At this time of year, there’s only one thing I look forward to more than the arrival of Summer Solstice and that is the release of another batch of Jane Lynch spots for the Illinois Office of Tourism.
How easy is it to be the cute, witty, and talented actress in the spot — and also the director?
Lynch not only makes it all look easy but she is having a lot of fun while doing it. She is surrounded by the very talented team from OKRP and STORY who brought home two U.S. Travel Association Mercury Awards for last year’s Illinois: The Middle of Everything campaign, winning the award for Best Public Relations Campaign.
I was able to speak with STORY’s Executive Producer, Cliff Grant, to hear the behind the scenes story of bringing the team back together to tackle another batch of these most creative, challenging, and ultimately rewarding and entertaining spots.
Grant shared his feelings about his crew, “When you’re with this group of people who have worked together for such a long time — which includes Jane, and Angela Coster, our DP Randy Arnold, and this time we had a new producer from OKRP, Christina Nguyen, who was fabulous, and our producer Marsie Wallach who is the real backbone to these projects, they would crumble to the ground without her — they all play on each other’s strengths. The crew is incredible. They’re all so in tune in, they really knock it out of the park. It’s just nice when it all kind of meshes and everybody gets along.”
“This was a difficult one where we actually had to travel the state twice,” Grant continued. “We went out and scouted the state to see where we were going to shoot these scenes, and then we returned to shoot for two weeks. So we were all together for a long time.”
Here’s what we can expect from our team this time: Three new spots that cover 18 new locations, lots of props, singing, dancing, and several wardrobe changes. I would not have thought it was possible but it just keeps getting better every year, with the creative team pushing the envelope a little further each time. I imagine them sitting around a table saying, “Oh Jane is going to love this one.”
Well, Jane sure looks like she is loving every minute — with the possible exception of the water park scene, when she took a look at the scene and said, “I don’t think I’m going to do the bathing suit.” Pause. “Maybe I need to be in some kind of a little surfing outfit.”
When I asked what is it like to work with Jane, Grant replied, “It’s great. Jane knows how to make things happen. She’s really good at working with the actors,” he continued, “It’s funny, she kind of watches over them to make sure they are being taken care of, and she’s very generous. She feeds them lines and wants to make sure that all of the actors are involved. She gives each of them a little spotlight. It’s not just about her.”
18 locations across the state is a lot to take on but it also brought lots of rewarding moments. “The fun thing is to go to these places that you may not ever go to and meet the people who actually own and run these places,” says Grant. “17th Street BBQ, a vineyard, Fritz & Frites, there were all these different places and the owners were so helpful in making it easy for us to do what we needed to do. They were amazed that we were able to get in and get out without any big disruption.”
THE TEAM — LOCATION SCOUTING
Grant shared several memorable moments while filming on location. Like the time the crew were all in boats filming Jane in a canoe on the Cache River. “This river has those Asian carp that fly out of the water and they are big, big fish,” said Grant. “They were kind of dormant that day but every once in a while you’d see one fly across the water, and at one point as Jane turned toward our boat to say something to us, this enormous fish flew across where her head would have been. She did not even see it, and it was funny because all of us in the other boat said nothing. We knew that if she saw that, she would have said turn this boat around, I’m outta here.”
“Another interesting thing is that on one of the spots, there’s this song. They wrote the song and then Jane kind of refined it, and they worked together on it. The fun thing is when we went to the studio and recorded it — just to watch it come to life, and how she worked and really took control of that session. She worked together with the producer and Julie Nichols at Squeak E Clean, and Angela from OKRP, and they just molded this great little song. And then the actors came in and she worked with them, and again, gave each one a little spotlight in the song. It was just so much fun to watch this evolve into this great little song. The crew was singing it for the rest of day.”
THE STORY BOARD — EVERYTHING TO DO IN ILLINOIS
I don’t know that I’ll be able to pick a favorite spot but everyone at the REEL loves that Jane gets to sing in this one.
EVERYTHING TO DO IN ILLINOIS
Having worked on the Illinois Office of Tourism campaign for several years, Grant summed up his overall experience, “The interesting thing for me to watch is the progression of where they have gone,” he said. “Every year they get better than the year before, and this one is so spot on. I think what they did at the agency this time, is they really worked with Jane’s strengths, her singing ability and dancing ability, and just who she is.”
ILLINOIS OFFICE OF TOURISM — CLIENT
Jan Kemmerling — Illinois Office of Tourism
Lisa Link — Assistant Deputy Director, Office of Tourism
O’KEEFE REINHARD & PAUL — AGENCY
Angela Coster — Group Creative Director
Christina Nguyen — Executive Producer
Robin Bisel Sr. — Production Business Affairs Manager
Lee Hillerich — Account Director
Lauren Mitchell — Account Supervisor
CMC / Forecast Inc. — CO-PRODUCER
Ashley Saluga — CMC, Business Affairs, Production Manager
Michael Luppino — CMC, Business Affairs, Production Manager
STORY — PRODUCTION COMPANY
Jane Lynch — Director
Mark Androw — Executive Producer
Cliff Grant — Executive Producer
Marsie Wallach — Producer
Gail Wettengel — Production Supervisor
HOOTENANNY — POST
Nikki Vapensky — Editor
SQUEAK E CLEAN — AUDIO
Julie Nichols — Creative Director
IOT CREW MEMBERS
Andy Pearson, Kevin Marquardt, Matt Miller, Tom Ciciura, Joe Brady, Matt Arredondo, Eric Almond, Herman Asph,, Geoffrey Finge, Thomas Schroeder, Joe Sikora, Guy Moeller, Rick Rios, Wade Rodgers, Dan Miller Jr, Alev Yasatan, Goran Milosavljevic, Ricky Candia, Emily Carter, Anne Dawson, Martha Heppler, Rachael Ohman. David Grant, Yolanda Moran, Suzanne Ciba, Fred Ciba, Michael McGrath, Danny Rodrigu, Nicholas Fanelli, Bradley Garoon, Dan Marcus, Ben Miner, Angela Kates, Joy Brutus, Dan Coonley, Cynthia Morales, Miles Conway, Luis Trevino, Jaime Herrera Jr., Brandon Stevenson, Ivan Cespedes, Sam Ramsey, Alex Von Bruchhaeuser, Cali Grzybowski, Tim Eterno, Wes Arnold, Scott Carlson
Wielding decades of Film & TV production experience, Barbara Roche is the editor/publisher of Reel Chicago and Reel 360.
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