Tim Tadder is a producer, director, writer, and photographer – a visual communicator. His experience as an athlete and later as a photojournalist has given him the ability to work harder, and problem solve smarter. When Verizon came calling and wanted a seemingly impossible amount of video assets, Tim didn’t blink. Known for his epic imagery where he tells a story, inspiring people to act, Tim has produced motion work that is grand in its own right. We were aware of the competing interests of lack of time and the plethora of assets this project required. We wanted the behind the scenes story of how this came to fruition. We asked Tim, executive producer, Dahlia, and the Verizon client, to share their stories.
The original email that came about the project referenced Tim’s experience with NFL players. What other reasons helped align him with this project?
VERIZON: The main deliverable of the shoot was to create a library of anthemic & individual player content, usable across several channels—from social videos to retail stores to stadium screens. In addition to player experience, we were looking for a director who could bring a “coming at you” visual style that was both ownably striking and consistent from team-to-team and player-to-player. Tim’s rich portfolio of expressive and visually dynamic studio work fit the bill nicely. We had to have him.
What were the specific deliverables?
DAHLIA: We were asked to deliver (1) :30 multi-player anthem to include (10) active NFL players. Also included in the list were (13) :10 – :20 individual active NFL player + NFL alumni content videos. On top of that, we needed to shoot (5-7) short-form videos, including GIFs and in-stadium assets. The cherry on top was that the client wanted to be able to pull stills from all of the motion footage.
The timing was tight on this shoot, what did you have to do to ensure the client felt confident you could deliver?
DAHLIA: From approval to the first build day, we had one week to pull off what felt like an impossible task. A rockstar team that we’ve worked with before was paramount. The requirements were simple: hire a team that would do an incredible job, given the timeline; a group that would be there to help and support us along the way, at all hours of the day.
We thought through every little delicate detail, even changing studio space to handle our on-set needs. From creating our set design from scratch to ensuring we had the right studio space, everyone felt more at ease and knew the right team was on the job.
The brief required Tim to capture video and social from 13 NFL athletes over two days. The production also had to coordinate with other Verizon production teams who also needed the athlete’s time to create their assets. Therefore, beyond creative, you needed to engage with a team that had strong production capabilities. In the conversations leading up to choosing Tim, how did he and his team make you feel confident that they were going to be able to manage all of this? Did they deliver?
VERIZON: Tim and his production team faced what would be a difficult ask for a less experienced and talented team. Because it’s not just about scheduling the multiple crews for the two days, but the 13 players’ schedules—each with limited time each day. Big props to our partnership team for that. On the production side, we worked closely with Tim & crew to organize every minute of studio time to get what we needed and cut what we didn’t—squeezing out every drop. It’s a testament to Tim’s ability and endless energy that we got everything we needed and then some.
You had seven athletes on the first day and six on the last day. Was it challenging to have so many athletes to shoot, and still maintain the same energy and passion from one athlete to the next? What kept you going?
TIM: I think it’s just pure adrenaline. You have to keep it high energy or, the entire set falls apart. I think it took me at least a week to get my focus back after the shoot.
Tim values creating epic work that elicits a response. Do you feel like he created an environment where his team could collaborate with yours to create such work?
VERIZON: 100%. Tim was open to collaboration before and during production—whatever it took to bring our collective vision to life in the right way. It had to be different. It had to be consistent. It had to be cool for the players and the partnership. Even in our initial conversations, it was clear that Tim and the creative team were on the same page. From there, it was just about the ideas/details & look/feel.
Even though the client provided thought out scripts, were they still open to collaboration and insights from Tim? What were they, and did those insights become part of the approach?
DAHLIA: The clients were extremely buttoned up on their objectives. They realized they were working with an incredible professional who excels at sports shoots and understands football because of his background playing it in high school and college. They were super collaborative and allowed Tim to bring his knowledge of the sport to the table. He made suggestions on what moves and plays the athletes should perform to give us the most variety and quality shots possible.
Some of the shots in the agency storyboard weren’t quite right from a visual standpoint, or for the specific athlete. Because of Tim’s love for football, and the fact that he is an avid fan that watches most of the games, the agency was open to his suggestions.
We were up against a creative challenge of figuring out how best to design our set with LED fixtures. We took some reference examples that the agency provided, and were able to elevate it to the final look giving us a dynamic and constant camera push they loved. Tim’s suggestion of going with a clean and straightforward visual provided the best results allowing us to focus on the athlete and their moves while also giving us gorgeous lighting setups.
Did you know early on about Tim’s own football experience and did that favor into your decision? How did that experience play out on set? Did you see him interacting with the players differently because of it, and how did the players react to him?
