CMT’s decision to pick up country-music drama Nashville following ABC’s cancellation was a huge and strategic step towards transitioning CMT from a country music and lifestyle network into a home for premium scripted entertainment. That raised the stakes for creating pitch-perfect spots to promote the show’s January 5 season debut.
Enter 2C Media.
“For 2C, it’s a unique challenge because we typically work in the space of marketing reality shows or heightened reality,” says Brian Eloe, creative director/live action director, 2C Media. “Here you have a big scripted drama, actors playing characters, and fictional storylines. You might say we were a little out of our comfort zone, or a little out of our sweet spot. It was a different sort of challenge.”
Creative teams tend to thrive on challenge, but one of the most difficult things Eloe’s team faced was not knowing what the upcoming storylines were.
“Finally, we were leaked a little bit of information, just enough to help us out. The idea was a shift to a redemptive quality this season. Characters were going to slow down, be a little less destructive, do some things to try to reconstruct,” Eloe says. “The showrunner [Marshall Herskovitz] and CMT wanted us to make sure all of the pieces we made had a very emotive quality.”
Three elements needed to be included. The promos had to reflect the glitz and glamour of showbiz, they needed to evoke the redemptive tone of the upcoming season, and they also needed to underscore the point that Nashville was coming home to CMT.
“Step one,” Eloe says, “we had the idea of creating a physical space that was going to be the CMT home, if you will.”
Instead of an actual set, they opted to create a dreamlike virtual environment incorporating familiar images from the show—like rooms from Rayna’s house and the awning of the Bluebird Café.
Next, they sought ways to visually represent the new season’s theme. Smashing and re-forming the Nashville logo was the answer.
“We ended up fabricating 15 copies of each letter because we realized we couldn’t put the logo in place and blow it up altogether,” Eloe says. “We had to do it a letter at a time. It was really tedious blowing up these letters individually and assembling it in post so it all feels like it’s one heroic logo once it reforms.”
Explosive squibs placed on the letters—made of 3/4-inch thick glass—and the force of the explosions caused random fissures, or “organic variation,” as Eloe calls it.
The decision to use practical effects for that—and for shooting swirling particles of glitter and sequins—was easy.
“It’s hard to argue with the beauty and happy accident that happens when you’re shooting through a camera,” Eloe says. “It’s the way the bouquet shimmers, the way the particles undulated based on how they were agitated, even the way the letters break differently. All those nuances would have to be programmed and rendered to see if you got it right. Whereas we spent two days shooting these things and have hours of material at 900 frames per second.”
Hours of footage leftover from the eight spots 2C made were included in a toolkit for CMT.
“We gave them all sorts of assets that are able to be turned into whatever they want them to be, whether it’s living video or high-res stills. Everything was 4K or greater,” Eloe says.
Because Nashville is set in the world of country music, a special rendition of the classic folk tune “Wayfaring Stranger” was recorded, with vocals by Leigh Nash from Sixpence None the Richer.
“We tried to remake it in an audible aesthetic that would match what we were doing visually,” Eloe says. “As much nuance as we put in visually, we tried to put in sonically. Getting the audio right is as important to a complete campaign as anything.” The song will also have significance to characters in season five.
Eloe and his team worked closely with their CMT counterparts to make sure the spots hit the right notes.
“Cheryl King [CMT’s supervising writer/producer of on-air promos] and Peter Mannes [CMT’s VP of creative]—all of them—were very much in the trenches with us in creating and making this project,” Eloe says. “This is a huge thing for CMT, and we’re very fortunate to be partners trusted to help them and plug in in a way that was so seamless and intertwined.”