Grow Your Own

About a year ago, I received a call from a producer who needed a crew for a direct-market commercial. I was referred to him by a gaffer I often work with. The producer felt my specialty in product shooting and direct-market content would be a good match for his needs.

I live in a part of Florida where direct-market content, or infomercials, is shot regularly. In fact, it’s so popular here that a major cable TV network shot a reality show that starred the late Billy Mays, who was headquartered in Tampa.

The budget looked decent and the producer was very experienced, so I agreed to the job. The producer asked if I knew of any locations and talent, and I ended up doing a little line producing while he was wrapping another job out of town—arranging my crew, gear, location and submitting some talent options. In a few days, I heard back from him that my first choices for location and talent were perfect. I said to myself, "This is great. He’s a well-connected producer, and I could always use another friend in the business."

We locked in a date, booked the crew and prepared for a day of shooting. Of course, there were some last-minute changes. I quickly handled these changes, and the producer was thrilled with my problem-solving abilities.

The producer told me a day before the shoot that he was sending out a script to crew members, but we had discussed setups over the phone a few times, and I was confident that we were ready to shoot. The script never came, so I didn’t really know what we were shooting until the day of the shoot.

I met the producer face to face for the first time, and we greeted one another and got down to business. He handed me a script. Immediately, I was drawn to phrases in the audio portion: "hydroponic", "grow your own", "great for dorms and apartments", "grows what you want fast".

Then the product expert showed up. He pulled out boxes containing five-and-a-half-foot-tall in-home hydroponic garden devices—perfectly shaped for growing, you guessed it, marijuana. The entire crew just stood there for a second. It was obvious to everyone exactly what this product was for. The lighthearted producer immediately sensed our mood, and said with a chuckle, "So, today we’re shooting something that’s obviously meant to grow pot."

Everyone started laughing uncontrollably, and we had a great day shooting. I’ve worked with that producer several times since. In fact, as I write this, in a few weeks I’ll be shooting with him in Melbourne.

Based in Florida, freelance DP Matt Wightman shoots everything from commercials, reality TV and true crime shows, to direct market content, marketing and advertising, and the occasional feature film.

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Anyone who has spent time in film and video production has had a funny experience happen to them. Odd, quirky things can take place on set, and we love sharing those stories at the end of a shoot.

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