“We’re going to be famous!” Those were the enthusiastic words of my two boys upon finding out that the story of our annual Bahamas Boy Trip Adventures was going to be featured in national television commercials. The journey from being casual guests to Atlantis Resort superstars was quite an exciting ride and hope you enjoy reading all about it.
Each year, I spend a week of fun in the sun with my two little buddies at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. I recently chronicled the details of our annual tradition in a related blog post titled, Bahamas Boy Trip Adventures. As a frequent guest at Atlantis, I receive plenty of e-mail promotions from the resort. One day, an e-mail popped into my inbox which read, “Atlantis is celebrating our 20th Anniversary and we would like you to be a part of it! Share your story with us and you could be invited back to paradise and featured in an Atlantis TV commercial.” Memories our boy trips flashed through my mind as I thought to myself, our story would make for a great commercial! I gathered up some photos from our trips and did nice write-up of why Atlantis holds such a special place in our hearts. I wishfully pressed the send button and we were officially in the running.
The next day at my office, I was going about my regular business when my cell phone rang with an unrecognized number and the words “Los Angeles, CA” showing on my phone screen. I thought to myself, that’s the entertainment capital of the world, but could they possibly be calling me already about my submission? I optimistically answered the phone and I was greeted with an enthusiastic voice from a talent agency representative. We had a nice chat and she expressed how much they loved our story! We talked about our experiences at Atlantis and ended the call a few minutes later with the promise they would follow up in the weeks ahead. About two weeks later, I got another call from the agency and we discussed even more details of our adventures, this time in much greater depth. She confidently told me that our story was definitely in the running and they’d be in touch as they continued narrowing down the field of submissions from the casting call. Two days later, an e-mail arrived stating that we’d made the initial round of cuts and to stay tuned… a few days later, another e-mail arrived stating, “Congratulations, You’re a Finalist!” Wow… was this really happening? I didn’t want to get too excited, but it was beginning to feel like our story had a real shot at being selected. Another phone call followed to set up a screen test interview with the producers via Skype. The boys and I put on nice outfits and we were ready for our big interview. Sometimes it’s hard for kids to talk to strangers, so I coached them to be very outgoing with their responses and interactions with the interviewer. The producer (who’s since become an amazing friend!) popped onto the screen and our screen test interview couldn’t have gone any smoother. She was so nice and conversational with the boys that their responses to her questions flowed very naturally – they completely nailed it! After the interview, we waited, and waited, and waited… while the boys constantly asked me each day if I’d heard any news. I was secretly as impatient as they were, eagerly awaiting news about the final selection.
A week passed an we were eating dinner when an e-mail message appeared on my phone from the Atlantis team. I quickly read the first line and instantly knew something amazing was about to happen… it read, “Congratulations! The production company loved you as much as we did! You have been selected to return to the Atlantis Paradise Resort to be a part of our commercial! Woo Hoo!” I looked at the boys and decided to have a little teasing fun with them. I told them that sometimes in life you go after things like the Atlantis commercial opportunity and things don’t always turn out how you hoped they would… which I quickly followed up by saying, “Fortunately for you two, today isn’t one of those days – you guys are going to be on TV!!!” Hence, the immediate sound of screaming the words, “We’re going to be famous!!!” It felt like someone lit a firecracker under those two little boys, they were yelling, screaming, practically bouncing off the walls, I’ve never in my life seen them so excited. I was admittedly doing quite the little happy dance too, thinking to myself, this is going to be incredibly cool!
In the short weeks that followed, we interacted frequently with the producers and filming company – an incredible organization called Go Convergence (The GoCo) based in Orlando, Florida. Here’s the huge irony – I’ve worked with The GoCo on numerous occasions filming videos with Cirrus Aircraft. What a small world, neither of us had any idea the other was involved throughout the casting process! We ironed out all the details and were set to meet our film crew at the Atlantis Resort.
In traditional Bahamas Boy Trip fashion, I picked the boys up from school and we began the trip with our annual “fill a shopping cart with as much candy as you can fit in it” stop on our way to the airport. A quick hour and a half flight later in my Cirrus SR22 Aircraft and we were landing in paradise in Nassau, the Bahamas. Atlantis sent a luxury SUV to greet us at the FBO which was a great indication of how incredibly well we would be treated throughout our stay at the resort.
