These images are for the third ad of the GoodStart Early Learning campaign that I shot with the ad agency The Monkeys. To continue with the concept used in the first images that I shot for this campaignwhere the tagline is physically integrated into the image we wanted to create life-size letters that the children could interact with. When I first saw the concept drawings for this ad I was really excited with the idea of the kids running around and interacting with the letters in the shoot. I had a pretty specific idea in my head as to how big the letters should be and how they should look so that they were the right size for the kids to play with and that their scale would read properly when set at different distances when placed in the large room. I jumped in and offered to build the letters myself. I had studied glass sculpture in college and one of the things that was a constant part of the creative process in sculpture was the act of building a maquette out of cardboard, wax or other materials before one went on to attempt to build the final object. This helps the sculptor visualize how the final product will be assembled, how much material will be needed and what obstacles one might come across in the process. I spent a lot of time gluing cardboard together in college although it didn't really help all that much since I broke just about everything I made... But I was pretty sure I had the chops to make the letters for this shoot in the way that I wanted them to look.
In some cases I had to distort the letters so that they would look normal in the lens width and perspective that I was planning to use in the shoot.
At first, spending long days listening to music while working with cardboard and hot glue was sort of fun and reminded me of college years. One of the interesting challenges in this project was being reminded that I now live in a fairly small country (Australia with 20m people) and it's not like where I used to live (the U.S.) where you can get just about anything and get it cheaply. While back in the States I could go to just about any packing supply shop and easily buy or find cardboard with a white side to it, white cardboard just doesn't seem to exist in Australia. I was quoted by some company that it would cost me several hundred dollars for them to print the color white onto the amount of cardboard I would need and it would have to be rush shipped up from Melbourne at no small expense and it would probably arrive late. I ended up having to paint the letters myself and I was surprised at just how much paint a thirsty piece of cardboard can soak up before it looks like solid white and ended up painting 4-5 coats for each letter. After getting about halfway through the letters (and about a dozen hot glue burns on my fingers) it came flooding back to me how tedious this kind of studio work was.
At the shoot the kids had a great time playing with the letters and drawing all over them. Hiding in the rocket ship seemed to be a pretty big deal and a pecking order was immediately established as to who could spend the most time in the ship. It was only when they realized that they could kick and throw the letters that the shoot started to get a little hectic as the client, the agency and myself realized that the letters could get destroyed before we finished shooting. I had to jump in and run around, playing with the kids and distracting them from destroying the letters while I shouted instructions for when the art director should shoot, as he had become the camera operator about mid-way into the day so that I could manage the craziness.
All in all, it was probably a bad idea on my part to decide to build these letters the week between Christmas and New Years- which happened to be the week my baby daughter was due to be born. Having a baby is stressful enough but having to make gigantic cardboard letters while wondering if my baby is coming every time my phone rings is a bit more stress than anyone needs in a decade.
I finished the letters and we had the shoot 3 days after my daughter was born. It seemed like the minute the shoot was over and I was back at home I slept for what seemed like days. It might be a while before I volunteer myself for prop making but all in all I was pretty happy with the experience and end result.