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Occupy TV Ads? The Branding of Occupy Wall Street

Last week, the first Occupy Wall Street TV ad began airing on channels including Fox News and ESPN. Here's what the director of the ad has to say about it.

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I had each of the people I talked to say what they wanted many times over into the camera, and I had them do variations on it. It was very much directed. I never put words in their mouth, but I definitely worked with them so they presented what they wanted in as powerful a way as possible. I had multiple takes of many more people that I ended up not using. I interviewed probably 30 people, and eight made it into the final spot; those eight had probably five takes each.

When you were creating these ads, were you aware of the alternate right-wing  narrative of the park as a place populated by freaks and freeloaders?

Yes, it was very much in my mind. There are very unfriendly media outlets doing their damnedest to highlight the most unpleasant parts of what’s going on, or to invent those things. And that didn’t gel with my experience down there, so I was very much seeking to counter that narrative. More importantly, I just wanted to get at what I felt was fundamentally true about the movement — and that in itself would counter the narrative most effectively. A lot of people have pitched me the idea of doing an ad that would show what Bill O’Reilly says about the protesters and then show actual protesters. I think that’s a little too conceptual for my taste. I don’t try to make points in my best work, I try to hit people in the gut.

Talk about how the Occupy Poetry and Occupy Streets ads came about:

I was at Occupy D.C. and brought my crew with me, and I saw this guy radiating a certain kind of charisma. He turned out to be a poet. So I filmed him doing his Occupy poem; the cinematographer Eric Branco did an incredible job of framing him just right.

The Streets piece was filmed on the  morning after the city had been planning to evict the protesters from Zuccotti Park. At the last minute the city decided not to evict; it was, of course, enormously dumb of Bloomberg to wait until the last second to tell 500 of the most militant occupiers that they had won. The occupiers took to the streets and the NYPD sent mopeds straight into the crowd. The ad shows one of those scenes where the mopeds just mercilessly charge into a throng of people. The protesters stood their ground and flashed peace signs. I thought it was both aggressive and inspiring on the side of the protesters. This is not like the poet piece or the “I want” piece; it’s not sweet or loving.

In fact, in the LoudSauce campaign that we’ve launched to raise money to buy airtime, we’ve gotten a lot of pushback on the Streets piece. Some people have said they don’t want to put their money behind that ad because they think it’s not going to present the movement in the best way. Myself, I’m torn. I do think there’s something to be said for telling those people who are never going to agree with the message of Occupy Wall Street that we’re not budging. To show resolve in itself is a powerful message.

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