Travel Channel

Ghostober III: The Fall of Summer

You Ask

It’s baaaaaaack. Like every iconic scary movie, Ghostober returns with a sequel that’s bigger and scarier than ever before. We want to pay homage to the unforgettable ghosts and monsters of the 80’s by creating a VHS inspired aesthetic for our promos and design elements, positioning Ghostober’s return to Travel as a menacing force to be reckoned with.

We have the green light to go out-of-house and we’ve chosen you as our trusted partner to kill it on this important campaign. We need to write and shoot three teasers, cut a heavy lifting spot, create a title, design & animation and explore Key Art.

We Answer

Live action completely froze up while us, our clients, and the entire industry tried to figure a way to make it work. Lucky for us, we’re a couple of AG’s who from day one, hunkered down and figured out safe and reliable methods to continue providing solves for our clients. That is what we do, we figure. It. out.

And the answer is, yes. You had us at VHS.

TV/VCR combo with a VHS leaning in front of it and more VHS cassettes to the right
VHS and logos written in red, spooky fonts: Againts, Coven, Friday the 13th, Electric Youth, Netflix and Chills, Night Runner, Road Rage

The internal team led by Ki Yi, Greg Stein and Jaycen Armstrong had a mess of cool ideas from the jump. They had already begun brainstorming on overall campaign look and feel and we joined them in fleshing these out and making them possible. And it all started with what to call this thing? As any good 1980’s horror buff knows, each movie in a franchise needs a cheesy yet clever subtitle. The team started with “SUMMER’S DEAD,” but due to the current climate and raging pandemic we were asked to brainstorm alternate taglines. After a hearty discussion, we all rallied around our top pick and group fave, GHOSTOBER III: THE FALL OF SUMMER.

We quickly got to work planning our teaser shoot. We had 2 days and 3 local locations, a private pool for the POOL PORTAL TO HELL scene featuring a Cthulhu type monster, a wooded area for BIGFOOT to wreak havoc, and a lakeside campsite for the CLOSE ENCOUNTERS alien abduction.

As for cinematography, we studied the slow building pacing of classic 80’s thrillers where they held shots uncomfortably long. In today’s fast cut environment, that’s a gift. We chose the Movi because we needed to be nimble. We wanted one tool to accommodate for the varied schedule of dolly moves, statics, booms, wides and tights.

Garden path to pool with caption and distance indicated from camera view
Path through forest growth to beach  with distance indicated from camera view

Besides location, set design and props were key. The teasers were concepted to be free of human talent (all except one) so the scene became the star. All three scenes were to convey the aftermath of a supernatural encounter seen through the eyes of someone arriving a little too late to save these victims. A torn hammock, a powder blue pump, a jiggling Jell-O mold, a chromed out boombox, a 5 foot tentacle, and a glass of tang. All of these carefully curated props were styled by the one and only, Michaela Sulka, with the help of Assistant Director, Barker White. The only guy I know who “has a tentacle guy” at the ready and was only too upset that Sharktopus didn’t still exist for us to feature (it’s a solid story, ask us sometime). Each teaser needed to be set in the 1980’s, take place in the evening or night, and had to convey a lot of tension.

Woman swinging a very large tentacle that is waving back and forth

Cut to … shoot Day 1. Here’s something you may not know about the DC area in summer. It’s hot. Like steamy, soupy, sweaty HOT. And this day did not disappoint at almost 100 degrees and humid. Completely masked up, we got to work setting up our scene before the impending rain started around sunset. This was our dusky riverfront creative and as soon as we had lights in place- THUNDER. LIGHTNING. DOWNPOUR. We were able to cover the gear and get the crew to safety, but were delayed by hours before we could finally knock off our first shot. We had to forego our remote video village for safety and timing issues, and ½ the lights remained under cover … but we did get that M18 24 feet up in the air on a mombo combo to play the role of the moon/ UFO. All in all, we captured 98% of our shot list in 50% of the time. This is what happens when you have teamwork (our AC even built this protective MoVI cover for Justin), trust (our awesome clients were cool with stills texted to them in lieu of a video village), and experience (this isn’t our first rodeo. EXT shoots, especially in summer are always a crap shoot and we have to be ready to pivot and try something different). And silver lining, we got some nice natural haze off the river to complement our battle fogger.