During our first evening at Atlantis we met with the producers and learned all about how the filming would take place. They also made a trip to our room to look over our clothes to determine what would be appropriate for various scenes. One of the big criteria for anything clothing related is the requirement that no logos appear in order to keep a brand neutral look. It’s surprisingly difficult to find a men’s bathing suit without any hint of a logo! As we showcased our wardrobe to the producers, I asked the boys if they’d seen my hang up bag with my nice shirts for evening activities. Hmmm… where could it be… not in the closet, not under the bed. Oh geez, I realized we must have left it behind in the airplane. A quick call to the airport revealed that they it wasn’t there either as the line staff peered through my airplane windows with flashlights. I described my bag to the boys in great detail… at which time a little voice expressed that they “may” have put it in the back of my car along with the other unneeded items we’d emptied from the airplane before departing. Sure enough, that’s were it was – way back in Orlando! Fortunately for us, the producers were on top of their game, instantly bringing a selection of additional clothing choices to our room to save the day!
The next morning, we ate a great breakfast then were off to begin filming. We arrived to meet the film crew next to the gigantic Atlantis chair that’s such an icon of the resort. There were people everywhere – camera, sound, lighting, production – lots and lots of people. There was also gear everywhere you looked, it was as if we had stepped onto a Hollywood movie set. After some quick introductions, it was time to get our makeup on. When I say makeup, it’s really just more of a powder to reduce and eliminate “hot spots” where there may be a natural glare or shiny look of the skin picked up by the camera due to the bright lights. Landon went first and was being all made up, meanwhile Hunter was filled with giggles watching his brother. I quickly pointed out that he was next which invoked a brief look of shock when he realized he too was going to be getting “girly makeup” as they called it. The giggles returned as soon as it was my turn to get my nose and cheeks powdered up! While Landon was fascinated by all the crew members roaming around, my techie Hunter was already knee deep in learning the in’s and out’s of some of the electronics gear from the sound technician. A few minutes later, everything was in place and it was showtime!
We anxiously sat awaiting the start of the filming in the big Atlantis chair… then it happened… the blinding lights came to life, the camera lights turned solid red, a scene marker snapped in front of us as a crew member yelled “Take One!” The director and producer started asking questions as part of an on-camera interview segment. One after the next after the next in rapid fire succession. The interviewer was incredibly friendly, yet it was overwhelming to the boys. The bright lights, the cameras, a dozen or more people focused on them, they didn’t know how to react. My boys have been on production sets with me many times as I’ve been filmed, so I thought they’d be very comfortable with the environment and process. Boy was I wrong, there’s a huge difference between being behind the camera and being front and center as the subject of the filming. As the interview continued, one of my boys began to tear up. I’m not sure if it was due to a lack of comfort, or fear, or what, I just knew that he wasn’t doing well. The film crew knew it too. They were super friendly and reassured him that he was doing great and this was all supposed to be a fun experience. It was just too much for him though, an instant reminder that although we do some wild, crazy, amazing adventures, they’re still little boys and the world is still a very big scary place at times. The director and I had a sidebar discussion and he was incredibly understanding, recognizing that it was just two much too quickly for my little guys. My heart sank as I realized this magical situation I’d put them in was causing fear and it wasn’t the wonderful time we had envisioned. The director came up with a great plan, we should go have some fun on the slides to get them more comfortable with the process. He mentioned to me that they’d keep my microphone “hot” as we walked so I could talk to the boys all about our adventures. That way they would be able to get all the sound clips they needed for the production in a very comfortable, casual and natural manner. The plan sounded like a great idea to me and I was impressed with the director’s ability to find a good solution to our unexpected bump in the road.
