Production crews descended on South First Street last Wednesday, April 17, for the filming of a McDonald’s commercial.
St. Louis ad agency Hoffman Lewis created the GoodMorningSTL campaign that features McDonald’s workers surprising morning commuters with an offer of breakfast as they waited for the train to pass.
The film crew set up at Pacific Station Plaza beginning at 6 a.m. stopping First Street traffic as a series of 30-second visits with motorists were filmed.
Crew members held up signs at St. Louis and Orleans streets notifying motorists to prepare to stop as filming was in progress.
Hoffman Lewis hired BKWLD (pronounced buck wild), a Sacramento, Calif.-based independent digital agency, to produce the commercials.
“This started by filming real people in real situations wondrously disrupting their mornings with a warm McDonald’s breakfast,” the BKWLD webpage stated in describing the project.
BKWLD sent Chris Edmonds from Seattle to St. Louis to produce the commercials.
Edmonds coordinated the assignments of 30 individuals assembled for the Pacific film segments, including a local production crew, Hoffman Lewis advertising, McDonald’s employees, and the Pacific Partnership, which offered the use of the Plaza and Pacific police who helped with traffic.
As the members of each group began to assemble, one production worker steamed the wrinkles from bright red T-shirts with the slogan GoodMorningSTL on them.
At 4:30 a.m., Bob Rocca of House Springs began setting out tables of food and beverages for the crews. Rocca, a former Lake Takawitha resident, is a sculptor with the St. Louis City Museum and part-time movie production freelancer.
“I go almost anywhere to work on movies,” he said. “But I have great memories of Pacific, so I wanted to be here for this one.”
Peggy Terschluse, who works at the St. Charles McDonald’s, was one of the employees selected to act in the commercial after she auditioned.
“Deb Bishop, who owns our McDonald’s, asked me to audition,” Terschluse said. “And I was picked. I’m a little nervous about it.”
Assistant Producer Joe Bitzer of Washington, who described himself as the foreman or wrangler, choreographed the series of activities leading up to the short film segments.
After walking the area between the UP and BNSF tracks and timing the crossing arms, Bitzer conducted a safety meeting, reminding every worker, especially those not familiar with trains, to be responsible for their own safety.
“The way it works, the train comes roaring through, cars stop and we do our thing,” Bitzer said. “Be mindful of where you are. Be safe.
“Your safety is your responsibility,” he told those involved. “Be in the moment. We’d rather lose a shot than see anyone harmed. Be aware.”
Crew members also were reminded to be careful stepping on the tracks because they were damp and slick.
“Stay away from the trains,” Bitzer said.
As time to shoot the first setup approached, Bitzer became aware that the signs notifying those who had been filmed that they needed to sign releases were missing. Tom Simon was dispatched to Eureka Wal-Mart to buy large core foam so signs could be drawn up.
“Tell them if they don’t sign they can’t be in the commercial,” Bitzer said.
The actual commercial shots took place in a series of takes. Four McDonald’s employees, accompanied by a magician with a portable table, rush in front of a stopped vehicle.
Ron Sansone, representing the Partnership, who had opened the Plaza restrooms for the crew, drove the first vehicle stopped for the series of shots.
“These are real McDonald’s employees,” said Cordell Jeffries, Hoffman Lewis producer. “We wanted to make it real.”
The magician, wearing a tux and yellow top hat, was a member of the McDonald’s street crew. He set up the portable table in front of the vehicle, burst a balloon and released a live dove as one McDonald’s worker held up sign that said “Hungry?” while three workers approached the passenger side of the vehicle with trays covered by silver domes.
“Good morning,” the magician said. “Are you hungry? Follow the food.”
The workers did a shuffle routine at the open vehicle window, urging the driver to select the tray that held breakfast, and finally lifting the dome and giving him the breakfast.
Other commercials in the GoodMorningSTL campaign involve one group of morning workers on an ascending escalator being offered breakfast and another in a high-rise office building where workers get on or off an elevator.
Pacific was chosen for the street commute shots because of the number of trains.
Collinsville, Ill., originally was designated for the shots, but location scouts determined that there weren’t enough trains.
Jeffries said crew members who had worked on the “Saving Shiloh” movie shot in Pacific in 2006 remembered the downtown area and the trains.
“This is a great old downtown,” he said. “The architecture just goes with the trains.”