There are few more prominent sights of freedom and hope than that of the Statue of Liberty. Standing guard over New York City, Lady Liberty became a pivotal sight to immigrants arriving to America’s shores by boat. And given the current political climate in the US, her significance has arguably never been more poignant.
To coincide with the launch of its new Statue of Liberty timepiece collection, American watchmaker Shinola decided to shine the spotlight on the amazing immigrants that make up the face of modern day America. The result is ‘As American As They Come Can Come From Anywhere’, a campaign created by Preacher and shot by famed director and photographer Danny Clinch, well known for capturing the likes of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Tupac Shakur.
On June 15th, Shinola welcomed more than 100 new American citizens to New York’s Moynihan Courthouse right after their naturalisation ceremonies. A select group were interviewed and photographed by Danny and the campaign’s central video ‘From This Second Forward’ was born.
LBB’s Addison Capper spoke to Maxx Delaney, senior copywriter at Preacher, his colleague Nick Troop, a senior art director, and director and photographer Danny to find out more.
LBB> What kind of brief did Shinola initially present you with and what were you thinking when you saw it?
Preacher> There was not a traditional brief, as we remember it. It was one of those ‘what if’ ideas we included as a part of a larger presentation to the client. We knew they were planning on launching the Statue of Liberty watch this summer, timing it with the 4th of July, and together realised that there was such an opportunity to make this larger than just a product launch.
LBB> When did the idea to focus on a naturalisation ceremony first come into the conversation? What was the inspiration behind it?
Preacher> Really, we were inspired by the beliefs and values held by Lady Liberty herself. As a welcoming monument for so many people who came to this country through Ellis Island, people looking for a better life, she has always stood for a more inclusive definition of what it means to be a Great American. One of the headlines that inspired the campaign was ‘“As American as they come” can come from anywhere’, and we felt like focusing on the naturalisation ceremony and those new American citizens was a perfect example of that.
LBB> This is an incredibly poignant piece of work given the current political and social climates in the US. What added pressures did that add to the development of the campaign and how did you go about dealing with it in the right way?
Preacher> It was so important to us that we were clear with our message. We knew it was inherently one of unity, centred around a commitment to be celebrated, and we checked ourselves every step of the way to make sure the stories of these new Americans shone through. It takes an incredible amount of courage and commitment to leave the place you were born in search for something more, and to go through the process of becoming an American — it should make all Americans proud to stand alongside them.
LBB> It’s a clear message from Shinola too - what do you think this says about the brand?
Preacher> It speaks volumes about the brand’s character and commitment to shining a light on what we should be celebrating in our country and in our world. It’s very easy today to make a political statement, to use a brand as a platform to enter a larger conversation, but so often it’s done without the proper thoughtfulness or context. When you point fingers at the negative things, it’s easy to make enemies. When you shine a light on the positive things, you might be able to change some minds and make a few new friends.
LBB> Why was Danny Clinch the right director to bring this to life?
Preacher> Danny Clinch has spent his entire career making musicians look like rock stars, so it’s no surprise that he made our Great Americans look that way too. In both photo and video, he has a unique ability to respect the integrity of the moment while simultaneously getting the most out of it. It’s a rare combination that we needed for this project.
LBB> Danny, from a directorial standpoint, what were the biggest things you had to consider when producing this film?
Danny> Storytelling is always first and I was excited that Shinola and Preacher were on board with that. For me it feels more like a short documentary film and the watch is just a part of a very important soulful story, it's not the story.
LBB> And then with regards to the current political and social climates in the US - how did that affect your approach to the film?
Danny> I think our audience is educated enough to know that a big part of what we are saying is that we stand with immigration. Our country was built by immigrants. Personally I don’t see how some folks seemed to forget that. These people we featured are smart, caring , hardworking individuals who are on an emotional and often difficult journey, and you can see by this film that they are an asset to our country.
LBB> What kind of reaction have you seen in the US to the film?
Preacher> It’s been overwhelmingly positive. The internet can be a mean place as we all know, but the comments and coverage have been almost entirely positive. It goes back to the thoughtfulness and care that went into the project from all angles. Everybody knew we had a chance to make something special and important, and each of us made sure we did these new Great Americans justice.
LBB> How did you go about selecting the people to feature in the film?
Preacher> The producers on the project, from Preacher and Milkt, went above and beyond to make this happen. It was a combination of cold-calling immigration lawyers, reaching out to the courts system of New York, and canvassing some immigration assistance organisations. About a week out from the shoot we only had one person, but everybody stayed positive and persistent and we were able to find our main people in time.
We also knew there was the opportunity to invite a few others onto the boat on the day of the ceremony, so about half of the people we found on the day, beaming with joy holding their certificates. We were very honoured to ride around the Statue of Liberty and give them a small gift on behalf of Shinola.
LBB> This must have been an emotional thing to work on - were there any particular moments that will stick with you?
Preacher> Outside the courthouse was an unforgettable moment. The smiles on every face. You could tell how special this moment was for everyone involved. We had the opportunity to interview many people outside the courthouse and each person described their feelings differently, but the one constant was the pride they felt for being an American. We felt incredibly grateful to be with them at that moment.
Danny> Clearly Aminata’s story sticks with me. It is a very difficult journey she is on.
LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them?
Preacher> We wanted this project to feel like a celebration of the present, and not a reflection on an event that happened in the past, so we ambitiously chose to shoot the June 15th ceremony knowing we needed to launch the project on July 4th. What that meant for us was two very long shooting days going straight into the edit where we needed to lock picture within a week. It sounded insane, but thanks to a great and dedicated editor and team, we got it done with only a few late nights.
Danny> Finding our subjects was harder than we thought. We also wanted diversity in age, ethnicity, gender and employment, and I think we really brought together a nice balance. Also our goal was to integrate the Shinola Statue of Liberty watch in a very natural way and our editor/team did an excellent job there.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
Preacher> It’s not every day in advertising that you get to be a part of a project like this, and we feel very thankful. Thankful to Shinola for believing in the project and the message it sent, thankful to Preacher and Danny Clinch for bringing this idea to life under incredibly challenging circumstances, and very thankful to Adeel, Mauricio, Aminata, Joylyn, and every other new citizen that let us celebrate this day with them. We’ll never forget it.
Danny> A quality brand speaking up for others and standing up for what they believe in is a good fit for me. I hope we can continue to do more important work together.