With the blaring bright lights off, but the cameras still rolling, we walked through the resort as onlookers gazed wondering who was this dad and two little boys and why did they have a whole entourage of camera folks following them. I have to admit, it felt pretty darn incredible to walk confidently as quasi celebrities throughout the resort. Upon reaching the water park, we immediately went to the dueling race slides. It started out just as our director and I agreed, the boys playing, having fun, simply being little boys excited about water park adventures. Soon thereafter, cameras started being introduced to film their playtime. The boys were recognizably more at ease with the filming and were starting to become friendly with the film crew. More crew members moved into position with two of them standing in the center island between the slides. Another set of crew members made their way to the top of the Power Tower ride to get wide angle racing shots. Two more crew members handed the boys GoPro cameras wedged into yoga blocks to get perfect close up facial shots of big smiles as they raced down the slides. Lines formed with regular resort guests which the boys were quite thrilled to skip informing everyone that they were with the film crew. I told them at the start of this process that standing in line didn’t make for good TV, so they wouldn’t be doing any of that during our adventure! They raced down the slides again and again and the smiles and laughter just kept getting bigger and louder. It was interesting to watch the film crew nudge the boys forward down the slides then quickly ducking behind pillars so they wouldn’t appear in the shots. The radios crackled as every move the boys made – coming up the stairs, in position, going down the slides, in the water – every little details was conveyed to each of the film crew members like the conducting of an orchestra with military precision.
Another location where we filmed was at the Power Tower riding the tube slides. This was a blast and one of the many highlights of our experience. We would switch with the boys riding together then with me riding with each of them. There were camera crew members positioned at the top of the slide where we launched, along with more camera crew members throughout the twists and turns of the slides. There were also folks positioned at the bottom awaiting the tubes arrival to expedite the return of the boys and inner tube back to the top of the tower. There was a GoPro camera mounted on the front of one of the tubes to capture close up facial expression shots of the joys experienced during the ride. The GoPro tube was swapped for a camera-less one for scenes filmed by the professional crew members. Each scene started with the clap of the scene marker just like in the movies, which was a whole lot of fun. The radio chatter continued with each successive ride, then I heard a familiar voice crackle across the airwaves, it was one of the boys announcing they were headed back up for the next scene. They had gone from being terrified of the film crew to becoming a part of it as they really began getting getting into the action. It was actually funny, at one point, one of the boys looked at me and said, “Where’s our crew? I don’t see our crew.” He transformed from being camera shy to becoming a huge fan of being filmed and loved having the camera focused on him. A true testament to the awesome folks at The GoCo and how well they interacted with my little guys.
We also did lots of filming in the raging rapids river which was so much fun. One scene involved riding through the rapids while screaming the word “Amazing!” at the top of our lungs throughout the entire ride. Actually, we screamed that phrase over and over throughout the course of many different scenes, but it was especially highlighted in this one. The whole experience was so amazing that it flowed quite naturally and it fit the whole “Atlantis is Amazing” theme they were trying to capture. There were camera crew folks positioned throughout the ride high up on the walls as well as in the water where we would race passed them. They opened an emergency exit for us to be able to quickly return to the start of the rapids for take after take of the adventure. Along with the rapids, we also filmed at the very beginning portion of the river where a machine pumps out the gigantic waves. Once again, we had camera crew members up on the ledges and in the water with us filming, including using some high end underwater camera gear. There were also several folks positioned to catch the tubes after we shot past the film crew. Their job was to quickly drag the tubes back up to the mouth of the wave machine and then to quickly duck down below the water’s surface to avoid appearing in the next shot. It was more exhausting for the crew than an taking part in an Olympic competition. The amount of energy and determination these people demonstrated was remarkable – all to get the perfect shots every single time. At one point, I tried to be helpful thinking I’d assist in dragging my tube back up through the flowing current – I flipped over the top of the tube to dismount and landed straight on the head of an unfortunate camera crew member! Lesson learned, I sat firmly on the tube and was dragged back up by the crew members for the rest of the wave action filming. Sorry for the bumps and bruises incurred during my spontaneous leap!
