The latest National Geographic Channel made-for-TV movie, “Killing Reagan”, is a dramatic look at John Hinkley’s 1981 assassination attempt against U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Evolve partnered with the Creative Marketing Team at NGC to bring to life a series of trailers, teases, and promotional TV spots.
Ridley Scott’s made-for-TV movie, “Killing Reagan”, poised a great opportunity to our creative team: take a high-profile established property with a defined, iconic marketing aesthetic and remix it, Evolve style. The latest adaptation in a series of book-based historical thrillers, this story focused on the attempt and almost murder of President Ronald Reagan. Being a key, premium piece of National Geographic programming, the stage was set with the opportunity to boom or bust.
THE CREATIVE CHALLENGE
We love shooting promos, but when it comes to high-profile shows, the tricky part is making it look like the show while also giving the promo its own look. One unique aspect we latched onto early-on was John Hinkley’s perspective. The guy was judged innocent after being declared insane. We did some research and read all about how distorted his thinking was. Our immediate thoughts were, “Okay, how do we wrap up this huge, crazy concept in thirty seconds?”
While it was easy to think of hallucinations, dreams, or haunting images that could motivate John’s perspective, it was really important for us to practice multi-tracking in the ideating process so we didn’t get stuck in one line of thinking. Our goal was to create multiple concepts that could help elevate the character’s stories while promoting the show well. So we landed on combining the visual style of John’s mind and in-camera distortions with the point of view coming from the three main characters.
THEN, WE GOT THE NEWS.
About two weeks from the shoot date, we heard from client that they liked the idea of what we were proposing, but they just didn’t love it yet. We were pitching a visual style and aesthetic that wasn’t easy to reference. They couldn’t see what we were seeing. Suffice it to say, the pressure was on.
WE GOT TO WORK THAT SAME NIGHT.
We had some glass panels in the back, and set to work taking pictures with a fake gun using our team members as stand-ins. We put titles over the pictures, added the glass effects and light distortions, and treated the footage. Four hours later, we sent it to client.
And…. they loved it! It was so cool to see the light bulb turn on for them. They were able to see exactly what we were talking about it, and it got them excited. It was a huge moment for us. It confirmed that the best way to prove what you want to do is to do it. As a company, we feel some of our best moments and opportunities have been when we’ve said, “Man, what would it be like if we could do something like this?” and then went, “Well, why don’t we just do it?”
There are obvious obstacles like time, budget, resources… it’s hard to pull together something that you’re not being asked to do, let alone commissioned to do, but it’s so important for growth to try things, and to have the confidence in yourself and in your team to get an idea done. In this case, it proved our investment in the project and gave our clients confidence in the idea.
When it came time for production, having those reference frames gave our team the freedom to expound on the ideas. Our DP, David Procter, brought a lot of ideas to the table that helped us achieve what we wanted practically. It was the same with our art department head, Jack Van Matre. Our two lead actors, Cynthia Nixon and Tim Matheson, were exceptional. They had a lot of respect for everyone on the set. They would rehearse once, and then nail it.
Having a clear vision and pulling it off gave us confidence in creating our own references. We had a gut feeling that there was a way to make this idea work. But just because we could see it, doesn’t mean that the people around us could. So we set out to prove it, and we did. It was an investment, but was so worth it in the end.
IT ALL BOILS DOWN TO A SIMPLE TRUTH: THE BEST WAY TO SHOW AND SELL AN IDEA IS TO GO MAKE IT…AND SHOW THE ACTUAL IDEA. THIS HAS BEEN A KEY LEARNING POINT IN OUR CREATIVE PROCESS AS WE’VE CONTINUED TO GROW AND ADOPT NEW METHODOLOGIES. AFTER ALL, IN THIS BUSINESS, AN IDEA IS ONLY AS GOOD AS YOU CAN COMMUNICATE IT.