Spot Paul vs. Tree


How to shoot a promotion spot on development topics for Young Modern Performers?




Cake base


1st step - What do we want to do? 

The beginning is to set up the core framework of the spot. This means, for us to decide what topic the clip should be about, what message we want to transmit, and what style the spot should be - comic, animated or real actors, etc. Also very important, is the question of where this spot should be displayed, because in cinemas there is sound, and a spot can be rather long. On the other hand, the number of viewers is limited. Whereas a public screen (like in a subway or at an intersection) has no sound, and the spots for these kind of screens are rather short, but the number of viewers is higher.

In this recipe we decided to go with a public screen. This, of course, has implications on the spot itself. It is short, with less than a minute of running time, and is a “silent movie”. We wanted real persons playing roles of YMPs as a target group.

So we put down this framework in a first short draft.


2nd step - Contacting film students

We now had to get in contact with some professionals for the realization of the film. Most film companies are very expensive, and beyond the small budget that we had. But there are other ways to get creative and professional people interested in your idea.

1. It is possible to contact film academies and find out who to turn to. Sometime the media academies have a blackboard that offers film jobs to students. This is where you can put your offer. Sometimes the media academies also have regular working groups for students that people from outside can turn to for presenting their film projects, and the students can then decide in these working groups what project they want to pursue.

2. Another easy option is to get hold of a creative film student or director is by searching for finished filmprojects via YouTube. At the end of film projects that are presented on YouTube there is often displayed the name and contact of the author. This is what we did when searching for a director who’s style was interesting to us.


3rd step – Develop the script for the film

We found that the experience of the film director enriched our ideas for the spot enormously. So it makes a lot of sense to have some creative brainstorming with the film producer in order to develop the story that you want to tell. The result of this brainstorming was a roughly sketched story.

In our case, the story we came up with is about a tree and a car driver who have some trouble together. A YMP named 'Paul' drives to work with his big limousine every morning. When stopping in the parking lot of his company, he parks his car on his personal parking space under a big tree and gets out of the car - it's a sunny day, he takes a deep breath, and smiles. He is dressed up in a suit, and ready to “conquer the business world”. Suddenly he gets a hard slap on the cheek by a limb of the tree. Really confused, he looks around and finds just a tree in front of him. The tree, however, does not move and looks completely innocent, as if saying, "what are you looking at? It was not me". Irritated, and doubting his own perception, he leaves for the office. We now see Paul in fast sequences on different days getting slaps on the cheek, again and again. He tries different strategies of avoiding it, like holding his arms to the right side for protection but then getting a slap from the left side, etc. As he grows really frightened of the tree, his look also gets very frightened. His tie becomes sloppy, he is not well shaved anymore, he grows a beard, and gets dark circles under his eyes. During these scenes, Paul's big limousine spreads a lot of smog out of the exhaust when approaching the parking space. There is an animation zooming from the smoking exhaust of the limousine up to outer space, in order to show the world as a whole globe. A cloud of smog will darken the globe, going from north to south, showing how our pollution arrives at developing countries in Africa and elsewhere.

Finally, some days later, Paul arrives at the parking spot with a nice eco-car. Nervously, he gets out of the car but this time he just gets an encouraging clap on his shoulder. Finally, and deeply relieved, he walks away.

The globe is shown again and lightens up.

The two animations in the middle and end of the spot carry the slogan:

Climate change affects the whole planet!

Your change for the climate does as well!


Our idea behind this script includes some points that we would like to share when it comes to addressing YMPs.

Light message: When addressing YMPs as a target group, the message should not be advisory, but more in the form of a suggestion.

Humor as a tool: Humor has proven to be a very good method when it comes to making messages memorable to this target group.


A spot on development topics which are, of course, not priority number one to the target group of YMPs, is more likely to find its way into the mind of the viewer if it is short. A long documentary spot is not likely to be viewed until its end, as YMPs are more used to the style of short video clips. Additional information can be linked to the spot via Facebook or a webpage. In our case, we chose to include a Facebook link in the spot so that viewers could visit the Facebook page if they wanted to have deeper information.


4th step – Searching for a location


Shooting this type of spot means that we needed a real location. In our case, we needed a parking space that also has a single tree in front of it, and a tall building in the back to symbolize the office tower that Paul is working in. Of course, there are always some locations already in mind. But it is also very useful to search for locations in Microsoft Bing Maps (http://www.bing.com/maps/). The bird view perspective shows, very realistically, how places look. In this way, we can add other interesting places to our list of potential sets for the shooting.

After personally visiting some of these locations, we contacted the owner of a specific location, which was a private parking place. We got permission to shoot on a weekend when the parking place is empty.


