Monday, February 3, 2014

The Many Faces of Google

You may have heard that Google Fiber recently arrived in Provo, Utah. If you want to know what  exactly that means, read this short article by my friend and yours, Christian Faulconer (the David Letterman of Provo), who actually toured the Google Fiber facility.

My home was officially Google Fibered last week, so I'm a fan. But I'm probably also inclined because our family got to be a part of the ad campaign! And now, since you didn’t ask, I’d like to give you some “Behind the Scenes” of the Google ad. Some “The Making Of” goodies. Some DVD bonus features.

It all started when Google decided they needed a gi-normous family, in order to back up their slogan for Provo: Bigger Broadband for Bigger Families. Yup. That’s us. We are officially a family of 10. But at the time of filming, back in December 2013, we were still getting used to our size, as Hillary had been born only 3 weeks earlier. And it was mid-December with Christmas fast approaching. So, not to brag, but, you know...we were kind of out of our minds and barely keeping it together.

For example, I remember one Sunday morning my 8 year old came into my room to tell me he was ready for church. Judging by his pants, he was either anticipating a flood, or had grown 5 inches overnight. His white shirt - his white short-sleeve shirt in 22 degree weather - looked like it had been wadded up in a tennis-ball container since summer. His hair looked like it was in a fight with itself. We locked eyes, and without blinking, I said, “Lookin’ good, bud; go get in the car.”

So, back to our story, the ad folks from Google came out from San Francisco and showed up at our house the day before filming, so they could do that thing where directors make their fingers into squares so they have a “camera view” as they scan the area for what they plan to film. They were super nice and friendly and encouraging - which is how they tricked us into going through the hassle of taking down our Christmas decorations for the commercial.

The day of the shoot, two different crews were there from 9:30 a.m. to about 4:30 p.m. The morning was for the film crew who rearranged the house, set up lighting, wardrobe, make-up, etc. Meanwhile, I went to work for a couple of hours and came home around 11:00 a.m. When I pulled up to the house, it was a complete and awesome spectacle. I had to park down the street, as my house was surrounded by trucks, cars, and equipment. The garage was full of racks of clothing and craft services. I so badly wanted to know what the neighbors thought was going on.

I walked in the front door, and in addition to my family, the house was buzzing with another 25 people. The furniture was different, lights were everywhere, a woman I didn’t recognize walked by holding Lucy, my two-year old, and they were deep in conversation. Then I saw somebody I knew - my five-year old, Becca. She was already in new wardrobe and make-up, and my goodness - she was gorgeous. She looked like a movie star. She hugged my legs, careful not to wipe her lip gloss on my pants.

Our master bedroom had been converted into “the changing room,” and our daughters’ room had become “hair and make up,” with several salon chairs. Some poor man almost lost his mind trying to figure out if all the kids had been through both rooms and were ready. The house sounded like a dinner party and smelled like coffee. I met the creative director and account executive from the ad agency and part of the team from Google. Lots of handshakes, lots of “thank yous” ... they were really warm and lovely people. Full of genuine compliments about how great my children were. (And if you ever want to win somebody over, tell a dad that his kids are amazing.)

First we shot our portion of the commercial. That’s Katie and Garren at the kitchen table on a tablet - they are supposed to be doing homework, but they’re watching Thor 2 trailers. Then there’s Abbie on the laptop, emailing friends. And that’s Tanner, running from the kitchen to the couch, to join the rest of us who were watching The Avengers on a TV that isn't ours, but the kids desperately hoped was one of the perks of the job. So most of us just had to sit there, acting natural. (Hillary nailed it.) Except Tanner. He and the director had a special relationship. It went like this: The director would say, “Just one more time, Tanner.” And Tanner would whisper to me under his breath, “I just want to watch the movie.” This happened 23 times. He was a trooper.

Then we all broke for lunch. The film crew packed out their gear, and the stills crew packed in theirs. The producers materialized the most delicious craft services, but they also ordered a bunch of pizzas for my kids. My kids loved them for this.

Everybody was so kind. They interacted with my kids, we all told stories, they asked about my career and our family. It was clear that minds were blown and pants were pooped by the fact that we had 8 children and yet we were magically void of any meltdowns, spills, injuries, or wardrobe malfunctions. The gods of advertising smiled on us that day.

Then they took a family photo of us.

Then we did a photo shoot in our kitchen. Katie was in the front, holding a frame where the gifted designers would later superimpose our new family photo. Behind Katie were all our children - a mix of baking, cleaning, and playing with electronics. And that is the billboard currently making the scene all over Provo.

As the day was wrapping up the delightful wardrobe lady came over and told me that she was going to leave us the wardrobe used for the shoot. Awesome! Then they told us they were leaving the rest of the craft services with us because nobody wanted to haul the food away. Dinner is served! And the photographer said they would make sure we got the family photo.  Christmas in December!

Then, my favorite part. The gentleman from Google came over to me and said, “I’ve been watching your kids all day. My wife and I have an 18-month old...and we plan to have more. I watch your kids and I get excited - thinking of my children being as good of friends as yours are.”  And as fun and exhausting as the entire day was - that was the moment when my day was made. Yes, we are a big family. Yes, that often means things aren’t on time or wrinkle-free or at a low volume. But sometimes, against all odds, it means maybe you get to be a force for good in the world.

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