inspiration, challenges & filming of the ‘Never Return’ commercial
Since we opened our stores, I’ve always wanted Island Company to be more focused on giving our customers, or ‘guests’ as we refer to them, an experience in their interactions with us. They have to walk into our store and be entertained. The products then become an authentic representation of the experience. Much like Disney does. Ours is just more beaches, bars and cocktails! But what I wanted with this was to make people see something that made them go, “What the fuck was that?!” Kind of what I wanted to do with our stores. Make people feel like they’ve left themselves for a moment; an escape. I sell escapism. And I think I got close with my intentions with “Never Return”.
I believe that to hire someone else to come up with ideas for a brand I built from scratch would be absolute insanity. This brand was built out of my experiences, my travels, my time in the islands and across the globe, and with my film background it was only natural to do it myself. I can’t imagine what product I would’ve gotten if I turned it loose on someone else. It wouldn’t have even been remotely close and I would’ve been extremely pissed.
A very good friend of mine who worked here with me for years and styled most of my photoshoots sent me a link on Tulum and said “I think you should consider shooting there.” I hadn’t been to Tulum yet, but I saw some pics and the flights were cheap from Miami. I had a very low budget for this and figured Mexico couldn’t be that expensive compared to St. Barts, Bahamas etc. I also only used a crew of four. So budget was one reason, and Tulum looked gorgeous but when we showed up it was raining like hell and I just went… “awww, c’mon… really??”
Oh god, where to begin… Working with the Canon 5D for starters. It wasn’t a problem, but Pete Warrilow, my longtime friend and cinematographer, and I have been using Panavision and film stock for decades! I think Pete’s shot over 6,000 commercials, so this new digital revolution is a lot to take in. It’s changing daily! It’s an amazing time to be alive in film. I think some of the things being done with this platform emulates what we had in quality in the mid-nineties. The sad part is that content, and storytelling has really suffered over the last 10-15 years due to cost-cutting and a serious lack of interest in the craft. But the technology has been made more accessible. So we have an industry that has the lowest barriers to entry but there’s a serious lack of quality. My challenge was to do something special that made people stop and fall into it. Other challenges are always the same on film shoots. Weather, keeping people fed, cameras and water never mixing because they hate each other…. Shooting a commercial, or any film for that matter, is really, really, really hard. You screw up and miss it by just 5% and the whole thing can be a disaster.
I loved doing this. It was a ‘finally’ moment. Now I get to show people what I’ve been wanting to do for so long to get the energy of Island Company across. So many brands just declare themselves ‘lifestyle brands’ as if just saying it makes it real. But to make a venture a real, authentic lifestyle brand means the experience is pure. A lot of companies are fabricating their lifestyles on paper and corkboards… Not out in the shit. In the real mettle of it. It’s not a new direction because since high school I’ve been writing ‘getaway’, ‘escapist’ tales. This is just the first time I got to say, ‘let me show you how I really see Island Company, in my head’. A lot of the girls who work here finally got to see a different direction from me with ‘NEVER RETURN’, but for me it was just something I hadn’t been able to express until now. Feels good to get it out.
Yeah. It’s tiring mostly. But I love it. Being a CEO is hard. That’s where I struggle. I’m decent at management but I’m much better at being let loose creatively. I’ve said it many times before the photo shoots, this commercial… this is Island Company coming alive. I would HAVE to be behind the wheel. It would never work in my eyes any other way.
Margaritas! I was drinking them at 8am. The waiters in Tulum thought I was a psycho. Probably some of the models or crew as well. But when I shoot I go balls out, 40 to 60 set-ups a day. That’s a lot of shooting so anything to keep my mood cool when I’m running around. I always have my Island Company cargo shorts on. They are a must. The crew gets loads of Quit Your Job Shirts, but I always wear my linen pilot shirt and my tool belt. Everyone gives me shit about the belt. I had it made when I started directing. I think I had it made in ’92 when I was a PA or a friggin’ boom operator or something. I just needed something to keep my water, leatherman, flashlight and pens. I don’t think I ever got being on the crew side out of my head. I always feel like I belong more with the grips and AC’s then I did dressed up schmoozing with the clients.
I think I’m a writer by genetics. A writer who directed to protect his vision. So now I feel like I’m ‘directing’ Island Company. It’s much more of a directorial exercise than a fashion designer approach. I’m designing clothes, accessories and stores for a particular explorer. For that person that knows what they want and is going to do it right every time. So I think I’ve been directing since I was in college. This event actually made me realize I want to do much bigger things with this company. And have a lot of fun doing it!