This blog is dedicated to all things Frank – past, present and future.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Toyota Shoot With Gavin Bowden (2007)

I recently finished reading Anthony Kiedis' (Red Hot Chili Peppers singer) book, Scar Tissue, and it got me thinking of a couple of spots I shot with director Gavin Bowden, back in 2007. Gavin was mentioned twice in Anthony's book because he shot a few Red Hot Chili Peppers videos – he also happens to be Flea's (RHCP bassist) brother-in-law.

We were considering three directors for the job but we awarded it to Gavin after he flew out from LA just to pitch us his vision in person. We appreciated his enthusiasm and his treatment. At this point we didn't know about the RHCP connection, we only saw his commercial reel. We found out he was related to Flea on our way to LA, when Malibu was in the thrones of uncontrollable wildfires. Flea's house was one of it's victims. The fires lasted for a good part of our stay in LA.

The subject of the Red Hot Chili Peppers came up during one of our conversations, of course, and I found out that Gavin directed Funky Monks – the documentary on the making of the Chili Peppers breakthrough album Blood Sugar Sex Magic. I bought Funky Monks on VHS back in 1991 and I've watched it many many times – still own it. So it turns out I was a fan of his from way back. He told me he also documented their follow-up album, One Hot Minute, but it'll never see the light of day because the band was a mess, physically and emotionally. I personally like that album, even though it's considered a failure by many.

The two spots we worked on required a lot of special effects, something Gavin had plenty of on his reel. So a lot of green screens (or blue) and computer-generated imagery was used. When shooting these types of spots it takes imagination and trust in the director because it's not so obvious when viewing the video tap. You're shooting bits and pieces that will later be merged together along with CGI backgrounds. Heady stuff.

One of our spots, "Imagine", is for the Toyota Camry – "The Best Selling Car In America". The premise is that it's easy to imagine yourself in one, so every time a Camry drives by a person, that person seamlessly finds themselves driving one. Coming up with those transitions was a lot of fun. Here's the spot…

The other spot is for the RAV4. Toyota likes to position that SUV as the perfect vehicle for on and off road driving. It reminded me of the song "There Is A Mountain" by Donovan, with the lyrics "First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is". I figured we'd show the RAV4 boogying in the mountains, then the city, then the mountains, and so forth – again using those seamless transitions like the Camry spot.

Getting the rights to use the song was a bit tricky. It would've been too expensive for the original track, but luckily for us, Donovan recut a bunch of his famous songs for that very reason. The record companies own the copyrights to the original tracks and Donovan doesn't make much off of them. But by rerecording the tunes he bypasses the record companies – brilliant. The new version sounds very similar to the original. I can tell the difference but the average listener will not. (And here's another Red Hot Chili Peppers connection: Anthony Kiedis dated and lived with Donovan's daughter, Ione Skye, for a few years. Weird.) Here's the spot…


  1. I believe I am connected to this story two times.

  2. Yes. You gave me Anthony's book AND you used to sing those Donovan lyrics between songs during Rat Bastard shows. Never knew why you did that?