5th step – Search for actor and film team

The search for an actor was actually an easier task. There are many webpages, (www.schauspieler-index.de) similar to social networking sites, that provide pages for each actor, and also a search engine for what kind of actor you might need (comedy, drama, etc.). In our case, we were lucky to get contact to an actor through the director of our spot.

The search for a film team was the task of the director, who picked his favorite fellow students from the media academy to support him.

As a film team, we needed for a spot like ours about 10 people. This included the director, cameraman, sound engineer, and some roadies to move and position spotlights, cables, and reflectors. Also desirable is a make-up artist who can prepare the actor so that no shimmering is on the face in the final cut. In our case, we ourselves took on the job of make-up artist, and also helped with moving the equipment to save some money.


6th step – Logistics

Logistics include everything from the requisites, to technical equipment and rental of vans, up to catering. Requisites, in our case, were two cars that we needed to shoot the spot - one big limousine and one eco-car. These we rented from car rentals.

Another requisite was some clothes for the actor to visualize the different days that the telling of the story includes. That was borrowed from friends.

And for a good mood on the shooting day, nice catering is a good idea as well. In order to save money we prepared that by ourselves.

Also, we needed a lot of other cars that were placed in the parking places, so that it looks like a regular working day in the final spot. Those we borrowed from friends as well.

A word on brands and product placement: when shooting a spot there may be some products that are used in the spot. Avoid showing the specific brand, because you do not want to make advertisements for them. Therefore what should be done, in any case, is to either avoid the label of the brand completely, or if this is not possible, to conceal the label or product in a way that it can't be recognized.


In our case, we had to change the design of the cars. Just hiding the logo would not have been enough to make them unrecognizable to the viewer. We bought a lot of glue strip and changed the shape of lamps, windows, the front, the roof – everything that would identify the car with a certain brand.


7th step - Writing a call sheet

Call sheet Paul vs. Baum

A call sheet is the “master plan” for the shooting day. It is needed to have an overview of what is needed and what steps need to be taken during the shooting day of the film. The call sheet is written in cooperation between the NGO and the director. Elements of a call sheet are:

Times to be there for different members of the crew - the director and the technical roadies arrive first, then the actor and the make up crew, different car owners shall arrive later, the catering team comes at noon etc.

Location of the shooting and directions how to get there.

Important numbers of people responsible for the day, such as the director.

Schedule for the day with each scene to be filmed, a description of the content, materials needed for this scene, crew members needed for this scene, and the time that this scene will be shot.

Scenes of a spot are not necessarily shot in the order they appear in later on. For example, in our case there are several sequences of 'Paul' arriving with his car at the parking lot and getting out of his car. All sequences of him arriving were shot one after another, and all sequences of him getting out of the car where shot one after another. This way, the crew only had to move the camera twice – one time for shooting a wide angle of Paul arriving, and one time for a shooting close up of Paul getting out of the car. Otherwise, we would have needed to move the camera after each sequence again.


8th step – Shooting the spot

The time frame started on a sunny early morning at 9 on a parking lot in front of a big office building. About 15 people (10 students from the media academyand colleagues from finep and DEAB) prepared the set. Preparation of the set included:

- Filling up the empty parking spot with cars.

- Installing the technical equipment, including connecting the electricity.

- Preparing the cars with the glue strip so that the brands were not recognizable.

- Dressing, instructing, and making up the actor.

- Preparing the catering.


Even for a very short clip of 15 seconds, the shooting day can be long. This is not only because scenes are repeated several times, but also because when shooting with professional equipment, a lot of material needs to be broken down, moved and set up again when changing the scenes.

In our case, it finally took 10 hours of shooting for a spot of 15 seconds. So starting early gives some extra time, in case it takes longer than planned.

Important aspects to look for during the shooting of a spot are:

Light: Light is a major aspect, and also spotlights are one of the most expensive technical items if we cannot use natural light. Therefore, a sunny, cloudless day is a must for shooting if we do not want to rent many expensive spotlights.

Continuity: Also related to light, but as well to other aspects, such as wardrobe, is the question of continuity in our spot. We need to think about which scenes are going to be located in the story at what time of the day. All scenes that are written to be in the morning should be shot also in morning light, because the change of sunlight and shadows is something that will be visible in the spot. Also, someone on the set should have an eye on the wardrobe and placing of props. The actor should not wear the same clothes on 'different days' in the spot. In our case, it was also important to rearrange the cars at the parking lot to underline the impression of a change in days. These are little things that, however, add up to the general impression.


9th step – Editing

The editing procedure is a dialogue between director, film editor, and the client. Some exchange between all parties needs to happen before the final cut can be finished. The final material should be delivered in different formats such as avi, mpeg, mov and xvid so that it can be disseminated afterwards on as many different channels as possible.


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