What it's like to work on a big TV ad: JOE meets Conor McGregor
An incredible experience... JOE spends the day with Conor McGregor on Budweiser's Dream Big campaign.
Walky-talkies, Hollywood set-up and a surprise cameo.
That's how I would best summarise a big TV commercial production. The advert is no longer than 40 seconds and yet it took 40+ people (all whom were flat-out working) to make it run smoothly.
It's easy to a take a TV ad for granted at first look, but when you see the attention-to-detail behind-the-scenes, you'll never watch the 'messages from our sponsors' in the same way again.
So, what was it like to be involved?
Well, let me put it this way, Conor McGregor may have been the main attraction, but the real stars of the show were the crew.
Conor McGregor just after filming our scene
There were so many people responsible for this challenging production, and in charge of it all was a cool-headed director from Cork - Brendan Canty.
The level of professionalism and pace at which these people work is staggering.
This was an advert set in Crumlin on a freezing cold January morning, but it felt like the stuff of Hollywood legend.
Of course, you're going to want to hear what the man himself, Conor McGregor, was like in person.
And the answer is that he was an absolute gentleman, almost completely different from the Dubliner's on-screen super confidence, yet still maintaining a confident edge and aura throughout.
The neighbourhood where it all began for a young and ambitious Conor
You'd momentarily forget when talking to him that he's the country's most famous sportsman, such was his approachability.
But he (silently) never lets you forget. If one man can lead this Budweiser campaign, where determination and ambition are key factors, it's Conor McGregor.
"How are you, brother?" were his words when he shook my hand, giving a complete stranger a warm welcome. My first impressions? Sound out and bulkier than I expected.
He had a friendly entourage, headed by two personal security guards and his girlfriend, Dee Devlin.
You can see she takes obvious pride in what he's doing and he never misses an opportunity to check back with her during the shoot.
There is no doubt that this bond plays a massive role in his success. Hers is the only approval that he seeks.
We shot in his native and beloved Crumlin, and it was only slowly revealed to everyone that we were actually filming on the street that Conor grew up in.
The street where Conor spent the first 14 years of his life
Between takes, a friendly neighbour shouted from his bedroom window, "this is where it all started" to which Conor responded "you know it!". The two later embraced and he was just one of several old neighbours who got reacquainted with the local boy done good.
I got chatting to that original neighbour, who told me that his mother used to babysit Conor.
What was he like? Lovely, full of life, with blonde hair and a very good left-footed striker with Lourdes Crumlin FC to boot.
While all this was happening, everybody was doing their best to keep busy because, while the sun was out, there was nothing warm about the day.
To be fair, the regular offerings of tea and coffee helped to keep out the chill but did nothing for the bladder.
I got talking to the writer of the ad, who then showed me the storyboards and animated drawings of every planned scene, the detail of which was incredible.
At this stage, a lot of the locals in the area were gathering to see what was going on. This was hardly inconspicuous stuff, with a seemingly endless supply of cameras, wires, vans, and those aforementioned walkie-talkies on display.
Pretending that this wasn't a big deal to those watching on was the toughest exercise of the day, especially trying to keep the advert's star out of sight between takes (his stand-in did a hell of a job rehearsing).
"Is that McGregor?!", we heard from an excited group that had gathered. The Crumlin native duly replied and the atmosphere was electric. Suddenly we had our very own entourage.
The day was now flying by, and in between talking to various members of the crew, I was called to stand in as an extra for a couple of scenes. Nothing major, just walking in the background. This was actually, ironically, the only time of the day that I was able to reflect on what was happening.
The biggest surprise came toward the end of the shoot, when I was called over by one of the producers to film a scene with McGregor... as in, just me and him!
The location of our one-on-one scene
I mentioned the group scenes earlier, but now I was doing a one-on-one with Conor himself. We had to pass each other on the street, with the camera mostly focused on the star of the show, you'll be surprised to hear.
A quick wink to me, before 'Action!' was called, and we were off.
We did about three takes, chatting briefly in between each one, while locals gathered and Conor entertained everyone.
Selfies, autographs, no bother to him.
Have a look at the final cut below, that's my magical shoulder at 20 seconds turning Crumlin into LA!
If you want to Dream Big with thanks to Budweiser and live your American Dream to the value of €50,000 then head over to the Budweiser Facebook Page or visit BudDreamBig.ie to enter. Over 18s only. Please enjoy Budweiser responsibly, visit DrinkAware.ie