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Seeing the Elephant: The Making of the Anchor IPA Video

Posted by at 8:59 pm | Category: Beer Backgrounds 0

“Every Anchor brew begins with a story…”

As Dave Burkhart – Anchor’s Design and Graphics Production Manager and Brewery Historian – wrote in his recent post about the story of Anchor IPA, “Without that story, the recipe would be just a recipe and the label just a label.” Video has been an important part of telling the stories behind each of our beers, but the video for Anchor IPA was a bit different. In addition to beautiful videography of the beer and brewery from our partners at Redtail Media, and tasting notes from our brewers and team members, this video included a live elephant.

“An elephant,” you ask? Yes, an actual live elephant. And as you might imagine, producing the video presented its own unique challenges, so we thought it might be fun to give you a look behind the scenes at the making of the Anchor IPA video.

“Any time we release a new beer that’s part of our year ‘round lineup, we like to produce a video to help tell the story behind the beer,” said Daniel Cruz, Marketing Manager at Anchor Brewing. Planning for each production begins with a tasting with Anchor brewmaster Mark Carpenter. “Mark discusses the characteristics and qualities of the beer, and general tasting guidelines for the beer are discussed with everyone involved in the production of the video.”

Members of the brewing and marketing teams at Anchor then meet with our video production parters from Redtail Media for an initial brainstorming and planning session. Dave Burkhart shares his research with the group, often briging photos, books, vintage products, and other memorabilia along for historical reference, and the vision of the story begins to take shape.

“It’s visually telling the story that we want them to get. It’s not just the taste of the beer, it’s the message of the beer as it lives and breathes,” Cruz explained. “Just like a screenwriter would turn a book into a movie script, we take our research and impressions of the beer and turn those into a script for the video.”

India Pale Ale has its own unique history, and as we discovered during our research, its connection to San Francisco dates back to the mid-1800s, when the California Gold Rush lured thousands west with the promise of adventure and fortune. At the time, to “see the elephant” became a nineteenth-century metaphor for the fortune seekers who packed up their lives and headed west. With the knowledge that Gold Rush miners enjoyed imported IPAs, connecting the visual story of Anchor IPA to the era – and to the elephant, a well-known symbol of India – seemed natural.

“Wanting to use an elephant in the video was a natural thought because of the elephant on the label,” Cruz mentioned. “Elephants are an important part of our story for the beer, so what better way to capture that than to feature an elephant?”

To give the video a look and feel from that period in history, we needed our own Gold Rush miner, and Ollie, a brewer here at Anchor, re-created the forty-niner role he first played in our video for Anchor Steam Beer . “Ollie is a great guy and he had participated as a forty-niner in the original Anchor Steam Beer video, so we decided to reprise the roll,” said Chris Burke of Redtail Media.

Only this time, instead of meeting up with other miners, the script called for a forty-niner meet up with an elephant.

It’s obviously a big challenge (pun intended) to locate a live elephant to use in a video shoot, but aside from the logistics, the team agreed that it was important to find a situation where the animal was treated humanely. “We wanted to use an elephant and looked into hiring an elephant,” Burke explained, “But it’s not easy to hire an elephant and still be respectful.”

Cruz echoed Burke’s concerns. “We wanted to find an organization that treated the elephants a certain way. Through our research, we found an organization that rescued performance animals.”

The Performing Animals Welfare Society (PAWS) is an organization “dedicated to the protection of performing animals, to providing sanctuary to abused, abandoned and retired captive wildlife, to enforcing the best standards of care for all captive wildlife, to the preservation of wild species and their habitat and to promoting public education about captive wildlife issues.”

Elephants have plenty of room to roam at the PAWS Sanctuary. Photo courtesy of PAWS.

“We had some very positive phone meetings with PAWS, and in exchange for allowing us to capture video footage of their elephants at the sanctuary, we said we’d be happy to help them share their message and get the word out about the important work they’re doing,” said Cruz.

A video shoot was scheduled at the PAWS sanctuary northeast of San Francisco. Although getting the right shots certainly wasn’t easy, the setting worked well and the team was pleased to be working with animals in a free-range environment.

“Daniel had been in contact with the sanctuary and felt that it could be a great opportunity for the brewery and would work well with the video concept,” said Burke. “The sanctuary is a much better living situation for the elephants. It was definitely challenging, but it was great of the folks at PAWS to allow us access to the animals.”

“Seeing the elephant” at the PAWS sanctuary during the Anchor IPA video shoot.

It’s important to note that due to safety concerns, and out of respect for the animals, the video crew remained safely behind barriers during the video shoot and were never in close proximity to the elephants. Placing the forty-niner in a scene with the elephant in the video was done through the magic of special effects. “We have great relationships with high-end digital producers who helped us with the production,” Burke explained. “They’ve worked on big-budget movies like 300 and Iron Man, and their talent and capabilities are evident in the finished product.”

We were pleased to have PAWS at the Anchor brewery in February for our Anchor IPA launch event to share their message with attendees who were on hand for the celebration.

We would like to extend a special thank you to PAWS for access to these amazing animals, and for everything they do to protect their health and welfare.

Are you ready to “see the elephant?” Check out the finished video below, and when you have a chance, enjoy an Anchor IPA!


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