Moody Winter Blues

It was peak season for winter and heavy snows buried roads between Anchorage and Talkeetna where production vehicles slide off roads and into ditches faster than you can say “pizza, pizza”.

Author: Deborah Schildt – AFG Board / AMP

Last winter in a midwestern boardroom a team of creatives at Creative Shop sat lamenting what a long, cold winter it had been. Moods were low and temperatures even lower. A client, Nestlé was planning ads for their frozen pizza, DiGiorno. If pizza had a magic power what would it be? Could baking it, smelling it, eating it improve mood? What if you could track people’s mood shifts when a pizza hit 325 and its aroma filled the kitchen? They surmised that the more extreme a mood change the easier to track it.  Who else out there might have a strong case of winter blues – even worse than them? What about shooting the ads somewhere colder than Chicago, a frigid, forlorn land where people sat snowbound by winter, fighting off cabin fever anxiously waited out the big thaw of spring. Alaska! Yah, those poor souls up there in the cold and dark, they have it even worse than Midwesterners. And a new campaign, “The Power of Pizza” was born.

Now that they had a concept and a rough location they put their project out to bid. Fly Helo of Los Angeles, got the project. They proved to be good storytellers and provided strong concepts for measuring mood shifts scientifically – well sort of. How does a scientist actually measure mood? Could you see it and understand it on screen in a Nano second? Would moods rise enough to make the case for pizza chasing winter blues away? Would Digiorno pizza make folks happier in the deep, dark chill of winter?

A snowy night on main street – Talkeetna, Alaska

The Fly Helo team came north to Alaska for a look see. They contacted Alaska Media Pros to provide production support and the scouting and casting started up. Talkeetna quickly emerged as a front runner.    

Denali from the Talkeetna Overlook on a clear winters day.

As members of the Alaska Film Group, AMP looked to AFG’s experienced crew base for crew they couldn’t source in Talkeetna.  The producers cast locally looking for Alaskans that with job descriptions that not only represented Alaska life styles but might also illustrate the mood shifts they were hoping to capture. Interviews and auditions were locked into place, where more than a few willing participants were “discovered”.

It was peak season for winter and heavy snows buried roads between Anchorage and Talkeetna where production vehicles slide off roads and into ditches faster than you can say “pizza, pizza”. But snow never stopped them for long. They dug out, switched to snowmachines and sleds for crew and equipment transport and like the energizer bunnies kept on working and shooting…

Hair/MU and Wardrobe catching a ride to the set.

They shot for 3 days featuring bush pilots and brewmeisters, florists, families and an off-grid dog musher. They stayed local, bought local and boosted a towns winter morale. Or did it?
They found that winter blues are close to non-existent in Talkeetna, Alaska. Yes, people’s moods did climb when the aroma of a pizza baking in the oven waifed into a room. But life on either side of that in Talkeetna was filled with fun and frolic.  Winter is far from mundane and moody. Talkeetnans embrace winter by getting out and enjoying scenic flights or skiing epic runs and dogsledding through a forest with spruce draped in freshly fallen snow. In fact, they were so busy embracing and enjoying winter, choosing to play outside, not inside, that the theory of winter blues in Talkeetna at least – didn’t play out.

The grip dept. rigs a snowmachine for an action shot.

The shoot ended with new friends found both two and four legged. The footage was exactly what the crew had hoped for and in the process our out of state visitors came to realize what all Alaskans do. It’s always nice to come in for a quick warm up, hot pizza and dry socks and then get back out there again because in Alaska. Winter is fun. 

Dog tired but content.

Thanks to contributing author Deborah Schildt.