Johnson marks Optimus director debut with Ford spots

For a package of three spots shot in Austin, Texas to celebrate Ford Truck Month in February, the production team at One at Optimus tapped its newest director, a world class DP and imported a specialized car and crew from L.A. to capture the vehicles’ robust running action. 

The director, Seattle-based Brian Johnson, kicked off his signing with One at Optimus on this fully integrated, start-to-finish job utilizing all of Optimus’ services. Johnson teamed with DP Dana Christiaansen of L.A. and local producer Marsie Wallach, for Team Detroit/Retail First, the agency for Ford’s Southwest region where the spots aired first.

Collaborating with the agency, Optimus directed, edited and finished the “Join the Stampede” campaign for Ford Truck Month in February.  “The trick was to make a dozen trucks look like hundreds and that required a huge team of support,” says director of production Craig Leffel.

One at Optimus director Brian Johnson Most of the running footage of F-150 and Ford Super Duty trucks was shot with The Edge Arm crane system camera mount that transforms into lengths up to 26-feet high and as low as the ground, resulting in smooth, fluid, and aggressive movement of the trucks.

“We brought in specialized gear and a specialized team of people from L.A. to run it. Dana had a very choreographed way of shooting and did an incredible job with the Edge Arm. The director was in the camera car, with a focus puller and the arm manipulator,” Leffel explains.      

“With the camera acting not just as an observer of the action, but as a participant, viewers can feel the acceleration and powerful movement of the trucks,” he adds.

VFX supervisor Paul Rosckes was on location for the shoot. He and partner/effects director Glen Noren led the VFX in Chicago;  color correction by Tyler Roth; audio engineer Joel Anderson handled final mixes. Editor Jim Staskauskas cut the spots in Optimus’ Santa Monica branch.

“It all worked out beautifully,” notes Leffel.  “Five Southwest regions got together and pulled resources together and got high production values from it.  A smarter way to work.” 

Leffel declars Johnson “was the perfect guy for this job.  “He’s had experience directing complex and large-scale jobs with lots of moving parts and an ambitious shot list, like this one.”

Johnson previously had worked with One at Optimus’ executive producer Kipp Christiansen, who felt that Johnson and Christiaansen were a great match for the Ford job. Johnson’s client list includes Acura, Xbox, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sears, Microsoft, Amica Insurance and Verizon.

One at Optimus’ directorial collective includes staff directors Amanda Speva, Mark Pallman and Logan Hall, and represents Michael Chaves, Barry Kimm, Jim Matlosz, Ryan Bosworth, James Fleischel.

One at Optimus is represented by Sean Sullivan for the Midwest and Perry Tongate for South/Southeast.