Let’s talk about your first shoot when you were a copywriter at Deutsch.

My first shoot was for a video game called Motor Storm, which was dirt bikes versus monster trucks. We got a C-130 plane, four quads and two dirt bikes, a dune buggy, and a truck. We put them into the C-130 and had professional skydivers drive them out of the plane and then we had four camera guys shooting in the air. And we did it practically; it wasn’t CG. This was before Go-Pros, so the cameramen were holding REDs on their shoulders and jumping out of planes. It was the craziest thing ever. We started the spot as a bit of a misdirect. You think we are in a person’s garage as the guys start their dirt bikes and dune buggies. Then all of a sudden the massive hatch of the plane opens, and you just see sky. Then they all fly out.

How did the project come about? Who gave you your first shot?

My partner and I were involved in the pitch [for Playstation] and helped win the business, so I think we earned a little bit of cred through the pitching process. It was us against a lot of senior people. Our idea was the best, so they gave us a lot of latitude. They were like “Hey, you guys were the ones who came up with it. Figure it out.” The executive producer was Tom Dunlap. He kind of took us under his wing, and he made the whole thing happen. Luckily, we had a producer who could make it happen. The production company that was shooting it was called Aero Films. Their offices were at the Santa Monica Airport. They do a lot of aerial stuff, so they had the expertise to make it happen.

What was the best part?

Every single time we had a meeting where we had to talk about the idea and present it, or figure out logistics, or any of that shit, we thought for sure it was going to die. We were like “Okay, when it comes down to budget it’s gonna die, and it didn’t. It just kept living, so every time we walked out of a meeting and it was still alive we were just elated. We were like “Oh my God, we are actually going to throw stuff out of a plane. This is really gonna happen. That was probably just as good, if not better than seeing the dailies because we didn’t know what was happening. We weren’t on set, because the set was an airplane in the sky. We saw the planes coming, and then we saw little specks falling out of it. We were like “Well, hopefully that was a good take. Because once the trucks hit the ground we can’t do it again. We only get one take.” Then we watched the dailies, and it looked amazing! We were like “Oh my God, can we make this a into a :90?”

What was the worst part?

If the best part was coming out of meetings with it still being alive then the worst part would be going into meetings and not knowing if it was ever going to happen.

Is there a lesson you learned that you still carry with you today?

Trusting the people you work with to do their job. Klaus, the director, had this vision of how this was going to work and we were like “Alright dude, we trust you, because we don’t know what the camera is gonna do when it’s falling three-hundred miles per hour.” If I’m sitting with an editor I make it a collaboration, not a dictation of like “Why don’t you shave a few frames off?” For the most part, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.

What do you think of the current state of the commercial industry?

Are clients looking at advertising and seeing something that they like and saying “Let’s do that.” If you see a spot that Wieden & Kennedy has done, you know Wieden & Kennedy has done it. Then three other spots come out in the next quarter that feel like it, but are less good. When you’re just trying to deliver these lofty brand things, it seems like people are defaulting to a musically driven montage. They’re in slow-motion, or in black and white, or use some technique added to make it feel like an idea when it’s not necessarily an idea. I’m not someone who thinks that ads are bad. I’m not trying to make everything not feel like an ad. I think it is okay that it feels like an ad as long as it says what you want it to say.

Was your first commercial as a copy writer your only “first shoot”, or did you feel like you were starting over in your current position?

No, I don’t think it’s changed at all. I definitely feel more pressure, but in terms of how I approach it, it’s the same. I think now I have expectations of what’s going to happen; before I was just rolling with it.

What is the most important aspect of being an agency creative?

When you are on set you become the account person for the commercial making process. Because you are the one that needs to make sure that you’re being responsible. Everybody that you brought in, the director, and all the people are there to make something beautiful or interesting or artful. As a creative director, you have to keep your eye on the prize in terms of what it is you are trying to say. Keeping the vision intact and staying responsible.

I love your side project Rad Cars with Surfboards on Them. Talk about what inspired that project?

What inspired it was basically me loving my car. I had a friend who took a photo of my car with a surfboard on the roof one day. It was such an iconic image, these two kind of separate crafted things put together to make a new thing. When in school I started as an illustration major, so I always liked drawing things. So I drew it, because I thought that it would be a better piece of art, because frankly the photo wasn’t great. I started the website when I had three. I was like “Eh, I’ll just keep doing these randomly when I see them and build upon it.” Before I knew it I had 70. It’s a labor of love. I just love to do it. I see a car or people send me a photo and I’m perfectly happy making it into art. The reaction to the site has been amazing.

Name

Kevin Butler

Place of Birth

Santa Cruz, California

Occupation

Agency Creative / TWBA