We’ve been producing a Summer Special for the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk since 2007, the year they celebrated their Centennial (100 years. Wow!). We were asked, at the time, to create a “Look Live” half-hour television special. “Look Live” is a program that looks as if it is happening live but is actually taped and edited in advance of airing. It would air three times on the Bay Area powerhouse station, KTVU, Channel 2. We were on board and for seven years we were at the Boardwalk on the day they kick off the season, the weekend before Memorial Day, with a big crew and our two hosts, Lex van den Berghe and Julie Courtney (they’ve been hosting the show for six of those seven years).
Even Great Ideas Have a Shelf Life
The idea was the brainchild of the Santa Cruz Seaside Company’s Vice President of Marketing, Marq Lipton. It became a half-hour commercial, boasting all the things that will make your trip to the Boardwalk more fun than you could ever imagine. And even though it was consistently a ratings winner (Bay Area viewers love the Boardwalk), creatively we were getting…well, a little bored. You know you’re in trouble when you’re using last year’s script as a “template”. Yikes! And although I could have written most of the script in my sleep (Yikes, again), it wasn’t really the type of story telling that we LOVE to tell. Emotional stories that make you laugh, cry, go awwww!
Time for a Fresh Start
So when we met with the Boardwalk in February, we were ready to shake things up. And, fortunately, so was the Boardwalk’s Marketing Team. One of Marq’s first pieces of input was “We want it to be more authentic.” Jackpot! That’s exactly what we were thinking. Great minds think alike? Our team (Tam, Regan, Jill, and I) had met internally and we already had a list of ideas. And then I had some “secret” meetings with some of our Boardwalk team members to flesh out the ideas. So we came into the meeting armed to the teeth with creative.
Our original concept was to tell the story of the Boardwalk from 2 a.m. to 2 a.m. Yes, they do work around the clock. How do you think the place looks so spiffy when it opens at 11 a.m. when it wasn’t so spiffy at closing time 12 hours earlier? It would be our thread to take us through various packages about the Boardwalk including a package on Joe Marini, Owner of Marini’s at the Beach (they are celebrating their 100 years); going behind-the-scenes of the making of the new Boardwalk commercial; walking the tracks of the 90 year old Giant Dipper (who wouldn’t want to do that?); and the ultimate rite of passage—a child’s first ride on the Giant Dipper. And we had the perfect child for that momentous occasion. Producer Regan Eymann’s son, August, had just reached the necessary height to ride the Dipper and he was more than anxious to have the experience. (Insider’s note: We made him wait until we were ready to shoot it.)
Production started in April and ended in mid May…at Kick-Off. We were also simultaneously producing the new commercial campaign, other videos for the Boardwalk, and projects for other clients so it was a hectic couple of months at Tam Communications. But when you’re spending half the time at the beach or looking at images of the beach and Boardwalk, it doesn’t feel so much like work. It’s also cool when we’re all in it together…where the collaboration between Tam O’Connor Fraser as Director/Director of Photography/Editor, Regan as producer and myself in the writing mode is like a well-worn pair of jeans, feeling really comfortable after all these years.
Imagine Our Surprise
In post-production we discovered that, while we did follow the 2 a.m. to 2 a.m. story line, our “A” story was actually August’s story. The anticipation of the night before would be in Act I. The arrival and then the growing nervousness of “this is really happening” was perfect in Act 2. Double-checking his height and making the long walk up the ramp, seeing images he’d never seen even though he’d spent his whole life at the Boardwalk, fit like a glove in Act 3. And then the pay-off in Act IV, and the show, was the ride itself, combining August’s POV with a GoPro pointing directly at him. If you watch and listen carefully, you hear him say over and over and over again. “This is so scary!” No worries. He’s ridden it several times since. Allowing the show to evolve in post was another by-product of our well-worn jeans. Insider’s Note: August is my grandchild. I didn’t watch the ride itself until late in the process and when I did, I had a visceral reaction to see my grandson go through that ordeal. Talk about authentic!
It was so much of a departure from prior years that we approached each client review with nervous energy. We knew that we were not only making good TV but the Boardwalk’s brand was being communicated in the most powerful way. And it didn’t feel like a commercial, instead a compelling story about one of our favorite places.
We’re so proud of the finished product. It’s some of our best work ever. And it again, was a ratings winner. And, thanks to the sales efforts of the Boardwalk’s Director of Advertising, Sondra Woods, it was seen not just on KTVU but on channels throughout Northern California including five times a week on our local CW affiliate for a whole month. Very cool!
It’s hard to imagine this coming together without the team at the Santa Cruz Seaside Company. Yes, they were ready for change, but they entrusted us to deliver. There are too many to name but you can watch the credits and know that there were many more than what we listed listed…all people that for us, helped make producing “Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: Memories Made Here” an amazing memory for us.