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Take a Peek Behind the Scenes of a Carpe Vacay Commercial

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As the sun sets on what’s been a long, hot South Carolina day, a BMW M3 screams around an S-curve.  Its wheels smoke as it loses traction and starts to drift in classic stunt fashion. “Great! Do it again!” the director yells into his walkie.  Welcome to the set of our next Carpe Vacay commercial.

Last year, Americans averaged 9.2 unused vacation days per person. You work hard to earn your vacation days and Carpe Vacay is our rallying cry for folks to get out there and make the most of their time.

As we at Southwest’s advertising agency, GSD&M, based in Austin, Texas, developed the Carpe Vacay commercials, we realized people use vacation days for the travel they have to do (holidays, family visits, etc.), but seldom use them for things they want to do. So, we made all the commercials about grabbing life by the horns and finally doing that thing you’ve said you’ll do someday. One of those things is learning to drive like a race car driver.

The key to making the Carpe Vacay spots work is to be authentic in every aspect possible. That meant getting everything just right; the emotion of the moment, the location, the props, the wardrobe, everything!  And when it came to the spot titled “Racing” it was clear early on that the most authentic racing experience could be found at one place, the BMW Performance Driving School in Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Car Rig

Shooting an airplane for a commercial is very different than shooting a vehicle. When working with airplanes, there’s a lot of clearance needed from Southwest to secure a plane and to get the film crew on the tarmac to shoot. Because of operational and safety regulations, no cameras or lights can be mounted on a plane, making filming a plane in-flight, or even on the ground, a bit of a challenge. But with cars, we can do anything we want! And boy did we.  We utilized some really neat filming techniques:

  • A window rig (shown above), which takes a small crew hours to set-up, was used to get up close and personal with our talent and capture the interior of vehicle.
  • A full camera rig and the director were jammed into the backseat to capture close ups of the driver as he put the car through its paces.
  • A “chase car” (shown below) in our case a high-performance SUV—an alongside the “hero car” to capture footage using a camera mounted to a remote control crane arm. The director sat in the car and manned the camera as the cars reached speeds of 120 mph.

car Chase Car

All of the driving footage for this commercial was literally captured in about 45 minutes during the “golden hour.”  In film terms, that’s the hour or so just before the sun sets. The light at this time is perfect for filming. The rest of the 14-hour day was used filming the “acting” moments, which were crucial to the storytelling of the commercial.

In the end, we captured great acting and great driving to make one of our best Southwest commercials ever.  We hope you enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed making it for you.

1 Comment

  1. So it looks making a commercial with an aircraft involved is more complicate than a normal advertising. I suppose many used an aspirine to deal with the headache it generated.