The story of making the EPA’s first recruitment video in history is almost as thrilling as the video itself!
It all started over a decade ago. It was a pipe-dream then; a longshot wish to inspire young people to join an organization that rarely promoted itself. The script was written and rewritten, forgotten, and eventually rediscovered at a time when the Environmental Protection Agency was in greatest need. And so it was that we were brought in to create the first ever recruitment video for the EPA.
From the moment we received this script, we knew we had something special. The locations; the message; the dreams of VFX and incredible sound design; and doing it for the EPA, whose singular mission we can all get behind, had us really excited. We knew that, in doing this project right, we’d be inspiring young people to do everything they can to preserve the planet. So we embarked on a three-week shooting odyssey that spanned 2 states and seemingly countless locations.
The first stop of our journey was in Mobile, AL. Our clients at the EPA liaised with the US Coast Guard and got us access to not one, but two Jayhawk helicopters, AND an HC-144 Ocean Sentry plane for our shoot. This wasn’t the first time shooting from helicopters for some members of our crew, but for others? It was an adventure unto itself. The honor of shooting out the back of the HC-144 with its ramp down went to Camera Op Wilson Drake, who captured some of the most stunning footage with a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 6K, and only got a little sick – something we’re told happens to even the most experienced airmen!
While we were in the air, however, Wilson wasn’t the only one shooting.
In the bird with our principal talent, we had our fearless director, Emily Payton, and Camera Op Haley Fusia with our DJI 4D camera, aka “The Chicken.” In the 2nd helicopter, Camera Op Trey Gregory captured footage with a Blackmagic 6K of his own, with 1st AD Cameron Shaw riding along. Using the built-in coms, both our helicopter teams could coordinate with the pilots to ensure their positioning was optimal for the shots we needed.
Last but certainly not least, DP Sebastian Chamaca was stationed on the beach with another contingent of the team who were overseeing the arrival of EPA and USCG personnel, who would act as talent for the shoot. Seb was shooting with a Canon EF 100-400mm zoom lens mounted to our RED Komodo, working with the Coast Guard team on the ground to make sure each pass the aircraft made was more cinematic than the last.
Our 2nd shoot day was closer to home, but no less crazy. We shot on and around Cherry Hollow Farm in Chattahoochee Hills, outside Atlanta. Alesso Graci took the reins as DP as we corralled 20+ Coast Guard and EPA personnel to stage toxic waste hazards, oil spills, and tire fires (with the help of the Chattahoochee Hills Fire Department).
Finally, our third day of shooting saw us returning to the comfortable confines of our studio here at ECG Productions, where our Art Team, led by Production Designer Enoc Guzman, had constructed an early-2000s living room complete with a period-appropriate television and a removable wall. That third day also saw VFX Supervisor Seth Johnson on-site to help us calibrate our high-powered projectors for our surreal disaster imagery, and Gaffer Collin Ingram and his team orchestrating a smoothly changing lighting scheme from night through to bright morning.
The task of weaving all these narratives together in the editing room fell to Cameron Shaw who, with the help of the team, managed to keep all of it to a tight 2 minutes, 30 seconds. It’s an epic, well-paced piece that has made all of us proud. From Cassie Corlett’s storyboarding all the way through Alesso’s stunning color grade and Audio Engineer Matt Harriott’s stellar sound design and mix, almost our entire team got to take part in the making of this video. That makes its success even more special.
This project is also a perfect example of our creative and directorial approach working in concert with our client’s vision to create something truly extraordinary. It’s no hyperbole to say we’ve heard tales of EPA employees jumping for joy and shedding tears upon first watch. Everyone who watches has reacted strongly, and we hope that carries over to the next generation of kids looking for their calling.