When Tandem Inc. arrived in San Antonio to shoot a Humana project on November 30th, Larry Macon had completed 1,999 marathons in his life.
Five days later, as the 72-year-old athlete crossed his 2,000th finish line, director Tyler Jay captured the moment for a short film about the milestone that he and his crew had completed in the meantime.
2,000th Marathon — created by Humana and PR firm Golin — includes interviews with Larry Macon’s family and friends, as well as several running buddies who surprised the man by literally popping into his path while he jogged around the neighborhood in preparation for the race.
“He was so happy to see them and they were so happy to be there,” recalls Jay. “It was like a family reunion.”
The project was part of Humana’s title sponsorship of the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon series, and was used to highlight inspiring stories of participants.
In celebrating Macon’s exceptional track record, the film reaches a level of emotion usually reserved for the kind of doc featured on ESPN’s 30 For 30 series, which inspired Jay during production.
“The people who have run or walked with Larry are like a band of brothers,” he explains. “He started running marathons when he was 52, and he wanted to coincide his 2,000th race near his home in San Antonio.”
The production schedule also represented a race-to-the-finish for Tyler and his crew of a dozen, all of whom hailed from Illinois and Texas, except for the LA-based line producer.
“We met Larry on Wednesday and had a really good conversation so he would be comfortable when we came back on Friday,” he says. “Then I did a preliminary scout of the neighborhood.”
Thursday was all prep work. On Friday, they interviewed Larry, a “successful” and “humble” person who has a way of making others feel special, according to Jay.
“It was great to hear him get emotional talking about his wife and the support she provides,” he continues. “He was like, ‘hey, I just run marathons.’”
They also interviewed his wife and began shooting b-roll, which DP Andrew Dryer filmed at 60 frames-per-second “to make it more beautiful.”
On Saturday, Larry’s running buddies came to town. After interviewing with Jay, they got in place to surprise the marathoner as he prepared for his 2,000th race.
“We put all the friends in running gear and placed them near Larry’s home,” Tyler says. “Then we told Larry, ‘we want one more shot of you running around the neighborhood.’”
Using a gimbal rigged on the back of a van to “float and move around,” they captured the whole round of spontaneous reunions. Then they gave it another whirl to film staged shots for coverage.
Although this level of urgency dominated most of the process, Jay is grateful that he got to accept the challenge.
“I give major kudos to Humana and Golin,” he says. “It’s one of those human interest projects you kind of really dream about.”
When Larry crossed the finish line on the next day, it was warm and mostly sunny. Jay captured the moment with a Canon 5D and delivered the footage to editor Michael Matthews, who cut the film in the hotel where the agency and crew was lodging.
Golin creatives and Humana gave their thumbs-up shortly after the final cut was finished.
“The ultimate review was around 4:30 p.m. or so,” Jay says. “We released it that night.”