What a production


A film crew picked Bates Mill No. 6 to shoot a Sylvania commercial that lets new bulb shine

LEWISTON – Sylvania might have the starring role, but the spotlight is on Bates Mill.

Production crews worked into the wee hours of the morning Friday and Saturday, filming a commercial for a new OSRAM Sylvania light bulb on the top floor of Mill No. 6, two floors above Fish Bones. Framed by the mill’s floor-to-ceiling windows, workers were busy Friday afternoon building stages and props for a second night of shooting.

The set crew is just a small portion of the 20 or so local people hired for the shoot. They join AirStream Pictures of Gorham, which is producing the ad, and Garrand & Co. of Portland, the lighting giant’s ad agency, to give the commercial a genuine made-in-Maine label.

“The location here is just so strong,” said Erik Burbank, producer for AirStream, as he glanced around the recently renovated mill space. “It looked like a good fit for the concept of the ad, and everyone here has made it an easy place to work.”

Plus, it was a relative bargain. The shoot would have been three times as expensive if it had been done in New York City, one of the potential sites.

“When you add up the caterers, the hotels, flying people to New York, it’s unbelievably expensive,” said Kurt Squiers, vice president of creative services for Garrand. “Plus, here you have that Maine mystique.”

Scouts for the commercial looked at more than 600,000 square feet of industrial space in New York, New Jersey, Texas and other Maine cities before deciding on the Bates Mill. The former finishing and packaging shop for Bates Manufacturing had two major advantages: beautifully restored architecture and no occupants.

“And the proximity of the other mill buildings was a factor, too, since we were going to shoot at night and the lights from the other buildings make a nice backdrop,” Burbank said.

The ad showcases Sylvania’s e-Logic mini, an energy-efficient light bulb that lasts 50 percent longer than standard soft white bulbs and is lead free. The commercial shows four different musical groups performing the American classic “This Little Light of Mine” under light cast by the e-Logic.

Performing the tune were Terrance Simien, Zydeco performer from Louisiana; The Flanks, a bluegrass band from New York City; Alice Ridley, a gospel singer from New York; and Locksley, a rock band from Wisconsin that’s been named one of Billboard magazine’s Hot New Artists.

The shoot was split into two sessions to allow enough time to film each performer. Burbank said it took five hours of filming Locksley – performing the song over and over – to get what they needed.

That shoot will likely result in about five or six seconds of the 30-second spot. And the sound will be dubbed in later, since the acoustics of the mill aren’t perfect for recording.

“It’s big, echoing space, but it worked out fine,” he said.

He and Squiers were thrilled that the shoot – and the economic bennies – landed in Lewiston. Aside from the money spent on hiring local electricians, carpenters and production assistants, they listed hotel rooms, catered meals by DaVinci’s, snacks and pastries from local bakeries and supermarkets, thousands spent on lumber and other building materials at Lowe’s and Home Depot and thousands more spent renting the space at Mill No. 6. Even the Porta Pottis were rented locally.

“Better to have the boost here than Chicago or New York,” said Burbank. “Plus, we get to go home at night.”

Jon Di Ges, director of brand strategy for OSRAM Sylvania, declined to say what the commercial cost, but did offer that it a had a “good budget” for a national ad. The light bulb has been in development for more than a year and rolls out to retailers Monday.

People who are anxious to see the mill in a national TV commercial will have to wait a little longer. Once the editing is finished in Portland, the spot will go out to some test markets. If it does well, it could begin airing on network and cable stations within a couple of months.

Squiers said he can appreciate the anticipation.

“This space is beautiful,” he said.