GMC “The Perfect Shot”

An inside look from pitch to post-production

Nate Gunn is a Salt Lake based visual storyteller with a passion for non-traditional advertising. He helps companies discover new ways to display their message by creating branded content that’s more lifestyle focused, rather than product focused. Nate was kind enough to share the challenges and triumphs of this GMC spot on a photographer’s journey, which incorporates our Luminary and Light Hits 4K packs.

Behind the scenes GMC

What’s the backstory on this project?

I’ve always wanted to work with car brands, but the competition is brutal. I was so close to not submitting a pitch on this one. In the few months before I had lost a pitch to Ram Trucks and two other great projects that I really wanted. Emotionally I was in a bad place. When you spend a few days writing a treatment, you almost convince yourself that it’s already your project, and so the losses hurt.

I decided to go for it and just do me. I think I was up against 30+ directors and I pitched something that was far from the creative, it was a risk, but I think that’s what they’re looking for sometimes. All too often I’m trying to just give the brand or agency what they want to hear, when maybe they want to just be inspired and feel your love and passion for the project.

What made your pitch different?

In the beginning, the client was looking to shoot an actor portraying a photographer. A guy shooting in a studio or out on a simple model shoot. The goal was to tie in the similarities of a photographers desire for precision and perfection with the precision of the truck.

I just knew that for a truck brand a real story would play better to their viewers. I pitched the idea of my photographer buddy Kevin Winzeler out on an actual assignment in Moab, Utah. They loved the concept and even switched the featured truck over to the Sierra All terrain model.

Behind the scenes GMC
Behind the scenes photographer

What was production like? 

Honestly one of the most fun shoots I’ve done. So crazy, but we had a great crew and a good time. We had the tightest deadline and Kevin is a busy guy between having a successful career in photography and four kids. We had a little over a week of pre-pro and then two days to shoot with him.

We had a really slim and simple production, always liking to keep it as low-key as possible. GMC trucked down the Sierra. It was DP Nate Sorensen and I on the camera, with Weston Fuller assisting, a driver and truck prep guy, then a team of two guys from Circa3 flying and operating the drone.

We shot on the RED Dragon in 6k. Lenses were a set of Leica Rs (some of my all-time favorites). We had a gimbal and just regular set up.

What challenges did this project present?

With such little time, the pressure was on for sure. Sorensen and I headed down to Moab a day early to scout. I finished out the storyboards on the drive. I had already digitally scouted everything the week before, so in the morning we took a quick look at the spots and everything checked out well.

On our last night, we did this brutal hike up to an area called Castleton rock. It’s a short hike distance wise, but seriously steep and we underestimated how long the hike would take. We were racing to catch the sun before it dipped behind the horizon. 

We got one shot up there that is in the final spot, but we didn’t get the one I had planned for. It ended up being too dark and muddy of a shot. I had no choice but to cut it out in the editing room. That was a hard one to cut. We worked so hard for it, but I just knew it wasn’t up to par.

The location of that last shot in the commercial was definitely the scene I wanted most for the project and it had to be just right. And yet it was the only location I didn’t have locked down. A lot of locations that I had Google mapped weren’t working out. So toward the end of the day, we made an hour-and-a-half trip in hopes that this last spot (which I had been avoiding due to the long drive) would give us the setting we needed. The trek was worth it, the location ended up being perfect.

Tell us about the look and feel you were going for. How did Lens Distortions effects contribute to your aesthetic?

I had the whole spot pretty much put together and storyboarded before we shot, leaving a little wiggle room for any unexpected moments. I wanted 80 percent of the shots to be pre-morning light and sunset. I wanted to really show a true photographers reality. They’re up early and working till the light is out.

A big reason I choose Moab as the location for the project is because of the frequent storm systems that role through. We ended up having a lot of these gorgeous storm clouds the entire time we were out there.

I knew while we were there that Light Hits would come in to help. In the edit, I subtly used light hits and Luminary to enhance a flat shot here and there (see 0:20 and 0:34). I added luminary in a shot of the truck’s headlights just to give them a bit more flare (see 0:12).

I love to add some color to the effects. The color on this project was on the cooler side and then we would add warmth in Kevin’s skin tones and in the red landscape. I would warm up or cool down Light Hits and Luminary to help enhance the look even that much more.To see more of Nate’s work, check out vimeo.com/nategunn.
BTS photography By Nate Gunn and Weston Fuller.

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