As the lights in Deutsch New York’s offices came back on Nov. 6—a week after Hurricane Sandy had rendered most of lower Manhattan without power—Donny Deutsch got a call from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. Would Deutsch’s agency help create a campaign to raise money and manpower to help victims of the storm rebuild their homes?
Five days later, the agency began the first day of filming for a series of spots shot by photographer Danny Clinch and featuring a who’s who list of celebrities associated with New York. With the help of Tribeca Enterprises co-founder Jane Rosenthal—who is also on the board of the Empire State Relief Fund, the Cuomo-backed charity organization spearheading the campaign—Deutsch rounded up 25 big names including Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Russel Simmons, Steve Buscemi, Julianna Margulies, Whoopi Goldberg, Michael J. Fox, Matthew Broderick, Gabourey Sidibe, Brooke Shields, Edie Falco, Jason Sudeikis and Ed Burns.
"The Empire State Relief Fund is dedicated to helping New Yorkers rebuild their lives for the long-term, bridging the gap between what the government and private insurance can do," said Cuomo in a statement. To date, the organization has raised some $17 million in commitments.
"I cannot thank all of them enough for being so generous with their time and talents," Cuomo said in regard to the celebrity volunteers. "With their help we will make sure that our state’s residents can continue to call New York home."
The team spent two 12-hour days on set, said Deutsch New York CEO Val DiFebo. Since Nov. 22, a set of three short scripted spots have been running on media donated by broadcast and cable outlets, as well as pro bono online placements from companies like Time Inc., Meredith and eBay. But the agency also shot hours of off-the-cuff footage featuring the celebrities' answers to basic questions like "What does it mean to be a New Yorker?" and "Why do you think it's important for people to help?"
One three-minute cut based on that ad-libbed footage, which has not yet been aired, is posted below.
"This campaign and this fundraising is not just about now and the next six weeks," said Deutsch New York CEO Val DiFebo. "We see this being a year-long effort to really keep the storm and relief of the storm top of mind."
That means the film that ended up on the cutting room floor may still find its way into future ads, alongside film from future shoots. "We see being able to use this footage for a whole year and adding to it with other [celebrities] who said 'We really want to do this; we're just not in town.'"