Phil Brown Directs “The Calm and The Storm” For U.S. Air Force, GSD&M


Robert Goldrich
Monday, Jan. 20, 2020


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A column of military vehicles treks across a sun-baked desert road and suddenly finds itself engaged in a life and death battle for survival. Explosions and gunshots abound but the airmen, showing an abundance of calm and practiced precision, leap into action, first ascertaining targets and collecting the wounded, then calling in a U.S. Air Force strike that levels the enemy’s stronghold within seconds and ends the battle as quickly it started. That’s the cinematic power behind the U.S. Air Force spot “The Calm and The Storm,” directed by Phil Brown of production company Spears & Arrows for GSD&M in Austin, Texas.

“We live in the gaming generation and we wanted to capture the imagination and interest of that generation,” said Jason Wolk, founder/managing director of Spears & Arrows. “A lot of armed forces commercials tend to avoid the obvious, which is occasionally they are in harm’s way and do get into firefights. From the very first conversations with the agency we were on the same page about creating something that had a ‘wow’ factor and was true to what happens in combat. Phil captured what it’s like to come under fire honestly and intensely.”

Brown, who grew up in a Royal Air Force household (both his father and brother served), jumped at the chance to create an ambush sequence set in a foreign land using all of the assets that the Air Force has to offer.

“I wanted to create a visceral experience that felt like footage from an embedded journalist,” Brown explained. “I even asked our DP Eric Treml to occasional duck while filming because I wanted the crew to feel vulnerable. We also didn’t want to show close-ups of the enemy combatants; I wanted the feeling they were being attacked by an unseen enemy, which is most often the case.”

Shot on location in New Mexico, Brown achieved the level of intensity he was looking for by utilizing real Air Force special operators in the spot; and using a combination of an on-set special effects team setting off explosions and firing dust and spark pellets, and post visual effects created by Artjail in New York. All of the action was supervised by actual Air Force special operators to ensure its authenticity.


Client U.S. Air Force Agency GSD&M, Austin, Texas Jeff Maki, SVP, group creative director, writer; Travis Waid, creative director/writer; Cheyenne Gallion, Derek Dollahite, creative directors/art directors; Spencer Gilliam, producer; Lisa Valencia, project manager. Production Spears & Arrows, Los Angeles Phil Brown, director; Jason Wolk, exec producer/founder; Craig Houchin, head of production; Rocky Bice, line producer; Eric Treml, DP; Todd Thompson, first assistant director; Taeko Masuyama, production supervisor. Editorial Rooster Post, Toronto Marc Langley, editor; Chlie Vankoughnett, assistant editor; Melissa Kahn, exec producer. VFX Artjail, New York Lee Towndrow, VFX supervisor; Fred Kim, Eric Concepcion, Manu Gaulot, Herculano Fernandez, Dayung Jo, 2D compositors; Michael Brown, producer; John Skeffington, managing director/exec producer; Steve Mottershead, creative director/owner. Color Artjail, NY Clinton Homuth, sr. colorist; Kevin Wu, color assistant. Music/Sound JSM Music, New York Marc Langley, sound design; Andrew Manning, Norm Felker, producers; Joel Simon, CEO/CCO; Jeff Fiorello, exec producer. Audio Post TBD Post, Austin Dusty Albertz, mixer; Kate Eads, producer.


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