BTS: Sabra

My first shoot after joining the fab team at Rodeo Production kicked off this July with a 15 second spot for Sabra hummus. This cheeky online video takes a jab at two unassuming rivals: chip dip and salsa. A punchy spin on a zen dipping moment shows just how much swagger puréed chickpeas actually have.

This job was teamwork at its finest. I love directing but also love being involved in each facet of production—from set design to food to post-production. A lot of work went into this shoot but it was so fun and totally worth it.

Anton Ratinsky and Jeff Collins, the creative director team at advertising agency Arrivals & Departures, had fun trying out some off-the-cuff lines during the voice over session. Turns out, the client loved them so much they decided to run with these two options vs. the approved script! But before we get into post-production, done by the great team at BLVD MTL (also a part of the Rodeo FX/Rodeo Production family), let’s delve first into the pre-pro.

Our Set: An abstract, geometric space was what the brief called for. Set designer, Nicole Billark, and I hashed out some ideas of how to incorporate the shapes and characteristics of both the Sabra container and our potato chip in the set design. Orange was our go-to colour, one that complimented both the product and the brand. In order to have some depth and avoid going too monotone with our set pieces, I created a colour palette incorporating various shades of orange, ranging from a turmeric yellow to burnt orange. Lighting will always skew colour on set so we needed to make sure we had options for our key panels to be painted in more than one colour.

Three pedestals in the foreground showcased the three hero flavours of Sabra hummus. Our backdrop consisted of five panels each adding a bit of personality: a grooved panel that was CNC’d to mimic the grooves of the Lay’s Wavy Potato Chip (our hero chip and choice of brand from the client); curved panels simulated the curved sticker on top of the Sabra packaging; and a circle pays homage to the actual shape of the hummus container.

The Chip: In order to have a sturdy enough chip to handle the hummus scoop, we recommended a heavier chip like a tortilla or pita chip. However, the client really wanted to position Sabra hummus as an everyday snacking option as opposed to a “healthy food” choice. By pairing hummus with potato chips, they could target men who may not be inclined to choose hummus as a pairing option for their favourite crunchy snack.

Lay’s Wavy Potato Chips had the desired shape and texture the client wanted, so we needed to find a solution for them not to break while scooping. After many failed attempts, the client inquired about the possibility of creating a fake chip. Turns out, this would become our best option though we were pretty skeptical about how real these fake chips would look (our backup plan was to have enough wavy chips on hand to sub in just in case things didn’t work out in camera). But to our delight, the local artist we hired created the most perfect looking wavy chips that could handle the scrutiny of a macro lens! Our hero “chip” lasted the entire shoot with zero issues.

The Hummus: Since we were shooting tight macro shots of each dip through the hummus, we wanted to have ample room to create those swerves and pull throughs. The best option was to transfer the hummus to half sheet pans. Since each tray required several containers, the client shipped nearly a hundred containers of the Classic Hummus, our hero hummus for dipping, along with dozens of the other two hero flavours (even though they’d never get opened) so we’d have options for the most perfect packaging. A second fridge had to be rented in order to keep all this hummus cold for shoot day! Our entire team was pretty stoked for the free hummus they scored once we wrapped. 😉 The remaining containers were donated to local food banks and shelters.

The surface of Sabra hummus has a distinct ring pattern (created by the factory machines that pipe hummus into each tub). In order to replicate that look, our food stylist + assistant used an offset spatula to create the grooves on the surface of each sheet pan.

The Hand Model: Our very patient hand model, Malcolm Omoruyi, was a champ on set, handling take after take of the chip carving through the Sabra hummus. Timing can get tricky especially with a probe lens staring at your hand! But Malcolm took direction and made tweaks throughout each take like a pro.

The Crew: This shoot was a success in large part to my awesome crew who showed up and delivered. Zach Koski, my Director of Photography, brought on a stellar team who knocked out killer lighting, beautiful camera movements and sharp tracking shots of each dipping take we conquered. It was a fun shoot and we knocked out each shot with low stress and finished on time. High-fives all around! Coey Kerr, Senior Producer @ Rodeo Production, brought all the magic and made this seamless shoot come to life. Huge thanks to her and the entire team for a successful shoot and happy clients!

Post-Production: Our team at BLVD MTL, helmed by VFX Producer Carolie Legault-Lanouette, handled the post work including casting for our voice over talent and the music for this spot. The creative team wanted a zen, almost meditative vibe paired with a chill, deep male voice. The options provided for both were fantastic and both the creative team and I were aligned with our recommendations from the start. Chimwemwe Miller (VO talent) performed wonderfully, giving the team nuanced takes which hit just the right delivery for both versions of this spot.

Editing and colour are two of my favourite parts of post simply because this is where the actual story comes together. Jamie Phong handled both through BLVD MTL and knocked it out of the park. Perfectly timed cuts and speed ramps take us through 15 seconds flawlessly, making you want to rewatch the spot over and over again.

So thrilled with how this spot turned out and the overall experience. Grateful to work with such amazing folks at Rodeo Production and beyond!

Client: Sabra Canada

Agency: Arrivals + Departures

Agency Producer: Brie Gowans

CD/Art Director: Anton Ratinsky

CD/Copywriter: Jeff Collins

Produced by & shot at RODEO PRODUCTION

Executive Producer: Vahid Tizhouch

Senior Producer: Coey Kerr

Production Coordinator: Kathleen Burgess

Director: Deepi Ahluwalia

DoP: Zachary Koski

1st AC: Adam Quinn

Gaffer: Igor Alves

Grip: Jack O’Brien

G&E Swing: David Grif

DIT: Jamie Phong

Food Stylist & Set Builder: Nicole Billark

Food & Set Stylist Assistant: Kay Pollock

Post-Production: BLVD MTL

VFX Producer: Carolie Legault-Lanouette

Producer/Audio Supervisor: Joannie Tremblay

Editor/Colourist: Jamie Phong

Sound Mixer: René-Pierre T. Guérin

Talent–Hand Model: Malcolm Omoruyi @ Dulcedo Management

Talent–VO: Chimwemwe Miller

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