Just Happy bits: Taking Shaquille O’Neal To The Desert

20 Feb Just Happy bits: Taking Shaquille O’Neal To The Desert

A few years back Caruso was asked to direct a spot for Nestle through HKM Films. At the time NBA star Shaquille O’Neal was pitching their Nestle Crunch candy bars, yum!

We did not receive any free candy but were asked to solve Nestle’s logistical dilemma. How might we photograph the NBA star in the desert and at the beach when we could only work with him for a total of 4 hours?

The solution came through collaboration with HKM’s head of production, visual fx house Asylum and Caruso. The spot would be shot on two days, one on location, one in studio.

After an extensive scout of various dry lakebeds outside of Los Angeles, Cuddeback was chosen for its extra special dryness and true grandeur.

On the shoot day a body double filled in for Shaq’s wide shots allowing us to capture the atmosphere and cracked lakebed floor in-camera while extensive background plates were shot of the desolate landscapes. At the end of that day the crew traveled to the sunny beach and shot backgrounds for the ocean scenes.

Meanwhile our busy Production Designer Stephen McHale had built a large duplicate lakebed floor set against green screen on a Hollywood soundstage.

The following day Shaq arrived and was a charming professional throughout. He’s a sweetie (but don’t let him know we said so). He’s also the largest human being any one of us had ever seen. How he manages to leap into the air and run the length of a basketball court is anyone’s guess.

Over the next few weeks Asylum FX completed the composite shots, combining the desert and beach backgrounds with our soundstage footage. The work was seamless, resulting in a spot that appeared to be shot entirely on location.

The campaign was a great success and while no one ever took exact scientific measurements, we still marvel at the immense brainpower unleashed in those few weeks to sell chocolate bars.