The title of today’s post is a take-off from the movie Forrest Gump. Forrest was quietly sitting on the front porch, deep in thought about everything and nothing. He deliberately places the red ball cap on his head, stands, and then starts to run. In his narration he states matter-of-factly, “One day, I decided to go for a little run!” Of course his little run takes him across America on a journey that lasts 3 years, 2 months, 14 days and 16 hours. It was actually a BIG run!
A few years ago, I traveled to Uruguay and filmed a commercial for Volkswagen. It was created for the Brazilian marketplace and the sub-titles are in Portuguese. It’s a take-off of Forrest’s Run Across America. Only instead of running, this time ‘Forrest’ drives. And of course, he drives in a brand new, shiny red Volkswagen Golf.
The commercial starts exactly as I describe the scene earlier. ‘Forrest’ is sitting on the front porch of the Gump House when he decides to don his cap and go for a little run. The irony occurs immediately after ‘Forrest‘ has crossed the front lawn and reaches the driveway. Instead of continuing his run down the driveway, ‘Forrest’ hops into his Volkswagen, the drive begins, and the journey continues.
It’s cleverly filmed, as many of the familiar places that Forrest ran in the movie are re-created and now ‘Forrest’ drives past those same places. You see the old men in town turn their heads as they sit in the barber shop; crossing the bridge that spans the Mississippi with reporters chasing ‘Forrest’ for an interview; the long, isolated country roads with tall wheat gently swaying in the breeze; deserts and mountains, oceans and rivers; Jenny is even seen working in a restaurant pouring coffee when she sees ‘Forrest’s’ journey chronicled on TV. During the drive, ‘Forrest’ is joined by friends who decide to follow and are also driving Volkswagens. The drive’s narration occurs during a conversation on the bench with an elderly gentleman in a park while waiting for a bus.
Several things amaze me to this day about that commercial. First, it’s really a mini-movie rather then a commercial. At 2 minutes long it isn’t your typical 30 or 60 second commercial. Second, the magnitude of the production was impressive. There were at least 40+ full time people involved for the week and 300 or 400 extras brought in for various scenes. I have no clue of the production budget but I’m certain that a million dollars wouldn’t be an exaggeration. Thirdly, I received a call a few days prior to the start of production – suddenly they needed me, as filming and production was set to start next week! How could a project of this size and scope not have ‘Forrest’ in place until a few days before production? Fourth, there was a 4-minute ‘Making of the Commercial’ clip produced that really gives you an idea of the magnitude of the production. Finally, take a look at the ‘parade’ at the end of the commercial when ‘Forrest’ rolls into town. Look at the joy and excitement of the crowd. People holding signs that say ‘I love You’ and literally jumping with joy. Of course it’s a production with actors and a script, but the essence of Forrest Gump is captured and the love and inspiration is authentic and genuine. How many movie characters can elicit that reaction? And 10+ years after the fact?
While I never heard, my guess is that the commercial was not dramatically successful in selling cars; it aired for a few months and then was dropped. But the experience of making a professional commercial, visiting and criss-crossing Uruguay for a week and then seeing the finished product is a memory that will last a lifetime.
This past week, I drove from my home in Montana to the Bay Area in Northern California to work at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. My next post on Thursday will be an account of that journey!
Next Blog Title: Steve’s Drive across Part of America!
Next Blog Date: Thursday, April 1, 2010