Budweiser films a commercial in Jacksonville

• Mail Tribune

You see them every year, beginning around Thanksgiving and continuing into January. Those scenes featuring feel-good Clydesdales, families around the dining table, and sleighs meandering through the idyllic hinterland. A half-minute later, you’re convinced Anheuser-Busch is right up there with Mom, apple pie and puppies.

This year, some of the faces and locations may seem more familiar.

A small army of directors, writers, makeup artists, videographers and support staff converged on Southern Oregon last weekend to shoot a Budweiser commercial for release just before the holidays.

The central figure is Tyler Maddox, a 37-year-old, 1995 South Medford High School graduate whose real-life story played well with the casting agency and producers of the forthcoming Budweiser spot. He’s joined     the “old gang” that has spread out beyond the Rogue Valley — Greg Guevara, who now lives in Boulder, Colo.; Brandon Knapp, who calls Nelson, British Columbia, home; and Nate Broom, hailing from Corydon, Ind. The only other member still living here is Jimmy Castellano.

“They wanted to show the importance of getting together with friends,” Maddox said. “That’s why they wanted to cast a reunion with real people and not actors.”

Maddox, a videographer himself, was on a shoot for Hewlett-Packard in Wyoming when he got a call from Gary Kout, who told him about a talent search for a Budweiser commercial.

“They were reaching out to film associations all across the country,” said Kout, executive director of Southern Oregon Film & Media. “They were looking for someone between 25 and 45, an outdoors person with a core group of friends that had been separated by life or family.”

Kout knew Maddox was an avid backpacker, skier, motorbiker and cyclist, and suggested he contact Dan Bell Casting and check it out.

“What I didn’t know was that he had a group of friends that grew up together here and talked every year about getting together,” Kout said. “But every year goes by and they didn’t get a chance.”

After a series of Skype interviews, and assurance everyone could show up for a reunion shoot, the call came on Oct. 17. The friends were all in town by Friday evening, but sequestered in motel rooms.

“They didn’t want us to see each other until they were ready to shoot Sunday night,” Maddox said.

Early morning mountain biking scenes were staged on wicked switchbacks on the Jacksonville Woodlands trails with the help of headlamps. Street scenes were shot before many folks stirred. Because the cast was generally kept apart, Dustin Knapp, Kevin Jantzer and Shawn Petock doubled for the out-of-town cast members and were shot from behind.

The production crew interviewed Maddox, providing insight and an audio backdrop. The big moment came Sunday evening, the beginning of an all-night marathon. The house was stocked with a couple of cases of Bud. But after one drink, production assistants gathered up the mostly filled cans and took them away, providing fresh cans for the next take.

“We would do that over and over,” he said. “The funny thing is that none of us are really big drinkers — we barely drink. The game is about image more than authenticity. Because of what I do, I’m used to this kind of thing and wasn’t uncomfortable. The reality of this giant production was that I had a reunion with five buddies. We could’ve been drinking lemonade and they would’ve got the same reaction.”

The cost of the weekend shoot by Swedish-based production company B-Reel was roughly $250,000 to $300,000. Adding post-production costs, Kout estimates the spot cost well over a half-million dollars.

“With everything well over a million,” he said.

Those working in front of the camera generally earn $300 to $500 for a 10-hour day plus expenses, Kout said. “They’re licensing their image and voice to be put on television.”

The production crew gets paid for its working hours.

The local economy gets a nice bump in the process, he said. Production crew members spent three to five nights at Homewood Suites in Medford. Car rental, meals, per diem for expenses, supplies and equipment rental bring money into local coffers, too.

Budweiser, Kout said, will get brand enhancement.

“They’re typically creating aspirational situations for people to see on screen,” he said. “They are doing awesome things, in awesome places and using their product. Whether it’s drinking beer, using shampoo, driving cars, or putting money in their bank, the clients want to create desire for the person watching, they want viewers to want to be like them.”