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Responses by Chris Wire, president, Real Art

Background: The Ohio Department of Health asked Real Art to find a compelling, powerful way to continue spreading the message “Social Distancing Works” to the state of Ohio and beyond. Our job was to cut through the noise, create something beautiful and capture people’s attention.

Reasoning: Our client Arundi Venkayya from the Ohio Department of Health is brave; she loved the nontraditional pitch, which was to wrap our message about social distancing around the metaphor of a chain reaction. We referenced some of the most powerful PSAs of the past, including “This Is Your Brain On Drugs,” which was a visual metaphor that was so simple that anyone could understand it. Our goal was to make something that didn’t need an explanation—something interesting to watch that also had meaning.

Challenges: Working within the quarantine was a significant challenge. Respecting social distancing while creating this piece wasn’t just an afterthought; it was a fundamental part of the strategy. Our design limitations included planning a video shoot that needed neither actors nor a large crew. Likewise, we needed a production approach that took full advantage of our skeleton crew, even if that necessitated our producer sanding the logos off of 500 mouse traps, and our director setting them by hand for every shot.

Favorite details: The Ohio Department of Health is leading the way among our nation’s responses to this pandemic. We couldn’t be more proud of our leaders for their immediate actions to protect Ohioans, and for giving the green light to this project, which was a nontraditional approach to the straightforward PSAs that were being released during this time. We hope that the impact that this thirty-second piece had on the internet reassures our leaders that bold moves, decisive actions, and powerful messages are the best tools to fighting this pandemic and protecting our nation.

Visual influences: Nearly 30 years ago, my high school chemistry teacher created a similar demonstration to illustrate how nuclear fission works. When he set it off, the class went nuts, but we all understood the concept. When we started talking about how to convey this story, that experiment from my high school chemistry class immediately came to mind. It’s funny to think where inspiration can come from and how some moments can be etched into your mind forever.

Time constraints: The original pitch was to fill a warehouse with thousands of mouse traps. With only four days to pre-produce and film, and only the smallest skeleton crew on-site—we had three people on set during shoot day one—, we had to adjust our approach to building and filming the chain reactions. We scaled down to 500 mouse traps. Our director of photography ran four cameras at once to capture our large explosions. We tightened our schedule, rolled up our sleeves and captured what we needed in two shoot days—all while staying six feet apart.

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