ONCE UPON A TIME...
DORITOS D&AD BRIEF
////// Before you click the video, you must read this first //////
An animal was harmed during the making of my first commercial as a student. And I don't say that as something to be proud of, it just happened. For our student D&AD film entry, a couple of mates and I decided to film a hawk that would protect its master from anyone trying to steal Doritos. Yes, this was a very ambitious concept with no money or experience. Our only advantage was that as students, we were able to apply filming tactics that would never be allowed under normal circumstances. For the first scene when a larger man tries to take Doritos from a young boy, we decided to attach beef to the larger man and let a hawk attack him for realz. I should probably also mention that we did not tell our actor about this unorthodox approach until he was sat down on the sofa and we were about to roll the film. We figured this method would give us a very realistic attack scene as opposed to trying to composite something in post. The owner of the hawk caused a bit of a panic when he told the actor to close his eyes during the attack. He said that if the hawk thinks the actor is looking at the meat, it would claw his eye lids! We somehow convinced the actor to stop being a prima dona and we hit roll. The scene came together great, no eye lids were clawed.
We found our hawk tamer on craigslist. The owner was wearing full camo on production and was happy to do the shoot free of charge, the hawk was his baby. You can't buy hawks in the store, you have to steal them from their nests. So, several years ago the hawk master brought a medieval chainmail helmet and climbed a mountain. He stole our hawk from its nest as a baby, and managed to safely descend back down the mountain, despite the mother hawk attacking his head. He’d spent countless hours training the hawk, but, hawks have no loyalty. The only way you can get a hawk to come back to you is by starving it, and then flashing some meat while the hawk is up in the air. During our commercial we gave the hawk a little too much meat. So, after a couple of attack scenes, the hawk had eaten enough beef and decided to fly off out the window leaving our hawk master in despair and our fully loaded production crew with nothing to film. However, the hawk did have a GPS device hanging from its leg. Not a modern device, but one that would beep slightly faster if you were to move in the right direction.
"Quick, let's GO!" The owner pulls out his GPS tracking device and commanded me to get in my car so we could hunt down the hawk. My buddy Patrick and I drove the owner towards the direction the hawk had flown. As we drove around the mountains of Park City, Utah, the hawkmaster suddenly shouts, “Stop the car!” He then jumps out of the car and runs up to a large family home and knocks the door. When a lady answered the front door, our hawkmaster dressed in full camo, didn’t even ask permission, but ran into her home and headed straight for her back garden. He then began to search in her garden for his hawk. Patrick and I ran up to the lady, who was in shock, and tried to explain to her that camo man was harmless and that she should not call the cops.
We headed back to our production empty handed, without a hawk. The hawkmaster was devastated. We explained to the rest of the crew that we would have to capture our last couple of shots without the hawk and that we would fix it in post. That night our hawkmaster headed back towards the mountains to find his baby.
The following morning Patrick received a text, “the hawk was eaten.” He thought he might have misread the message, maybe it meant to say the hawk was eating? He called the hawkmaster to clarify. After a long night of searching, the hawkmaster found the bones of his hawk in the forest, with the GPS hanging from the leg. Apparently eagles had captured and eaten the hawk. We were devastated. We could not believe what we were hearing. However, we managed to find another hawk to capture our last couple of shots on greenscreen, and managed to submit our entry on the final day of the deadline. Oh, and in order to submit the commercial to D&AD, we had to ask the hawkmaster to sign a form that states the hawk wasn’t hurt during our commercial… which technically it wasn’t.
A few months later we received notice that we were shortlisted as finalists at the D&AD. Patrick and I flew over to the award show and were awarded first prize, and even nominated as Students of the year. We even heard that they almost disqualified our commercial because they thought we paid a professional production company to execute it for us. It was an incredibly proud moment for us all. We named the commercial “In memory of Goshawk 1.”