As Josh Kline, Creative Director at EA Sports, put it when he chose Tim Tadder to direct and produce the Madden 20 launch “I’ve always wanted to work with Tim since I first came across his work a few years ago. The crispness and precision that he captures are second to none, and his use of light and color is incredible. The results speak for themselves and pop off your social feed in a way that very clearly signals that there’s something new coming and that this is the premium football experience!”
It was the perfect collaboration because Tim Tadder is known for creating images that elicit a response and EA Sports is known for its billion-dollar Madden franchise that makes the players feel like they are in the game – two brands that want to create something epic.
The creative brief was simple, “Make people feel like an NFL superstar at every touchpoint. The energy, the athleticism, the swagger, etc. Everything that you would feel if you were a superstar in the NFL, you should feel in Madden… without getting hit by a 300-pound lineman.”
This year, the game is all about making Madden 20 players feel like superstars. Developers added in more experiences that help them feel like they are in the game and have a career as a pro football player. So, when EA Sports chose the NFL talent this year, “it was about focusing on the modern Superstars in the league right now,” competitors who represented the New Guard. So, in the pre-pro, Tim decided to center his treatment around the emotions of the game, playing on the drive and passion a young athlete brings to it. The execution of the idea brought applause.
Tim delivered because he has an exceptional talent for working with professional athletes. For this shoot, he called on his background as a football player and coach to bring out the best performances possible from the athletes with whom he worked. He learned long ago that you couldn’t “out-cool” these guys, so he doesn’t even try. Instead, Tim leverages his experience, brings his own swagger to set and confidently treats the players like they are on the field, calling plays in the studio, giving specific directions. Standing at 6’7″, Tim is an unconventional photographer bringing incredible energy to the set, as evident by physically showing a player how hard he wants the ball to be spiked. He understands the football vernacular, and the athletes recognize that and are more trusting as a result.
Tim is the best kind of problem-solver. Intending to disarm an athlete and get them to show their personalities, Tim peruses an athlete’s Instagram, and other sources to learn more about them. He finds pictures or game footage, envisioning future shots. Then he asks the athletes to reenact scenes from the field, on set. This approach allows Tim to ensure authenticity during the shoot. One look at Patrick Mahomes‘ sidearm, no-look passing, or JuJu Smith-Schuster’s young at heart, playful personality, and you can see Tim has met his goal. The Madden 20 work showcases the joy and reverence of the game.
There was a bit of serendipity on this shoot as well. Even though the Madden 20 team hired Tim to shoot motion for this project with his trademark color saturation, he found a way to deliver some stills as well. Tim and team had two RED Monstro VistaVision cameras on-set. He took screen grabs of the motion footage and found the imagery rivaled those of a digital camera.
Marking a milestone in his transition from still photographer to director, the Madden 20 work represented the first broadcast shoot where Tim was tasked to only shoot motion. “On the creative call I began to speak about capturing stills and motions and Josh interrupted me mid-stream informing me that they had a still photographer already lined up. I was over the moon to be recognized as truly a director and not just a combo solution. The Madden job lead to another major motion only NFL spot for Verizon just a few months later.”
Tim created work that opens the door to new ideas, pushes boundaries, and establishes new standards. He is far from a rookie photographer or director, yet he still approaches each opportunity with the same grit and dedication as his very first assignment. Follow Tim on Instagram to see his own brand of swagger and the epic work he delivers for the next brand.