After months of planning for the No More Casualties campaign, I (Stefan Didak), flew out to Los Angeles on the 15th of January to meet up with my on-location team as well as Brian, Sharon, Will, Juliette, Camille, and the crew over at Infused Digital. Doing any kind of production work is always perilous in that many things can go wrong or cause delays and the first thing that morning was the long security line at Oakland Airport. I fly out of Oakland Airport a lot and this was certainly the kind of long line I had never seen there before.
Brian and Sharon flew from Arizona to Los Angeles while Will drove from there along with his wife and daughter. Juliette and Camille on the other hand needed to travel a little less since they are local to Southern California.
Since the first day to shoot photography and video was going to be Saturday the 16th and I arrived fairly early in the day it provided me some time to meet up with Brian and Sharon for dinner and get to know each other a little better and go over the planned schedule and activities for the weekend.
During our dinner I quickly discovered that Sharon is a pillar of support to Brian and both their stories are amazing to hear about. It also became clear that the word casualty applies to Brian in more ways than just the visible aspects. We already knew we had found the right person to be the hero with a passion for our vapor campaign but the more I got to know Brian the more pieces fell into place. We retired fairly early in the evening after dinner, knowing that it was going to be a long day in the studio starting the next morning.
In the morning we met up with Will who had arrived and went off in search of breakfast and a final look over the schedule and shot list before heading out to Vape Capitol, the studio location not too far from our hotel. Over there we met up with the locals on our team while the Infused Digital crew was already setting up the lighting and equipment for the day.
However, before any pictures and video could be shot, Brian and Will decided to head out to get a haircut, a trim, and get toned up for the shoot. You would think this is not a problem in an area in Southern California but as it turned out many places had up to 2 hours of wait time. Eventually they found a place and returned in tip top condition for the shoot.
The Not Blowing Smoke team had been teasing the vaping community for a little while regarding the campaign title and slogan, which of course, just like the rest of the campaign we are going to start shooting and working on in the very near future, we are extremely tight lipped about. And in proper teaser fashion we had Juliette hold up our schedule and shot list with the campaign title and slogan covered up.
Once the actual production work started we gained a lot of acceleration by having both the video and photography going on simultaneously. Partly because we needed to get the same shots to remain consistent between the planned TV commercials as well as the photographic material for print and online publishing. Brian held up amazingly well considering that his injuries are quite severe even though you generally may only notice the prosthetic leg as the focal point.
All in all the production went fairly smooth and without much of a hitch and it was a true pleasure working with the crew at Infused Digital. Throughout the production activities I shot some pictures with my phone in anticipation of writing this little “behind the scenes” segment. I also made sure that any pictures I posted online during the weekend did not reveal too much on what exactly we might be producing.
After a long day in the studio we headed back to our hotels and headed out to dinner. Realizing that we had accomplished to shoot all the material we had been planning on it gave us the Sunday on the 17th to do something else. We had planned in the second day in the studio mainly in case we would not get all the material we aimed for. Will suggested we go to Disneyland since that was only a few miles from our location and that’s exactly what we decided on doing the next day.
As planned we headed to Disneyland only to decide early in the morning to go to Disney’s California Adventure instead. Turns out Disneyland had a lot of areas closed for the season and closed for maintenance. Will, being Will, of course, enjoyed the fact that at times we could cut in line due to Brian and the wheelchair. It’s the little things in life, shall we say!
I generally don’t like theme parks very much. I just don’t like crowds. The rides, however, were a lot of fun. But what really made the day a great experience was hanging out with old friends and new friends. Camille, Jacob, and the kids joined us in California Adventure as well and as many of you may know already, vaping brings people together and this was no exception. We had a lot of fun while at the same time brainstorming about some of the final details of the campaign that were still left open for fine tuning.
One of the ideas that came up was to do this huge collection of vapers who decided to no longer be casualties. A day after my return I immediately started asking folks for pictures to create the initial set for the website to ensure people understood the purpose. That in itself was fun to create and Danielle created a nice set of layers in Photoshop to help create these final images in a very rapid manner.
During our little bit of “downtime” I discovered that Brian and Sharon had only recently discovered there’s vape expo’s and conventions. This again was a reminder that Brian is the perfect fit for this campaign as he is one of those 9 million vapers out there who is generally not involved in the online or offline vaping communities that we all know and love yet unfortunately also often regard as “all there is”. Those are the vapers we need to reach, activate and mobilize to help in our fight.
I, in turn, learned that Brian and Sharon would be at Vapin The Sun, the event that just took place a day before this website went live (even though I am writing this almost 30 days prior, but not that you’d know that, right?). Their first vape expo. And it also happens to be the one that is being put on by Vape A Vet and where all proceeds of the event will go towards Vape A Vet. Being good at spotting opportunities I decided I should be there (since I had not planned on it) and that we should do the unveiling and launch of the campaign at the event while releasing the website the Monday after the event. At the time of me writing this we’re working very hard on making that happen.
After our adventures and rides we headed to dinner and started packing and everything for our trips back the next day. It was a great dinner to help end the great time we had the past days.
Time to check out and time to head back. But before that I had breakfast with Sharon and we ended up talking until I had to jump onto a conference call that takes place every Monday at 10am.
The flight back was just a short one hour flight and after I got back home I immediately jumped on booking the flight for Vapin The Sun as well as the hotel. Though as it now, as of the time of me writing this, turns out I will not be staying there as I received a much better offer that will save Not Blowing Smoke quite a bit of money by not being in the hotel. Derek from VapeStorm and Erica from Vapun Magazine offered me a room in the house that they have rented for the event.
In addition to that we’re working hard at a plan where we will be using their presence and booth space at the event as the central point for the No More Casualties campaign as well as a few other things that have been set in motion that I won’t be able to write about right now.
Work on getting all the pictures and video material in our Drop Box started pretty much after I got back home. The only day I got to be home because the next day Jason and I had to fly out for the St. Louis Vapor Expo in Missouri, from which we have only just returned yesterday.
In the process of our first shoot like this we have learned a lot that will be extremely valuable in planning and getting together the next one. As what you see right now is just the start.