LOS ANGELES— Popsicle sticks serve as a springboard to true love in a clever new spot directed by Ross Ching of A Common Thread.
Titled Sweeten Your Life, the spot, directed by Ching on spec, centers on a domino-like chain reaction in which hundreds of the familiar wooden sticks are sent flying in the air. A boy sets up an intricately woven maze of sticks at a beach in order to attract the attention of a young girl. The last stick in the chain tumbles in a plastic cup held by the girl. It bears a message asking her for a date.
“Popsicle sticks can be woven together in a certain way such that, when you remove the stick at the end, it sets off a chain reaction that ripples down the line at 35 miles per hour,” Ching explains. “We decided to take the idea a step further by building a story around it.”
Ching had the concept for the commercial in mind for a few years, but it wasn’t practical to shoot until recently with the arrival of low-cost, high-speed digital cameras. Ching used a Phantom Miro camera to record the chain reaction at 1000 frames per second, so that the sticks can be seen tumbling through the air like acrobats in slow motion.
Ching shot the spot in one day on a beach in Venice, California working with a small crew whose biggest challenge was to build chains of Popsicle sticks without prematurely setting them off. Ching staged a number of vignettes to enhance the story and make the chain reaction seem larger than life. The sticks explode under the wheels of a pair of passing skateboarders, through the legs of girls jumping rope, and under the nose of a very surprised terrier.
Ching, who joined A Common Thread earlier this year, has directed a number of commercials, viral videos and music videos whose unique visuals have drawn wide attention. His short film Running on Empty, which imagined a Los Angeles without cars, attracted a huge viral audience and also garnered the attention of mainstream media outlets including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. “A lot of my work is weird and out of the ordinary,” he says. “That’s my formula.”
“Ross has a clear sense of what it takes to make something viral,” adds A Common Thread executive producer J.P. McMahon. “He understands analytics and how to hook people from the beginning of the spot—especially younger people who live on the web.
A Common Thread is located at 4081 Redwood Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90066. For more information, call 310.823.7300 or visit http://www.acommonthread.tv
Title: Sweeten Your Life
Production: A Common Thread. Ross Ching, director; J.P. McMahon and Tristan Drew, executive directors; Don Le, producer; George Tsai, associate producer; Dennis Craig, assistant director; Rob Witt, director of photography; Martin Gradek and Kyle Jennings, assistant camera; Carlos Pimentel, production design; George Tsai, Red camera tech; Jordan Harriman, Phantom Miro tech; Sam Puefua, key grip; Justin Vancho, grip; Lily Vi Pham, hair and make-up; Brian Bares, production assistant.
Edit: A Common Thread. David Adametz, editor.
Post: Ntropic. Marshall Plante, colorist.
Special thanks: Nam Luong, Lily Pham (Serenbloopity), Tonaci Tran (Tonaci Visuals).
Music: Go Do by Jonsi
Cast: Ashton Arbab (boy), Natalie Weissman (girl) Jon Pierce and Joshua Littleton (skaters), Natalie Soleil, Scher Guzzo and Hayley Seat (jump ropers), Lauren Lopez (girl washing her feet).
Extras: Ashley Romeo, Roosevelt Gordon, T’Essence Minnitee, Samantha Rafanello, Keri Taylor, Lauren Taylor, Jordan Taylor, Karen Wright Brooks, Weston McClelland, Val Emanuel, Lacy Ray, Jaida Benjamin, Roosevelt Langham