Canadian Cyclist


July 21/08 11:15 am - Cervelo Behind The Scenes: The Making Of TdF Commercials

Posted by Editor on 07/21/08

Cervélo Behind The Scenes - The Making Of TDF Commercials

Members in the Toronto cycling community will quite possibly be familiar with the enigmatic Joseph Finkleman. Nephew of acclaimed Canadian filmmaker Ken Finkleman (The Newsroom), and part of the film industry himself, Joe is a regular at Jet Fuel and on the Donut Ride.

And if you've been watching the Tour, you've probably seen the Cervélo ads during the OLN/Versus coverage. The man behind them all is Joe. He directed and co-wrote the shoot for the set of 30 one minute spots. Canadian Cyclist spoke to him to see how they were made. We talked to him this week in Toronto and again, from France where Joe is right now...

MH: How did it come about that you shot the commercials? You work at Cervélo and also ride one, correct?

JF: About 5 months ago I got a call from a friend who was managing the warehouse here in Toronto - he needed an extra body to help with the workload, and I started the next day. I spent about 4 months there until I was recruited by the marketing dept to help develop the commercials. At first, I was just writing copy, but then I was directing and producing the spots as well. We had a very tight window to complete these - about 3 weeks from when we decided to go forward. That was in the second week of June. And yes, I recently got an R3SL through the company; it's the best bike I've owned, and I LOVE it.

MH: I've known you for many years through our mutual pro cyclist friend, but just how did you get into cycling?

JF: I raced as a cadet when I was younger. There were a few years of my life that were spent completely immersed in cycling culture. I was good friends with Michael Barry at this time, and still am today. We would spend hours watching old cycling movies and reading cycling magazines, riding out to King City every day after school. I was never strong like he was, but I loved riding my bike. I learned everything I know from him and his dad. We went to Europe one summer, and raced in Belgium and Holland. when we came back, I stopped racing...they were so fast over there! I started doing the Donut Ride here in Toronto on and off over the last five was good to come back to cycling, I missed it so much.

MH: Where did you go for the commercials?

JF: We shot the Krisin Armstrong spot in St Paul-Minneapolis during the Nature Valley Stage Race, which she won. All the other footage was shot in Switzerland, at the Tour de Suisse...we were there for stage 7, which Cancellera won, and stage 8, the mountain TT.

MH: I'm sure fans of the Tour would love to hear how it was to be around CSC. Talk about that.

JF: Team CSC were great...though we had to work around their schedule, and usually didn't have as much time as we wanted with them, but c'est la vie. I didn't get a chance to get too friendly with the riders, we wanted to maintain a low profile and not get in the way...Cancellera is a charming guy, lots of charisma...I liked Riis, very quiet, a man of few words...he let us ride in the support vehicle that followed Frank Schleck up the mountain during the TT, and that was cool. They're very organized and together - there's a good vibe going on there with the team.

MH: Where were some of the best shots?

JF: Well, catching Cancellera win stage seven with the pack closing in on him in the final meters was a gift! We couldn't have asked for anything better. He broke away first at 10 kilometres from the finish, and I'm thinking - this is great, but he can't hold them off for that long...he got caught by a small group at six kilometres, then countered and took off again - that time I was thinking: he's going to do this - please let's not have any technical difficulties! The guys did a great job of keeping him in focus - we used a cinema mount on the HD camera so the focus was manual. Man, Cancellera was strong that day. The footage of Riis sitting with Cervélo engineers/owners Phil and Gerard was real - it just happened that he showed up for the mountain TT stage and the guys sat down to talk bikes...that wasn't staged, they sat there talking for about 45 minutes. This is how they get work done. Catching Jens [Voigt] at the start of the TT was good for us too...we used him in a spot, and you might notice he looks really sweaty at the start - right before he got on the ramp, he cracked a bottle of water and soaked himself...

MH: What was your motivation for the commercials? What are you trying to display about Cervélo, the company and bike?

JF: This was something that Cervélo does every year for their Tour media on OLN and Versus in the US. We were pretty guerilla about it, which I'm learning is the Cervélo style. I was transferred from my warehouse duties and they gave me complete freedom to build my crew. We had a budget, but by industry standards, for 30 seconds spots it wasn't much.

Phil and Gerard are into making the best bikes in the world, not shooting $100k 30 second spots. There's a certain roughness to them still, and I think it's a good transition from their previous ads...we hit the ground running in Minneapolis on June 12th and we made it happen. By keeping Phil and Gerard in the spots, having them do all the voiceover work - we're saying - hey, we might not make the slickest commercials, but we're real engineers who put our names and faces on everything we do...we're real people just being ourselves...we have nothing to hide and stand behind our products. We're engineers who believe in what we do - so here we are.

Cervélo bikes have always been at the front of the pack in terms of what they're doing...with the R3, now everyone's doing a similar thing...and the Soloist - the other companies are following with aero road bikes as well. Cervélo is always ahead...

MH: What are some highlights for you with the shoot?

JF: Going to a big ProTour event was exciting...the scenery in Switzerland is gorgeous...but we were so busy, I barely had time to take it all in.

Mostly, we were BUSY. slept 4/5 hours a night...lots of driving---lots of cursing our faulty GPS system.

MH: What were some of the challenges in shooting live coverage for commercials?

You don't get a second chance if you've missed your shot--that and the pace---it's hectic...there's so much going on, and you're looking for moments, and the script becomes somewhat irrelevant when you're there. We had one camera team and that's it...our GPS wasn't working well, and navigating the roads proved to be a challenge, especially when you're thinking "damn, we have 10 minutes to find this feed zone before they pass and we miss our chance..."

MH: You're at the Tour now, what's it like?

JF: I'm at Alpe d'Huez right now with Cervélo documenting the amazing trip they've put together for the employees. They travelled everyone here on Saturday the 19th for the big stage on Wednesday, rented out a hotel that has a bridge right over the course a few kilometres from the top - it's all taken care of - the dinners are fantastic, they just finished riding up Alpe d'Huez as part of a team building exercises which I documented. It's quite amazing to be here and feel the energy coming off the mountain...thousands of people are already lining the roads and it's very exciting considering Frank Schleck's riding a Cervélo in yellow! After that stage, we all go to Paris for a few days before coming back to Toronto.

There are four more [ads] coming on top of the three running now. We deal with aerodynamics, carbon technology, man and machine, and something a little different - it's a super 8 spot featuring Frank Schleck that is different than all the others, something I wanted to make from the very start...I like to think people will think of that spot when they're suffering on a climb...

(Editor's Note: keen viewers look out for this ad--it's a rare spot that is not in heavy rotation and only runs on the mountain stages)


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