Filmworkers Partners with Top Directors for Effects-Driven Spots

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CHICAGO—Filmworkers’ Rob Churchill has become the go-to visual effects wizard for some of the top directors in advertising. He recently joined director Spike Lee in placing actor Samuel L. Jackson into a series of swanky digital office sets. He teamed up with director David McNally of CoMPANY Films to save a businessman from a shark attack. And, for good measure, he helped Hungry Man director Hank Perlman relaunch the Coneheads into outer space.

Churchill works with directors to design complex shots, attends every shoot to ensure effects elements are properly prepared, and oversees the completion of the work at Filmworkers’ facility in Chicago.

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Filmworkers collaborated with Spike Lee on a multi-spot campaign for credit card company Capital One. In Keep it Simple, company spokesman Samuel L. Jackson appears in an ultra-modern room whose metallic grey and white aesthetic mirrors the look of the Quicksilver card. The environment is an intricate blend of practical and CG elements, the latter including a clever pop up couch.

Churchill and his team designed the effects elements for Keep It Simple and the other spots in the package, and Churchill himself served as VFX Supervisor on the set. Compositing, animation, digital matte painting, CG and other post-production visual effects work was completed at Filmworkers’ facility in Chicago.

“Rob is proactive and a problem solver, but not rigid in his approach,” observes Pony Show Executive Producer Jeffrey Frankel.  “His easy-going ways camouflage an artful, creative mind and organizational skills.  He comes prepared but leaves room for the magic of the shoot day to unfold.”

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Churchill has worked with Hank Perlman on a number of spots for State Farm featuring past cast members of Saturday Night Live. In the most recent installment, Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin, and Larraine Newman reprised their SNL roles as Coneheads. The team concocted a host of effects for the interior parts of the Coneheads’ spacecraft, including radar screens, monitors, the star field visible from the ship’s deck, and sparks erupting from a malfunctioning system. Churchill functioned again as on-set supervisor to ensure the smoothest transition possible from set to spaceship.

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For La Quinta, Churchill Studio collaborated with director David McNally of CoMPANY Films on a spot in which a businessman is dropped into a shark tank. The ad proved so popular that it has since spawned a “school” of on-line sequels.

Churchill and his crew created lifelike sharks and integrated them into shots of a swimming actor. In preparation for the project, Churchill combed through drawings and videos of real sharks in order to mimic their appearance and behavior. “I needed to know how sharks move, how fast they move, their body mechanics,” he says.

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The ability for Filmworkers to tackle such complex projects reflects not only of the deep experience and skill set of its team, but also the passion they bring to their work. “Every spot brings a new challenge,” says Churchill. “I’m always the most enthusiastic guy on the set, because the work is so much fun. When shoot day comes and everyone’s nerves are up, I’m excited. I’m ready to roll.”

Filmworkers is located at 232 E. Ohio St. Penthouse, Chicago, IL 60611. For more information, call (312) 664-9333 or visit