The Truth Can Be Adjusted

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Sound and post shop Fluid has been involved in many a good thing, ranging from spots for Mountain Dew, Heineken and Sony to the industry's yearly Battle of the Ad Bands, the company's brainchild. But recently, it got to apply its skills to a more sinister subject, helping to create an in-house spot for the main villain in the film Michael Clayton, written and directed by Tony Gilroy and starring George Clooney.

"We were contacted by Tony Gilroy, who was an old rock n' roll buddy of mine," says Fluid executive producer and partner David Shapiro, whose shop provided all the in-film spot editorial, design and music for the movie's bad guy, an agrichemical corporation called U/North. "We'd been in bands together in the distant past. He wanted a 'real' commercial for the film, and was concerned that the film's production company might not give him the authenticity he needed."

The spot is featured prominently in the film, most memorably on the Reuters Jumbotron in Times Square, and in a pivotal scene featuring Tom Wilkinson's character.

"Tony wrote the script and our brief was to create a Sunday morning feel-good spot with a big budget look for a Big Brother company without a conscience," says Shapiro. "They needed a jingle for 'We Grow Your World Together,' a corporate logo and a panoramic visual."

Shapiro says the model for the U/North spot came from the type of commercial "designed mostly to boost the reputation, and therefore the stock price, of major corporations.

"General Electric, Archer Daniels, American Harvester and Union Carbide all feature those kinds of high-end production ads. They're all about good basic American values, compassionate Conservatism and a belief that corporations are really looking out for all of us. There were usually a collage of images of rolling fields, playful children and the harvest. Alex Frowein, the editor/designer, did a great job achieving that big budget look, using stock footage and a few children's scenes which were shot during the filming."

The spot itself features all the tell-tale signs of any corporate entity looking to put a human face to its work—lush scenery cut with happy, healthy children playing in nature. According to U/North they, "find the seed. Shape the soil. Speed the harvest. Feed the planet." Though if you've seen the movie, you know there's much more to the company than that.

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