2008-02-08 / Columnists

On The Beach

Rockaway Wins PR Touchdown!
Commentary By Beverly Baxter

BEVERLY BAXTER BEVERLY BAXTER With a defining thirty seconds left to go, players for both the New York Giants and the New England Patriots were sweating out their electrolytes from the sidelines, as Coach Tom Coughlin was being doused with... Gatorade!

In the advertising world, where a thirty second spot to be aired during the Super Bowl costs a staggering 2.7 million dollars, ad agencies and production companies know that thirty seconds can change everything.

On Tuesday night at 9 p.m., just days before the big game, Kevin Breslin gets a phone call on his cell phone. It's Jim Jenkins, a colleague of Kevin's from O Positive Films. "We're shooting Gatorade!" And then adds, "Tomorrow night...for the Super Bowl! Kevin, in perpetual exuberance, feels an added jolt and rises to the situation and asks, "Who's doing what?" Jenkins tells him, "We're booking the crew right now...the spots are being written as we speak...we convene tomorrow at 7 a.m."

Gatorade, at the last minute, knew they wanted to beef up their offensive line with a unique and splashy ad, and they knew where and to whom to go to pull off such a creative feat...with merely days to go.

Kevin assembled his team of executive producers, which included himself and Ralph Laucella and Marc Grill.

It's 7 a.m. Wednesday morning and still no script to work from. They've no idea what they're doing, but they know they're doing it tonight! Kevin's hyperactive neurons are firing away, figuring out locations, logistics, permits, etc..., while Marc worries about casting. But then, in a V8 moment, Kevin realizes, "What about the uniforms?" "Don't worry," Marc tells him, "Devin Clarke's flying them in from L.A., but oh, he doesn't land 'till 9 p.m."

Because Gatorade wants to air two entirely different commercials, with the first requiring a scene of a man shot indoors at a podium giving a press conference, and the other, a mock football field shot outdoors at night, Kevin had to score one location that could accommodate both sequences. He handed out lists to his crew, assigning possible locations in Brooklyn, Queens...they approached Hofstra, Columbia, and Fordham. Everyone said no.

Kevin works out a lot of his ideas walking the boards, only this time he wasn't walking. He was pacing.... Always thinking "Rockaway", he had a kind of salt-air epiphany! He thought, "What about Aviator! At Floyd Bennett Field! We called Kevin McCabe, owner of the enormously successful sports complex, who said they could work it out and that they'd nothing booked there 'till 3 p.m." But there was one very significant problem: Shooting had to take place outdoors at night and on this one particular night, the lights were down.

While Kevin is pacing and checking out the cameras, accessing the field and where he was to begin shooting, the company Electrician arrived late and...with the wrong truck! There was not enough amp-age!

This was quickly mounting into what could've been a production train wreck! But as Kevin insists, "There are no neophytes at this level of high-intensity production. It just doesn't happen!"

Meanwhile, three big buses, campers, two catering trucks arrive at the field, bringing 250 background actors and 12 principle actors. The deal is made. While all the logistics are being worked out and the production assistants are setting up and posting signage to direct the crew and actors to the Holding Area, Wardrobe, Bathrooms, the crew encountered another problem. Aviator was still open for business! How were they going to shoot around the yoga and gymnastic classes, or the Flatbush Jewish Temple's Hassidum Basket Ball League, who were thoroughly engaged in a full court game? It's now 7 p.m. and someone asks Kevin, "Do we have power?" Kevin checks and says, "No!"

Finally, at 9 p.m., a construction company from Brooklyn comes to the rescue with enough electricity to light the stadium. After the harrowing task of informing parents that they and their children would have to leave the area, the indoor segment was shot.

Earlier in the evening when Kevin first arrived to make the deal, he did his initial walk-through of the area, pondered how to stage, film, etc..but soon began to feel the fierce 40-50 mile an hour winds coming off the bay. He is told that they closed Aqueduct! The crew is under-dressed for such savage weather and there was no time to find Arctic gear!

It's now 1 a.m., and the lights are on; and nearly nineteen hours have lapsed; and with merely four hours left to shoot in the dark until daylight arrives, they are cold. Many of the actors passed the time on the set by trying to keep their enthusiasm up. One sang a rap song; another, a love song to keep the crew entertained. Kevin, spitting on his hand, decided to throw a tight spiral, but the ball was so cold, like catching a brick. He wondered what it must have been like for Manning and Plaxico to receive the ball in the sub-zero degree conditions they prevailed under at Green Bay.

The A.D. yells "Background, get ready," the whistle blows, two cameras are rolling and it's....Action!

Anyone driving along Flatbush Avenue at that hour of the night would see all these trucks, buses and cables strewn across the field and a full football game underway and think these people were Insane, which is the appropriate name of the first spot. The fact that they pulled this off was nothing short of a miraculous Victory, the name of the second spot.

Kevin and his production team at O Positive thank Aviator owner Kevin McCabe and Warren Berg; and the people at Gateway National Recreation Area who made this Herculean feat happen. Aviator generously provided all the props: yard markers, end zones, third down markers, tables, flags and benches; and of course, Gatorade! "They really saved the day," states Kevin. "There was absolutely no place to do this and they at Aviator came through."

It's 3 a.m., and the crew is winding down when a PAruns over to Kevin and tells him, "There's a cop." Kevin says, "Well, what does he want? We're still shooting." "He wants to know about permits," the PAtells him. Kevin tells his PA to tell the cop that the deal with Aviator didn't require permits. The PA says, "Yeah, but he says we have a problem." Kevin goes over to the security officer and politely tells him that if there's any problem, we'll deal with it in the morning!"

As the first light of morning appeared over the ocean, Kevin drove over the bridge back to Rockaway.

It's now 5:30 a.m. and Kevin, who has directed and produced many commercials at Gateway for companies like Ebay, American Express, Tyson Chicken, BMW, Levis, Champion and March Madness for ESPN, has much more work to do. He has to now get the films to the creative committee who decide on where and whether to air the ads; and although there were fifty-three ads scheduled to run during Super Bowl XLII, Kevin's ads for Gatorade will be seen at a later time. So much can happen in thirty-seconds; but Kevin feels Rockaway is the big winner, as ad agencies continue to discover its unique cache as location sites for their films and commercials.

***I'd like to express my deepest gratitude to the many of you who have sent cards, flowers, baskets of fruit and gourmet delicacies and even a pajamagram! Your kind thoughts and gestures have sustained me in ways I could never fully adequately express. There's no place like Rockaway or its people, whom I consider part of this beautiful extended family.

***Happy Birthday wishes to Rosemary Sullivan, Barbara Morris and Bridie McCotter who celebrate the birth of their lives this week.

***See you...On the Beach!

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