Press and Credits:
Feb 5th 2013 – Skunk director John Hillcoat responds to comments following the release of his Super Bowl spot, “It’s Beautiful” for client Coca-Cola through W+K, Portland. “I didn’t expect such a huge response,” explains the renowned film director, screenwriter and music video director on his controversial Super Bowl commercial.
The absorbing spot, aptly entitled “It’s Beautiful,” has sparked outrage across America and quickly permeated the pop culture ether with an array of coverage in Time Magazine, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair – even a segment on The Colbert Report amusingly mocking people’s response to the commercial.
Produced by Skunk with concept from W+K, Portland, the work features beautifully carved images of a multi-cultural America with “America, The Beautiful” playing alongside, voiced in an array of different languages.
It’s work that celebrates what it means to be American – but work that also rattled the nerves of a less patriotic segment of the country that continue to express their distaste for the patriotic song voiced in languages other than English, as well as the inclusion of a gay couple:
“We all know there are those kind of bigots out there but I had no idea how deeply embedded it was,” continues Hillcoat on the overwhelming response. “It seems that the divide in America has never been greater.”
Discussing the commercial further Hillcoat narrows down the reasons why he believes the work is a success, feeling its real strength lies in its pure, natural simplicity:
“The succinctness of the idea from W+K was there from the beginning, unveiling a cross section of different ethnic communities in everyday American life,” he explains. “Naturalism was very important, while I also pushed for the song to feature young female voices for added consistency.”
A nine-day shoot took place in New York, New Mexico, Colorado and Los Angeles to uncover genuine, intimate moments that accentuated the creative idea.
“We used hand-held cameras using natural light,” he explains. “This commercial was all about using very little light and gadgets to find pure, photographic and lyrical moments.”
Once wrapped Hillcoat worked aside editor Angus Wall to construct the feel and pace of the commercial: “We selected the most successful vignettes,” overviews Hillcoat. “I already knew we’d start with the cliché image of a Caucasian American cowboy – a classic moment the audience is very used to – then go immediately to Native American, followed by representations of other important cultures within America’s borders. We made sure there was a balance throughout.”
The fact that the song, “America, the Beautiful” was written in 1893 by Katherine Lee Bates – a lesbian from Massachusetts – was also not lost on Hillcoat. He notes his insistence to include a gay couple in the work, a concept in the original script that could have been overlooked, was important iconography to embrace.
He explains further that very little product placement also made the message clear and strong: “I was adamant that if there was too much product shown that it would undermine the big message,” he reveals. “We had to shoot product in every vignette, but it was more just a process we needed to go through. In the end, all agreed that too much product on the screen would undermine the greater message we were conveying. We all agreed, and I have to say the collaboration with agency and client was phenomenal throughout the whole process.”
An upcoming, longer :90 second version of the spot is also planned for release during The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
Hillcoat is currently in post-production on a Johnny Cash music video through Skunk, a road trip across the US that also reveals a very different take on Americana: “It’s a very interesting view of America,” he reveals. “Some of it was shot on skid row, inside prisons and the music video captures a very interesting and compelling atmosphere throughout.”
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland
CD/Art Director: Hal Curtis
CD: Jeff Gillette
CD/Writer: Antony Goldstein
Art Director: Storm Tharp
Producer: Julia Lafferty
Production Co: SKUNK
Director: John Hillcoat
Exec Producer: Matt Factor
Exec Producer: Shelly Townsend