IDEA: Blake Griffin is a spectacular athlete. Oddly enough, he's also a pretty good actor. "Some friends of mine directed a Kia spot he did," said Tim Ketchersid, a director at Gifted Youth, Funny or Die's commercialproduction company. "He had a paragraph of dialogue, walking backwards, one shot, and he did it perfectly every time. I've never worked with an actor that could do that." So Ketchersid was thrilled to direct the Los Angeles Clippers star in new ads for GameFly, the video-game rental service. GameFly is the dominant player in the space, so Gifted Youth—working directly with the client, with no agency involved—was able to create broadly comic spots (two :30s and two :60s) without a hard sell. Seen in a gray suit in a wood-paneled office, Griffin hosts mock educational videos on "How to Be Amazing," introducing examples of activities that are and aren't just that. At the end of each spot, Griffin himself gets more amazing by slowly taking off in a nitrogen-propelled jetpack.
COPYWRITING: The creatives would have only a few hours with Griffin, so they had to find a way to reuse some of his dialogue across multiple spots. "The idea was that he could host this sort of faux Saturday-afternoon Disney special," said Ketchersid. Each ad opens with Griffin sitting regally on the edge of his desk. "Oh, hello," he says. "Do you want to be amazing? I hope so. Here's some tips to get you started." The ads then cut to vignettes showing gamers—two young men in one pair of ads, one teenage boy in another pair—upgrading their everyday activities to be more amazing. Don't ride with your buddy on a moped; tear down the road in a car with flame decals! Don't be an ordinary falconer; soar on the back of a giant eagle! "To GameFly's credit, pretty much any weird idea we threw at them, they were willing to go with us on," said Ketchersid. The final vignette in each ad shows something quite unamazing—paying too much for game rentals at a video store. Griffin then explains how to get a "first-class ticket to amazing" through GameFly.com.
ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Ketchersid shot the ads in two days at Red Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles. The visual look is comically retro. "It's very midcentury," said Ketchersid. "Like those old Disney specials, it's sort of formal, it's overly staged, it's overly lit." For the vignettes, he used old backdrops from Hollywood movies. The painting behind the boy handling the eagle appeared in On Golden Pond. "We wanted all the stunts to be practical," Ketchersid added. "Obviously there's some visual effects in this thing. But we wanted it to feel organic and from a bygone era." Griffin's jetpack scene was shot without special effects—he was wire-rigged into the ceiling and raised upward as nitrogen blasted out beneath him.
TALENT: Griffin was on board, but Ketchersid had to cast the other actors. They all have a quirky look, but not too much so. "In my experience, there's always this process of trying to get the agency or client to go toward talent instead of look," he said. "I wanted guys who were a little goofier looking and could carry the comedic load. They wanted someone who was just better looking, a better face for the campaign. You try to find that middle road, and I think we did."
SOUND: Ketchersid wanted original music but used stock tracks because of time and budget constraints. Both the music and sound effects are oldtimey, in keeping with the retro theme.
MEDIA: Young-adult cable networks and online.
Campaign: "Be Amazing"
Production Company: Gifted Youth, LA
Director: Tim Ketchersid
DP: Christian Sprenger
Creative Director: Ryan McNeely
Executive Producer: Dal Wolf
Executive Producer: Josh Martin
Producer: Gina Kwon
Visual Effects & Design: Visual Creatures, LA
Artist/Partner: Ryan McNeely
Artist/Partner: John Cranston
Flame Artist: Gizmo Rivera
Compositor: Dustin Bowser
Producer: Anne Cuizon
Editorial & Post: Therapy Studios, LA
Editor: Kristin McCasey
Assistant Editor: Jake Shaver
Sound Designer: Kristin McCasey
Online: Omar Inguanzo
Mix: Lihi Orbach
EP/Partner: Joe DiSanto
Music Company: APM Music