Earlier this year, the team at Halifax production and animation agency Accomplice Content Supply Co. brought an oddball creative concept to the marketing team at Kent Building Supplies, a home improvement retailer with 48 locations across Atlantic Canada.
Director Charles Wahl described it as a “long shot” pitch for a 60-second online video promoting Kent’s wood stain. “It was just an off-the-cuff kind of pitch,” he said. “Vampires need their wood to last a long time, so wouldn’t it be funny if they were shown using Kent’s products to treat their coffin?”
Though the team at Kent liked the idea, they ultimately decided to go in a different direction. But, much like vampires themselves, the idea simply would not die. It kept being resurrected in pitch meetings, until finally someone at Kent had a suggestion: What about using it in a Halloween ad?
It was intended to be a tight script, but the unlikely confluence of hardware retail and vampire lore proved to be a wellspring of creative ideas. “The script kept growing and growing,” said Wahl. “I remember saying ‘Do we need to cap this? Don’t you want it to be one minute?’ They were like ‘No, as long as we get a :30, a :15 and a six out of it.'”
The final result is an entertaining three-and-a-half-minute branded film called “Re-Vamp,” which debuted on Kent’s YouTube channel on Friday, Oct. 13. As per Kent’s original wishes, there are also multiple cutdowns running across paid social.
Shot on Sept. 29 and 30, with a week-and-a-half for Accomplice’s post-production team to finish the effects, the video focuses on a 300-year-old vampire couple named Zaros and Lenora. They’ve been dedicated Kent customers since it opened 40 years ago (and have the photos to prove it), and describe the store as an “afterlife changer.”
It shows them managing the upkeep of their home just like mere mortals, cleaning out the gutters, blowing the leaves, and, er, staining a coffin. “It’s not just that their products help to prolong the life of our home, but they really revamp the look of any old coffin,” says Lenora.
Wahl describes the video as a mash-up of the FX comedy series What We Do in the Shadows and the old ABC sitcom Home Improvement, with just a hint of The Office, with lots of sly humour and characters breaking the fourth wall.
Much of its watchability is down to some strong performances from Logan Robbins (making his commercial debut) and Aryelle Morrison, two Atlantic Canada-based actors who landed the roles after an extensive search.
“There were quite a few [actors] we were debating between, so we did a lot of mixing and matching to find the right pair,” said Wahl. “When we saw Logan and Aryelle together, they just really jumped out at us. They were really into it ”
The pair’s enthusiasm for the project also led to extensive improvisation, such as a scene harkening back to the original creative concept in which Zaros is shown using a can of Minwax wood stain to protect his coffin.
It was originally written as “Zaros stains the coffin,” with Wahl’s direction to Robbins being that it wasn’t his main coffin. That led to an improvised scene in which Zaros describes it as their “tertiary” coffin, which they use for camping (“or vamping, as we call it”).
There are multiple nods to vampire lore sprinkled throughout the film, such as the couple politely waiting outside their local Kent superstore until they’re invited inside, hissing at screws after mistaking them for stakes (also improvised), Zoras’ hand catching fire when it’s exposed to daylight, and expressing their acute hunger in front of a suddenly nervous Kent employee.
The short ends with Zaros and Lenora opting for “trick” when trick-or-treaters come to their door on Halloween, chasing the frightened children away as their neighbours look on in disgust.
“It’s very rare to get to make a branded film like this, especially one that’s this fun and really entertaining,” said Wahl, whose reel includes work for brands including BMO, Tourism Nova Scotia and Captain Morgan.
You might even say he’s been waiting an eternity for a project like this to come along.