Justin holding large camera rig with an attached umbrella
Woman in mask appears to be in fog
Camera crew shooting guy on a lake in a canoe
Setting up video equipment in the dark and fog
Light with umbrella seen through a spider's web
Close up of boombox with lawn chairs in the background
Man in the dark, in a canoe, in the middle of a lake

Day 2 was also calling for rain, but after much deliberation, we decided it was the best option to forge ahead. Lucky for us, we were free and clear of rain for our very ambitious 2 concept shoot day. Starting in the woods, we waited for the perfect shaft of sunset to knock off a majority of our shot list for BIGFOOT, our secret favorite. And I realized then and there that I absolutely love shooting in the woods. The dappled light, the unpredictability, the breeze which creates cool shapes and texture … all of it. And this one was a props masterpiece too. With three pre-rigged hammocks, each prepped for the specific stage of the process, we were able to swap them out quickly beginning with the tight frenetic shots of hands fighting for dear life. This was the only creative that required a talent and due to our safety protocols we tagged AlterEgo Writer/ Producer, Megan Gygax who volunteered to play the role of Bigfoot bait.

Woman looking at sign and background is blurry
Blurry silhouette of a man standing in sunlight through small opening in trees

Wrapping quickly, we turned our sites to the final and most complex creative of the three, POOL PORTAL FROM HELL. This required a full 1980’s party scene complete with trays of tacky food from the era including Pigs in a Blanket and pineapple Spam. We based our yellow/green/black color palette off the jungle print cushions around the pool and built from there for the tiki torches, linens, furniture and tableware. When all was said and done, it looked like the Golden Girls had just gone in on a rager with Sonny & Tubbs.

Crew standing around cobble stone patio surrounding pool with fog

But the star of the night was the 5-foot practical tentacle which our set designer manipulated under water wearing a weight belt and a pair of goggles. In the time of Corona, an Accidental Generalist is the most valuable crew member. She killed it on the first take (we did a few for safety) but happy we could add this skill to her resume ; ) And two things I learned working with a practical tentacle. (1) You need a lot of KY Jelly to make it look more gelatinous than it really is. And (2) they are incredibly bouyant.

Women in pool with 5ft tentacle over the edge
5ft tentacle coming out of the middle of the pool straight into the fog filled air

Because of our talented storyboard artist, Amanda Moody, and the fact that we never go into a shoot without a precisely timed out animatic that we base off boards, then swap in location scout footage, our v1 cuts came together quite quickly. And because Ki is one of the most buttoned up creatives in the business, we had a good idea of what he wanted music-wise, some 1980’s synth reminiscent of Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street and a killer signature sting to sonic brand for the entire campaign.

Design-wise, we based all text on screen for the heavy lifting clip based spots off the title design, which was a custom piece created by our team under Jason’s leadership. We went with a slow title reveal made popular by movies of that era like the Terminator, and made it only more perfect with our favorite element (also, Jaycen Armstrong’s favorite)- the graphic gloomy airbrushed cloud filled sky background.

Pacing, color palette, design, fonts, music. Throughout the process we kept going back to the team’s original creative mission to be sure we were staying true to the concept, and the era in which we were paying homage. Period pieces are hard enough without throwing a pandemic, record temperatures and rain into the mix. But we owe the success of this campaign to our clients who trusted us from the start and brought us in as true collaborative partners and our incredible team both in the field and back in the shop.

Ghostober III: The Fall of Summer poster showing tentacle coming out of pool and lonely highheel shoes in the foreground

Fun Fact

Long time colleague, friend and SVP, Marketing Doug Seybert had this to say in Promax’s Daily Brief: https://brief.promax.org/index.php/article/travel-channel-kicks-off-ghostober-with-80s-nostalgia-theme