Behind the scenes of a commercial

I just returned from Charlotte where Bill Dance, NASCAR driver Tony Stewart and I finished filming more of those humorous Bass Pro Shops commercials that will air nationwide later this year.

Perhaps you’ve seen the “I know a guy…” commercial from last year that included Tony, Bill and I. It and others have aired on major ESPN sports programming, Outdoor Channel, The Weather Channel and numerous other networks.

The new commercials we finished this week, and ones we filmed in Florida in January, include the same kind of humor. I can’t reveal the themes, but suffice it to say they’re extremely creative and funny.

Of course, it’s always funny when you’re working with the legendary Dance, who keeps everyone in stitches on and off the set. I’ve done other events with Stewart, who has become a close friend, avid angler and a real pro to work with.

You’d be amazed at how much time, money, and effort go into filming a 30-second spot.

This last shoot in Charlotte, filmed inside the Bass Pro Shops store, took us 12 to 14 hours to finish. We had to do it during the evening hours, when fewer customers were in the store, and we worked until 4 a.m.

I’ve done a number of commercials ranging from low budget to high dollar efforts. Bass Pro pulls out all the stops, as their shoots involve more than 25 people, including lighting and sound specialists, production assistants, special effects experts, directors, ad agency personnel and corporate representatives.

That only includes those on the set, as there were people working a week beforehand building the set, checking lighting and appraising every little aspect of where and how the commercial would be shot.

And nothing is shot once. We do each snippet of a scene multiple times and each line is repeated over and over. They’ll ask us to repeat one short line several times with a different inflection in our voice, change a facial expression, pause after a certain word, or turn our heads to a slightly different angle.

Each time we complete a snippet, they break to readjust the set, moving lighting or cameras to a different angle and there could be anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes of down time until they’re ready. During those down times, we meet with the director to go over our next lines to fully understand what and how he wants.

One of the reasons they change things up is they will cut multiple commercials from one shoot. One may be a 30-second spot while others may be 15 or 20 seconds with a slightly different twist.

I’m not one to rehearse my lines because I want it to come natural and that’s what they want as well. They give me an idea of what to say and will sometimes allow me to ad lib.

Now, when I watch Super Bowl or other TV commercials that are funny or interesting, I have a new appreciation for the effort that went into producing it.

The hard work and time is worth it, because these commercials have helped take my brand to a broader audience. And by pairing fishing with NASCAR and airing commercials on networks outside of the outdoors, it’s brought fishing and the outdoors into the mainstream.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Also By This Author