Making "Just Have to Make It"

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Sapporo - 'Just Have To Make It'
Sapporo - 'Just Have To Make It'
The Directors Bureau's Mike Maguire was shooting his next job, a Bud UK spot in New Zealand, when AdCritic caught up with him to talk about the elaborate musical spot he directed for Sapporo.

How satisfied were you with this, your first foray into musical theater?

MM: It came out real neat. It was one of those shoots where when you were done it was a nice experience, from beginning to end. It was a tough thing, it was a tough job, trying to figure it all out. The job had originally been planned, in the boards, as a flight all over Tokyo. I said to Melissa Culligan (executive producer at The Directors Bureau) we should just bring everyone to one place, with backdrops, and make it in one place. I got on the phone with everyone at Wieden and floated it past them and you get a chance to have all these brewery people who never get a chance to meet each other be in the same room together. The barley fields are beautiful, the place where they brew the beer, the massive kettles are beautiful too, so when you flatten it out they all have the same weight and the characters can shine through.

The elaborate sets, the dozens of non-actors singing and dancing—this seems like it'd be a marathon, disaster-prone shoot.

MM: The one that's running on AdCritic, that's the fifth take. It took five takes, but the people got it right the first take. All those employees you see there, every single person is an actual employee. We took a couple people from the marketing aspect, the guys that are holding the briefcases, we took a couple guys from that scene and made them waiters. Other than that, all the people there are doing the jobs that they do for real. We taught them the sequence of dance moves, and they practiced and practiced and practiced. When we were setting up camera and finalizing set, you just heard the music off in the distance and you'd see different groups practicing their thing. They were just doing it to show up for the company, to make good for the company. It took us five takes to get where the camera and the choreography and the production design team caught up with the employees. The set was so tight, we had to pull out things, like all those baskets of barley, so when we pulled out for the final reveal we had a clean floor. Even as the camera's backing up there are guys in the camera department who are furiously pulling dolly track away. Even the Sapporo truck, we had designed that so it would be a wipe so we would be able to get to the final crescendo, but there's not even a wipe there, there's no trickery. It cuts off the frame so perfectly. As it pulls back and pulls up, there's so much stuff going on behind the scenes you don't even realize how tight it was.
A miniature of the set
A miniature of the set

How long did you have to whip the employees into shape?

MM: We had two days to shoot it, and from the day I got there I was kind of worried. After the first night I was like 'man, I don't know if I'm going to get this thing.' You just hope and pray. The first level of worry wore off when I saw people were practicing. That worry fell away in different levels. I had a feeling if we could get a couple guys to come to the audion (in the corporate offices) and have a lot of
"All these people who have never acted before set the tone for us; we had to match their dedication."
fun on it, they'd go back to their desks and say they had a blast. I made sure the first people that came in got a huge ovation. Then I realized people were into it. Then the choreographer came in, this guy Lance. I liked his reel because he had a lot of non-dancers dancing, like the surreal dance sequences in Scrubs. And they always looked like they were having fun. As soon as everyone relaxed, and they had a big smile on their face, we said 'this is what we need you to do.' All these people who have never acted before set the tone for us; we had to match their dedication. The guys with the kegs, we took a bullet train to a sleepy factory in a town. These seven guys came in, they were real quiet, and we ran them through their moves. But these guys were so into teamwork, they all started tweaking each other; you would have thought they were trained dancers. Sure enough, those guys got there on Friday night, I'd only worked with them for an hour and a half, and imagine those guys coming in from the country to work in the city and they blew everyone away. Those levels of worry faded away, because I was like 'these people are really understanding what I'm going for.' They got word that we wanted to do it in one take and thought to themselves 'we don't want to be the group that screws up the one take.'
Choreographer Lance Macdonald (left) and Mike Maguire directing traffic
Choreographer Lance Macdonald (left) and Mike Maguire directing traffic

Were you cramming musicals leading up to the shoot, or were you already familiar with the style?

MM: I went to Tower in San Francisco, I've only seen a couple musicals, but I started just getting all these musicals, I think I got like 30. In this one there's a sense of fun, they're having so much fun. By far, this is the biggest thing I've ever done. With the agency guys trusting me, because what I was saying, my heart and my mind were in the right place. They were like 'are you sure' and I thought 'well, I'm as sure as I can be that we're going to work our balls off and hire the best people.'
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