The Black label: THEN, NOW, ALWAYS

August 6 2015 by

Hello all!

Very excited about today’s post because this a personal project for us.

Just stumbled back in from the 2015 ADDY Awards, bleary-eyed, two hot-from-the-oven Gold Addys firmly locked in our steel vice-like grasps. There was something…was it hope? Yes, hope, pulsing through our veins and filling our ventricles. Hope pouring from our thoughts out, out beyond horizon and into the infinite void. Other overwrought, melodramatic sentences such as these.

But we did win two gold Addys yesterday, and we are in a pretty good mood about it, thank you for asking.

We released this on our various social outlets last week, but finally, very proud to release our Johnnie


I locked myself in a dark room and stared at a wall for four hours, which didn’t work.  Then, I went to Johnnie Walker’s website and saw a rusted old auger sitting on a wooden barrel. The concept was done in an hour after that. Something about it suggested this rustic barn scene, where he was crafting his whiskey and it was just him and his wife, shot in this starkly photographic, super-cinematic way. I thought that maybe it needed to connect to today’s market, so I figured we’d throw in some modern-day stuff. And then, I figured, might as well do three setups and show how the brand has persisted over time. I’ve always been more attracted to moody, formal pieces with a little, man I hate describing it like this, but magic? thrown in (vomits).

‘’ Couldn’t be happier with how it came out.’

Shoot Stage Alpha Bravo Gopher (Banner Elk, NC)

Our Executive Producer, Chris, got himself married at this beautiful place in North Carolina called the Banner Elk Winery. We needed something that was reasonably close to highland Scotland and found that the place would definitely work as a stand-in as long as we shot in the winter. So, lo, on December 12, we went out into the mountains and shot the 1890s scene.

It was Cold. Around 14 in the middle of the day. Windchill put it at -9 after the sun had set. There were 50mph gusts on the mountaintop overlooking the valley, where we planned one of our most notable shots. The talent could not bundle up in modern-day winter wear as per the whole “period piece” requirement, and froze their damn lips off out there.

We started off in a sloping mountain forest, where Johnnie chops wood to hand-craft his barrels, before heading to the highest point in the valley and then back down to the barn to end our day. You might think it is warmer in the barn. You would be wrong.

Some amazing photography happened here. Extra-ups to DP Sherman Johnson, our own Ricardo Manavello, and gaffer Jay Shropshire for designing beautiful, beautiful lighting.

And again, the talent was needlessly asked to sacrifice their bodies. We didn’t want a winter look in the wardrobe, so they had to go out in just their suits. Naturally, while talking, they would exhale, which would show condensation, which would give away the fact that they should be wearing warmer clothes. So, not only did they have to stand out there in the cold, but they had to convincingly pretend to speak WHILE holding their breath. So no, it was not easy. Also that first shot with the glass took 45 takes, & the actor couldn’t wear gloves.



From conception, a huge part of the responsibility for the piece was going to fall on our motion graphics wunderkind Tonda Ros. His impact on the spot is obvious- the beautiful golden energy that happens throughout the spot, and all of the transitions are his work. Those transitions are no joke, either- without such a skilled compositor, this would have easily looked cheap.

Let us not be dummies and undersell the importance of sound in this spot. Much of the mood of the images actually comes from Pablo Manavello’s amazing score, which is period-appropriate and thick with atmosphere without being duh-duh obvious; and from Brian Mejia’s sound design, which gives the spot incredible kick; and voice work from Laura Howarth, who nailed the direction on the first pass (I think I told her to read it like she knew a secret that she wasn’t supposed to share- she nailed the interpretation.)

So, we are super-indebted to our amazing cast and crew for this. We love you guys.

And we love our blog readers too! Yes we do.

Come here. Let’s have a hug.

Tim Warren

Creative Director