Adventures in Filming an NHL Geico Commercial

Posted December 24, 2010

Photo courtesy Suzanne Kang.

Back in October, about 100 people woke up very early on a Thursday morning to sit in the stands of an ice rink for up to ten hours, freezing, and not watching hockey.

Sounds like fun, huh? It was, especially for Suzanne Kang, Casting Director at Carlyn Davis Casting.

“As a Caps fan, it’s fun to work on hockey commercials,” Kang said. “I love my job, but it makes it that much more enjoyable to be part of something to promote the team I love.”

Kang gathered dozens of ‘hockey fan’ spectators and four ice workers to play extras for the shoot, including Capitals Outsider. More people requested to be a part of it than spots allowed.

“This was my second big crowd scene that I’ve had to do. Having the support of On Frozen Blog, Russian Machine Never Breaks, Wes Johnson and even the Caps Fan Club spreading the word, it made it very easy to find the people I needed.”

We arrived at The Gardens Ice House in Laurel, Md., at 4 a.m. and were told not to wear Capitals gear. Surprise, when we got there, wardrobe dressed us in Caps jerseys and hats, and equipped us with foam fingers and Capitals banners. We even got prop popcorn, which didn’t taste very good.

We sat in the stands on the side of the rink, in front of several cardboard cutout figures to fill the background. A net was placed in front of us to make it appear we were facing the length of the ice, though we were only sitting on the side. The rink was littered with lights, cameras, and production equipment, making it a true set and not just a rink for adult beer league players.

Out came the Geico Caveman, screaming with enthusiasm, ready to shoot another commercial.

When the director yelled ‘background’ through the megaphone, that was our queue to act like spectators during an intermission of a hockey game. That meant we had to pretend to talk to one another, pretend to eat the popcorn, and wave our banners and foam fingers. A few of the more talented extras got to walk around, back and forth. On the ice, a crew had to move Geico stuff into the shot, including a giant inflatable Gecko, which wasn’t as easy as it looked.

The director called for about 20 takes, some with the guy in the Gecko suit, others without. The Caveman often turned around to pump us up in between takes. Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin were not there, but rumors swirled that they were a part of the commercial.

After more than five hours of work, we were dismissed. It was a great relief considering that we were scheduled to me there for ten hours, with the same amount of pay.

“I was glad that the crowd wasn’t filled with just actors, but that we had some true hockey and Caps fans in there,” Kang said when the commercial finally aired.