VERIZON: Absolutely. A director’s experience with celebrity talent always factors heavily into shoots like these. Just like a TV interviewer, familiarity helps create trust and comfort on-set, allowing for more genuine performances and natural reactions. Players & celebrities can often be wary of being made to look silly or out of character. In Tim’s case, his comfort around players brought out their A-games. For younger players, it’s about helping them feel casual enough to get over camera-shyness and the weirdness of a studio shoot. For experienced players, it’s working with their professionalism and maybe even getting them to loosen up and have some fun. Hearing Tim’s name was enough for some players to feel like they were already in good hands. It all went a long way to make the most of a short amount of shoot time.
What is Tim like on set with the athletes? How do they react to him? Do you think it makes a difference in the performance he gets from them?
DAHLIA: The moment these athletes walk on set, Tim turns into this high energy, super driven, and motivating “coach.” It’s incredible to see how the players react to him; they become instantly comfortable. Rather than Tim being this intimidating director and speaking a language they might not understand or relate to, he gets on the player’s level and treats them as if they’re on the practice field or in the middle of an actual game. Tim gives them specific football moves that they are used to hearing. You can see this shift in the athletes, from being nervous in front of all these people and cameras, to becoming powerful humans doing what they love, even if it’s in a studio, and not on a field.
I’ve heard these guys say multiple times on set, “Ok coach; I got you.” That’s when you know we’re going to get the best out of them. It’s honestly one of my favorite parts of my job, seeing the interaction between Tim and these athletes that are larger than life. It also helps that Tim is just as tall as most of them.
Given the tight turnaround time, did you and your team feel supported with a strong sense of collaboration to get us to the finish line smoothly?
VERIZON: The timing was tight, and that brought complications and sacrifices. Like a QB running a two-minute drill, we were fortunate enough to have both a director like Tim on our side, as well as a reliable crew of experienced people – from creative, production, partnership, and strategy, who could get the job done right and on time. Quick turnarounds are rarely ideal, but it helps when you have a team who knows what they’re doing and are all headed in the same direction.
The production was fast and furious and required a lot of moving parts. How do you work with the brand team to make sure it goes off without a hitch?
DAHLIA: I am always thinking ahead. What could go wrong? How can we avoid it before it happens? Do we have the right eye black that Drew Brees wears on the field? Do we have turf shoes rather than cleats, so these guys don’t slip on the studio floor? Do we have sharpies and paint pens for the athletes to sign swag? Does every green room have the right brand of water that the athletes can drink from a sponsorship standpoint? Are we staying on track with our timing, so these guys get off-set the moment they’re supposed to? The list goes on.
Because I am thinking through all of these scenarios, brand teams and agencies realize, this team has produced sports shoots before and understands how critical it is that things run smoothly. We ensure that not only the athletes are happy, but their agents are as well. If these athletes and agents are smiling, having fun, and they can see that we’re using their time efficiently, I have done my job and can walk away happy.
How does Verizon measure success for a campaign like this?
VERIZON: From a numbers perspective, it’s largely about engagement and awareness. We needed content that builds excitement and positive sentiment for what Verizon Up rewards can offer any NFL fan. Plus, we needed to champion the Verizon & NFL partnership overall. As far as intangibles go, we wanted a campaign that was consistently eye-catching wherever you saw it. We needed to push the Verizon brands’ visual style to a place that felt fresh yet appropriate to such a premium partnership. There’s plenty of season left to go, but so far we’re very happy with how it’s been received.
Was this a successful shoot for you? Why?
TIM: It was a very successful shoot. First, the client was over the moon, happy with the results; that’s very important. Second, everyone had a great time from the players to the agents, to the crew, there was positive energy, and people were just blown away during the process. And finally, because of the vision and direction we had, it came to life in the final takes. It was a very close alignment with what we storyboarded and hoped to get in every way.
Anything fun from this shoot you can share?
TIM: This shoot was memorable for me because I got to work with one of my all-time favorite players, Ed Reed. I have seen every one of Ed’s games, most of them twice, so it was a real honor to work with one of the greatest to ever play the game. Even better was that he was so much fun to work with too. Ed was an absolute blast and had the same personality off the field that I, as a fan, loved about him on the turf.
A fantastic moment happened when Ed and Vince Wilfork happened to be on set at the same time. They played together in college and had a little dance party on set while singing a rap song they made and recorded while at the University of Miami. It was a special moment between the two of them, and it was awesome to see and share in that.
Do you want your fix of athletics in motion? Follow Tim on Instagram for your daily dose of imagery that elicits a response.