Perhaps the biggest highlight of this already over the top amazing filming adventure was swimming with the dolphins at Dolphin Cay. We had previously done dolphin interactions during our past trips which were wonderful experiences – but this time was way different – the pool was actually closed off to other resort guests so we had it all to ourselves! We started by doing some interview filming on the beach, which made for some great behind the scenes shots as well. The incredible still shot photographer also captured some wonderful promotional images of the boys with the Atlantis Royal Towers positioned perfectly in the background. When it came time to get into the water, we were all very excited, yet still didn’t realize our adventure was about to become even more out of this world incredible. We swam with the dolphins as the film crew stood in the water, getting those perfect shots of big smiles as the dolphins pushed us along on boogie boards. The dolphins were so friendly and playful, even while we were waiting for our next turn to streak across the water, they would come up and nuzzle their noses against us to say hello. One of the boogie boards was outfitted with a GoPro camera to capture close up smiling face shots. In many Atlantis television commercials, you’ll see a dolphin’s nose pushing a little boys foot under the water – that shot was accomplished by flipping a boogie board upside down so the GoPro would be positioned beneath the water’s surface. The part you don’t see in the commercials is that the water resistance from the GoPro mount ended up flipping over the board causing a little boy to take a spontaneous nose dive along the way. One of my little guys still to this day remarks how he has a “famous foot” every time we see Atlantis commercials on TV that don’t even feature them – yet, they still feature his foot being pushed along by a dolphin! We played and played and played some more with the dolphins. They were truly amazing and I practically had to pinch myself to recognize that our experience was actually happening in real life. It was that cool – cool times a million. We also did another interview while standing in the water with dolphins by our side that made for some great footage as we talked all about how much we loved the Atlantis Resort.
The whole experience was a massive coordination of a whole lot of people who worked hard to make it happened. We visited a bunch of attractions to get a wide variety of shots, interviews and scenes that they could use to create the commercials and other promotional materials. The crew also did extensive filming while we were walking around the resort between attractions in order to capture very natural footage. Moving from one location to another meant a long stream of people and carts filled with tons and tons of electronics and camera gear. I tried to help out with the gear at one point and was told with a smile that we were the talent and this adventure was all about us – we wouldn’t be lifting a finger doing anything but having fun along the way! The boys especially liked the cart which was filled with snacks and sodas. Every time I turned around it seemed like one of them was digging through the goodie cart to find another sugary treat to keep their energy level high. The crew even gave me an iPod Touch to film some behind the scenes footage which I made into the video at the top of this post. It was a lot of fun to be able to film the process of being filmed!
A few months after our filming concluded, it happened. I was looking at the Atlantis YouTube page out of curiosity to see if any of our adventurous footage had been posted – and there we were! The first two videos were up and they were fantastic! It was especially fun to see that they incorporated some of the amateur footage I’d filmed in past years into the final productions. In the weeks that followed, we began appearing on national television stations and cable networks. The first was Cartoon Network… then Discovery, Oprah, CNN, Fox News, TNT, Hallmark, TBS, A&E, USA Network, the list went on and on and I still to this day don’t know all the networks where we’ve appeared. Hundreds of exposures were occurring and I started to get text messages and e-mails from distant friends throughout the country, all asking the same question, “Did I just see you and your boys on TV?” It’s been so much fun to be watching television shows then to suddenly to see our images appear during commercial breaks. Our boy trip adventures came to life for all the world to see and the boys had became “famous” just had they had hoped. Our commercials also appear on the hotel room guest information channel at the Atlantis Resort itself. Their still shot images are on several of the web pages for the property too. Just recently, Atlantis launched a new smartphone app which includes their images within it – Landon smiling riding a boogie board at Dolphin Cay – along with of course, Hunter’s “famous foot” in an underwater shot as he’s being pushed along by a dolphin.
I’m so incredibly grateful to the amazing folks at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas for making this all possible. I’m also thankful for the wonderful friends I’ve made at the award winning production company, Go Convergence (The GoCo). The stellar talents of their dedicate team members created remarkable commercials and stunning still image photographs of our adventure. They were so amazing with my boys and treated them so incredibly well throughout the entire experience. I truly think the world of all of these people, both personally and professionally. We actually just did more filming with The GoCo crew just last week – and needless to say, my boys are anything but camera shy these days. They love the whole crew and love being in front of the camera which invokes big smiles whenever they’re being filmed!
In the words of us myself and my boys throughout this filming adventure, the entire experience was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!!! As they say in show business, “That’s a wrap!”
I’ve posted two of our Bahamas Boy Trip TV Commercials below. Enjoy the show!