Since The Escape Pod is ten years old, and since I hate doing top ten lists, here are seven ideas that we have created that I absolutely love for various reasons. We’ve had a lot of fun over the years and I think it shows in our work.
They are in no particular order. I just like em. Hope you do too.
Thanks to everyone who helped make these so good.
SCHOOLED 2. This was the second back-to-school themed TV show we created for OfficeMax. The first one ran on ABC Family. This ran on the CW network. This was easily the toughest, riskiest execution I have ever done. Almost a million dollars of production money down the drain if even one of the kids’ parents had let them in on the gag. I remember hiding in the A/V booth of the school auditorium, nearly fainting with this realization as the children filed into the hall. The premise of the show was that we pranked the music department of a high school in New Jersey. The kids were brought back from their summer vacation and told that the state had judged them the least musical high school in the state and that they were in danger of losing state funding UNLESS they could prove their musical worth. They had to do this by learning, and then performing, the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey in just four hours. The whole thing worked like clockwork. We got really lucky here. We also learned how to do big hidden camera pranks. Which made doing smaller hidden camera pranks easy by comparison. Shooting this forty minute long TV show also put shooting regular old thirty second TV commercials into proper perspective. They are a walk in the park by comparison.
OFFICEMAX PENNY PRANKS. Going around New York City in the height of summer trying to pay for things with pennies was a kind of suicidal idea in retrospect. This was seriously nerve-racking to shoot. We really found a star in our our red-haired penny payer Matt McCarthy. He’s now a regular on Conan O’Brien’s show. He just had no fear and could improv well under pressure. I was actually sitting at the bar having a beer as this restaurant prank went down. My nerves got the better of me. RIP Corey Berg, the wunderkind line producer who saved the day on this one. A very cool guy in every sense of the word.
LUNCHABLES ALIEN FIELD TRIP. Once again we were pranking the kids here. I remember we spent ages designing the alien suits. “What does a space alien really look like?” is a question that you can never really resolve. The great thing about this one was finding out exactly how kids would react to the presence of a real actual alien from space. The questions they asked the aliens were hilarious and their reactions were priceless.
EGO POWER PLUS LAWNMOWER. Imagine my delight at the prospect of creating advertising for something that actually has something to say and actually is demonstrably better than all its competition. This was my chance to finally create a hard-selling ad for a product that deserved to be sold really hard. No funny business necessary. Our idea here was to not do what our gas-powered competitors did in their ads – have some goofy guy doing something vaguely funny in a backyard. EGO Power Plus is a cool tech brand with a lot to say for itself. And it’s all good. So we set our campaign in a lab environment and stole a little from high-tech razor commercials. We wanted viewers to ‘feel’ our technology. And it worked. I love watching the blade cut grass in slo-mo. You can feel the power.
WHEAT THINS. _ _EAT THI _ S. The fact that nobody had noticed the fact that the brand name WHEAT THINS organically contains the phrase EAT THIS blew our collective minds. Sometimes it doesn’t have be such a struggle kids. Just stare at the pack for a few hours! By the way, it was I who pulled the trigger that caused the gigantic 750 pound concrete letter N to crush the valet stand. A childhood dream realized.
Toys R Us. TRU advertising had become rather tatty and price-focused. “Where was the joy of toys and childhood?” we asked ourselves. We wanted to create a big idea that also served as an experience of the store. We weren’t selling toys, we were selling you on driving to your nearest Toys R Us. Big difference. This one was huge fun to create. Once again we were gently pranking children. They say the darnedest things and they also give you the purest reactions. I dare you not to choke back a tear when the little girl describes how a princess acts.
Claussen Pickles. At this point, the discerning reader will have noticed a pattern. The Escape Pod loves integrating reality into our films. I personally love it because it adds a frisson of excitement to the production process and the finished product. You don’t know your casting until they literally show up on the day. And you have to wing it and go with the flow. Claussen pickles taste better because they are kept refrigerated. Not boiled in formaldehyde like the limp specimens found floating in jars on the shelves in the center of the supermarket. So we pointed this out with the help of a former English cavalry officer who was mad as a hatter. Again, much fun was had doing this one. We actually got the director of legendary UK prank show ‘Trigger Happy’ to do this one.