out there.
We know that to get the word out, we have to make the message smart, fun and not too earnest. We have to show the best side of Nova Scotia: the people, the warm summers, the beautiful fall colours. We have to let our province shine.
Unfortunately, we’re producing this promo video in the middle of winter. Winter’s great, but just not the BEST season here….
The concept behind our shoot is a walk-and-talk by a young female host (see blogpost on one-take-wonders: our inspiration). We landed Kristin Slaney for this role, and she’s perfect. As our Gamer Girl, she’s an industry insider who gives a primer on Nova Scotia as she walks. Along the way, the camera reveals human tableaus, giving a visual punchline to her words. When she talks about the stress of the game development industry, there’s the man on the massage table. When she talks about the difficulty of keeping all the priorities in the air, there’s our juggler. We want the audience to engage by wondering: what’s coming next?
We line up a cast of 18 extras to help us bring the background to life, using dozens of props — everything from surfboards and wetsuits to a set of stocks and a massage table (and yes, even a gorilla suit). All of our visual gags have to come on camera at just the right moment.
If we pull this off, it will look like nothing we’ve ever done before. But to make matters harder, we and the client really want to do all this outdoors.
We watched the weather forecast like the stock market. In December, we thought we had our weather window - a day when it was sunny, warm, and still. Everything was ready to go. Then, the day before the shoot, the snow began. Five centimetres piled up, and it wouldn’t stop. The snow crushed the grass, the remaining leaves, and our spirits. We had to call everything off. We really didn’t want it to look like winter. We had a heart-to-heart with the client, talking about shooting indoors, even though that was not the ideal.
In January, we knew our chances of an ideal “pseudo-summer” day were even slimmer. Temperatures were dropping lower than a Manitoban winter, we were getting snow storm after snow storm, and consistently cold temperatures. Unusual for a Nova Scotia winter…
But on Monday this week, we said “Wednesday looks like sun! Let’s go for it.” We lined up the extras, the locations, the props, the crew..and once AGAIN snow started falling the day before, and Mathew took to staring out the window and cursing beneath his breath. But, come hell or high snow, we said we’d go ahead with the shoot.
The morning dawned sunny, but cold and snow covered! Instead of despairing over the previous night’s snowfall, Nic rushed us four janitors’ push-brooms, and we got a sweeper crew going so that we could clean all the snow off the wharf location!
We shot the entire film in two locations in Dartmouth. We decided we’d shoot half the day inside the pedway at Alderney Landing while the wharf was swept free of snow and left to dry in the winter sun, but the other half was shot outside on the wharf, with the Halifax skyline as our backdrop. I was thrilled to see it all come together. Though the snow was gone, our major hurdle was the wintry temperatures when we moved outdoors. Our cast was fantastic, even when they had to remove their coats in -2 degree temperatures. They kept smiling like troopers through their chattering teeth (special mention to Dave Fichaud, who volunteered to remove his shirt to be our guy on the massage table. We threw sleeping bags over him in between takes). Joshua Young enjoyed his PA/AD role, announcing before each take: “take off your clothes everyone…”
Somehow, we managed to make it look like a summer’s day. The video clip here gives you a behind the scenes glimpse of it all.
At some point during the shoot day, some joker took my script and wrote on it, “You don’t mess with the 800 pound gorilla!”
I found it later and laughed: Oh yes, we do - and we win…
Blog post by Shaina Luck. Photos and video by Joshua Young. Quick assembly editing by Oren Hercz.