Making Commercials: Fluid — Dead Man Walking And Chewing Gum
In battle, a medieval soldier refuses to die before the taste of his Mentos chewing gum wears out.
By Michael Fickes
With 14 arrows stuck in his chest, a medieval soldier should be lying dead on his back — or at least screaming in pain. Instead, he is standing and happily chewing gum on a battlefield with a castle in the background. So begins a 30-second Mentos chewing gum commercial entitled Never Surrender.
A knight and his squire approach the soldier. The knight demands that the soldier remove his gum, fall down and die. “I simply cannot,” says the smiling soldier in a funny send up of an English accent. “The freshness continues. I will not surrender before my gum does.” The knight motions to his squire to get the gum out of the soldier’s mouth and screams in frustration: “You are ruining the integrity of battle!” The soldier eyes the squire sharply and backs him off.
See the spot here: http://www. youtube.com/watch?v=QIiY2AM9Ns8
“It’s a take on Monty Python,” says Editor John Piccolo of Fluid, the editorial studio that handled the project. With offices in New York and Los Angeles, Fluid specializes in post-production services including editorial, original music, sound design, audio mixing, color correction, design, animation, and finishing.
“The production company shot the commercial on location in a tiny village in the south of France where they found a castle surrounded by rolling hills that made a good battlefield,” continues Piccolo. “They shot the digital footage with an ARRI Alexa.”
The director and DP created a battle scene at the location. There are horses and knights in the background, and smoke periodically billows through the frame.
Piccolo handled the offline cut with an Avid 6 and finished with Flame. Nice Shoes took care of the color correction.
“The chief editing challenge was to make sure the comedy starred, while covering all three actors and the location,” says Piccolo. “I worked hard to balance the screen time among the three actors and the location.
“The piece was well cast. The soldier with all the arrows in him is interesting and funny. Plus, he is chewing Mentos gum — the product — so I had to show him chewing. The knight has a couple of funny lines that I had to get in. The squire mugged the camera with funny looks that I wanted to include, too.
The rough cut, of course, timed out at 35 seconds. “Trimming comedy back is always difficult,” chuckles Piccolo. “You need to allow extra beats so that the funny lines and looks will play out. You can’t trim those; you have to find other places.”
Needless to say, Piccolo, who also has cut spots for Crest, Dell, Sony, the New York Lottery and Red Stripe, found a way to prune the piece back to 30 seconds.
Piccolo also notes that the sound design is important to the spot. It is pushed down, far under the dialog, but we can hear villagers talking and sometimes yelling. At one point, a horse, apparently nearby, whinnies. There are clanking sounds as armored soldiers with swords wander the battlefield.
As the commercial ends, a product shot comes up and a voice over says: “Mentos gum. Long last the fresh.”
“Long last the fresh” instead of “Long live the fresh” is a nice touch.
After the product shot, Piccolo cuts back to the soldier on the battlefield. Night has fallen, but the lively dead man continues chewing. The knight and squire walk into the frame — to see if the soldier has toppled over yet. The soldier points to his smiling, chewing mouth and says: “Still fresh.”
The frustrated duo leaves in a huff.
Sound design closes it out: An owl hoots, calling attention to the darkness. Under the owl, we hear the riveting of a frog. (ed: some discussion in grammar circles if this should be ribbiting not riveting)
Piccolo: “For some reason, I’ve wanted to get a frog sound into a commercial. This was my opportunity.”