CCK - How We Tore Down the Walls

The Center for Courageous Kids (or CCK for short) helps children with permanent medical disabilities (and other special needs) enjoy the parts of life many of us take for granted. Where some people see barricades in front of these children, CCK breaks them down with sheer kindness. So when we started our newest collaboration with them, we really liked the idea of focusing on that particular aspect of what they do for kids. In the pre-production phase of writing the script, we circled around different variations of showing real kids from the camp moving past barriers and having the time of their life at CCK. The one we ended up going with was a physical metaphor for what the camp is doing - tearing down walls. We loved this idea but at a certain point, we had to ask ourselves - “How in the world are we going to film this?”

As the script developed, we settled on the idea of Scout (our lead actress) going to a doctor’s appointment, only to be surprised by the walls around her falling down and finding herself in the middle of the camp. Right away, we knew we would have to somehow build a convincing set in the middle of the camp. Part of making this sequence real and effective is through having practical effects. Having walls falling down through the creation of CGI would have been expensive, time-consuming and at the end of the day would not have looked as good. We found the right props to decorate the set in order to sell the “medical-ness” of the scene - because they came from CCK’s medical building! Since CCK has a fully equipped, state-of-the-art medical facility on campus, we were able to make the set as authentic as possible.

For the walls, we were able to find a great set decorator named Adam Robert Davis to help build them (along with assistance from the amazing Laryssa Emeigh). But that was only one part of the challenge; since we used actual campers from CCK for the commercial, time was limited as to how many shots we could get since the kids would need to get back to normal camp activities soon. We couldn’t spend ALL of our time doing this one shot with the walls falling down because we needed them for other shots. On top of that, the kids were set to throw colored powder all over each other right after the walls came down and there was absolutely no time for everyone to change into new white shirts, clean up and go back to their positions.

We were going to have to get this in one take.

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A few practice runs for filmed as a way to give us some wiggle room when it came to editing the commercial later on, but the walls didn’t come all the way down for those. At a certain point, you just have to do it! We had a person on each side hold a rope attached to the top of the wall. At our mark, all 4 sides had to come down at the same time and at the same speed, followed immediately by the kids playing with colored powder.

It worked like a charm!

With such a big practical setup, we knew we would have to capture it from as many angles as possible. But to show the scope of the effect, we decided to use an 18-foot Jimmy Jib operated by Nick Nichols, our resident jib expert. Aerial drone footage was also shot high above the set on a DJI Mavic (captured by Joel McAfee), although this footage was used for a Behind-the-Scenes video.

After we checked the shots of the walls falling down, we all breathed a sigh of relief. In filmmaking, you try to plan for as much as you can but you never truly know 100% how things will go once you arrive on set - even if you’re going to tear down the walls of a set! Sometimes things pop up that you would have never imagined, things that derail your shoot and cause you to rethink the entire day. Luckily, this crazy shot happened smoothly to the delight of everyone involved. And the campers did a great job of acting happy and joyous...but we think they were actually enjoying themselves since CCK is REALLY the "Happiest Place On Earth" after all.

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We would like to thank everyone who helped out with this crazy shot and with the commercial as a whole. We would also like to thank the Center for Courageous Kids for collaborating with us on this very special promotional film that highlights how truly unique this camp is. They’re doing great things for children and their parents; we highly encourage you to visit them at https://www.courageouskids.org to keep up with their work. And if you REALLY want to help out, please consider donating your time or money to the camp so they can continue to give children the experience they deserve.

If you haven't seen our commercial for them called "Walls", be sure to watch it here: https://vimeo.com/258153934

AdvertisingGabe McCauley