At the end of summer, we were fortunate to be included in a very small part of a national commercial. It was entirely unexpected and was a great experience to see how much patience and focus can go into something that will only have a lifespan of mere seconds. We thought we'd share some behind-the-scenes moments of this experience - it's a story spark that we won't forget. A big thank you goes out to Sara and Melissa of Jackalope Arts for connecting us to this opportunity!



The commercial was for a new ad campaign for Southwest Airlines called "Behind Every Seat is a Story." Sounds appropriate, right? The setting was comic con-like environment where we were among a handful of other real artisan vendors who helped make up the background scenery. Funny enough, it felt like many of the events that we have participated in over the past couple of years, but just without additional boxes of inventory.


CalState Long Beach Stadium

The shoot took place within the pyramid stadium at Cal State Long Beach. We were definitely happy to be inside away from the scorching afternoon heat of the day. As we were loading in we noticed what seemed to be a group of cosplayers lingering around on the opposite side.



Crew prepares Comic Con portion of Southwest Airlines commercial

At the time of the shoot, we had no idea how a comic con environment would be incorporated into the bigger picture of a Southwest Airlines campaign - would there be flight attendants mingling with aliens or superheroes trying to catch a flight? Lack of information was definitely frustrating, thus we had to pry on hearsay from those familiar with the production on getting any glimpse about how any of this made sense. Nonetheless it was cool to see all the lighting and video gear everywhere, along with the managed chaos throughout.



booth setup at southwest airlines commercial

After all of our vendor booths were put together and organized like how we're all used to setting up our spaces at popup events, it was pretty shocking to see the crew come in and totally uplifting everything per the director's instructions. Some of us were worried that some of our products would go crashing down into pieces, but the crew were all very considerate, careful and efficient. Nothing was damaged - hey, they're professionals!



Building the Story Spark booth

It didn't take long for the crew to reorganize the booths, but then there seemed to be a lot of trial and error when it came to setting up the mood of the environment. Multiple lighting effects were used in various locations and at one point a smoke machine was in play. They were surprisingly fluid in their set up and tear down as it seemed that directorial decisions were constantly being made on the fly.



Yin Yang lighting at Southwest Airlines commercial

One of the many aspects that I love about working with artists is how they would interpret something that you've seen day in and day out in a whole new light. This effect that was used on our Yin Yang Tech banner was amazing to say the least. The color and mood was something that never crossed our minds.



Story Spark booth with lighting at Southwest Airlines commercial

At long last, this became the final setup of our booth. Pretty cool, right?



Alley way for comic con scene in Southwest Airlines commercial

And here is a long shot of the walkway and where the camera would be positioned. We kept our fingers crossed that we'd make it into some part of the scene.



Video wall of comic con scene

Nobody could resist gathering in front of the video wall of fire!



Cosplayers as background for comic con sceen in Southwest Airlines commercial

So after about 8 hours of preparation, the shoot was about to begin. A hoard of cosplayers arrived and mingled about awaiting instructions.



Cosplayers in action

Finally the production began and everyone began to walk around. Some pretended to shop at the booths while others played out mock fighting scenes. Numerous takes were done and at one point we noticed that camera was placed higher to get an overhead shot. Again, we had no idea what was going on and if everything was going as planned. After 10 hours and all the effort everyone had invested in this event, we all hoped that the scene would get its airtime. It took a month of waiting before we saw the final commercial and to see if there would be a glimmer of our booth.



Southwest Airlines Behind Every Seat is a Story Commercial with Story Spark

And here we are! Twenty-seven seconds into the commercial, we appeared in the background with about 30 pixels of exposure for nearly two seconds! Woohoo!

Despite its short duration, we were happy to make the contribution and to see how the comic con segment blended well into the overarching campaign. The premise is solid and tells a heartfelt story about how we're all this together. You can check out the full video below.




What do you think of the Southwest Airline's campaign? Please feel free to add a comment.


Alex Louie
Tagged: Perspective