Scout and Manage Yili’s TV Spot

After you look at the 40-second commercial, look at the rest of the images of the production and pictures taken during the scouting I did for this overseas client.

Yili Milk, a consumer food producer based in Outer Mongolia, People’s Republic of China, was coming to the Big Island to film a milk commercial. It was snowy winter at home but the commercial was to be aired on Chinese TV in early summer. Where could they find Big Island locations that looked like Inner Mongolia (where all their dairy cows grazed), supported the story, and more important – fit the expectations of the Hong Kong based director? “Give us rivers and fences!” I was told.

Yili’s message: “Yili Milk is the best because its cows have clean natural water and grass!”

Working under the direction of Gracie Atkins of Moana Productions (Honolulu) I set out to negotiate the use of a local diary and the dairyman’s cows, some of which would be designated “Hero Cows” for their featured roles in the resulting commercial. I also had to look for examples of a particular kind of river and river bank. There were flowers to find and animals to secure.

This was fun detective work and intense exploration of a lot of back corners of the Big Island. Client, talent, crew, and support would all have to be able to reach and operate in whatever appropriate places I could find. It had to be legal. And it had to be affordable. It had to be a sure thing. And I only had several days to assemble test shots and write up options in addition to working with the dairy.

When we nailed down most of the location questions I was hired to stay on as the Location Manager as the production began. I and my assistant Kevin Hobbs worked very hard, long, hours keeping everything going. The Shanghai-based Producer was Carl Thelin of China Common, working on behalf of Yili’s ad agency. We had help from a lot of others like Charlie Anderson, the very creative owner of of Big Island Greenery, who made a very particular rustic-looking long fence as a critical prop. In addition, Charlie and his crew kept the filming locations groomed as the director required. Hawi’s Karen Rosen of Kohala Coffee Mill was a big help as was the Hawi Inn.

I think the most fun was the audition call for about 200 dairy cows. Our host and dairy owner Ed was patient with the whole process and kept his most photogenic cows moving around so we could pick those “Hero Cows” I mentioned. The person I most admired during all this was Gracie Atkins who, as Line Producer, worked harder than any of us. She kept track of every detail, remained sane and kind to everyone, and always advocated for the quality of the project.

There were Hero Bugs and Hero Fish required, too, so the Animal/Bug Wranglers were kept busy.

Enjoy the video of the 40-second version of the commercial in the video window (second frame of the slide show.) Of course it’s in Chinese but you’ll get the idea: “Yili Milk is the best because its cows have clean natural water and grass!”

Comments (1)

  1. Ariana Vincent

    Dear Jonathan, What an interesting story. Thanks so much for sharing the story and the images. Warmly, Ariana Vincent