Monday, October 10, 2011
Here, for my money, is the best commercial currently on TV: the operatic bus ad for J. G. Wentworth. I find myself singing it on the street, and I musn't be the only one because YouTube is full of parodies of it. I wish I knew the story behind the making of it. Evidently a lot of trial and error was involved, and I document some of that here.
This is a one minute film that does everything right. Take the music: it's always catchy and to the point, and it's full of opportunities for good soloists to shine. Here a sympathetic director cast a great tenor and a great baritone, and rightly attempted to give them the star treatment.
Incidentally, note that the singers address the viewer most of the time, and not the girl who had the problem. That sounds illogical but, as you can see, it was the right thing to do. And I love the way the baritone in the back nudges his way up to the foreground. That's classic stagecraft. You can tell the director had stage experience, or at least hired a consultant who did.
Here's (above) an earlier version of the same commercial, probably by a different director. What a contrast! It opens on a boring, horizontal long shot where we can't see the performers' faces. When they do go in for a closeup it's on the female lead, who lacks star quality. The male lead is a little better but there's no attempt to make him a star. A great song is getting a frighteningly generic treatment here.
Compare that to the dynamic one-point perspective on the bus (the top video). where we could see the main actor clearly, and where the two primary singers were handled like stars. I love the way the bus version puts a lot of emphasis on the chorus. I LOVE choruses, and Baroque music, which this is, is full of them.
I wish I knew where this film (above) fit in the chronology. Is this earlier or later than the others? It certainly makes a lot of mistakes. The change of venue from shower to basement, to auto accident, to garage, to nursery is jarring. The guy in the shower has some star quality, but he's not appealing in this role. The only appealing actor in the film is the white-haired mechanic, and he's not in it very long.
I have to admit that if I had directed this version I might have been tempted to change venues just like they did here. Man, that would have been an expensive mistake! We're lucky to have three versions of this film so we can learn without wasting money.
Here's (above) an early Wentworth commercial, which was done on the cheap. It's not a bad idea if you only have a few bucks to spend, but it doesn't work as good as it should because none of the actors has star quality. They're just generic people.
Regarding the first three videos: I love the way Wentworth kept at the problem til they got it right. They knew they had a first-rate song, and were willing to persevere through a lot of trial and error til they got what they wanted.
Posted by Eddie Fitzgerald at 12:49 AM