The NYC-based award-winning integrated and independent advertising agency Concept Farm is on the island shooting new commercials to promote Aruba in the US. After Concept Farm's growth director Gregg Wasiack and creative director John Gellos saw my story-telling performance at the Annual Tourism Conference of Aruba in May 2015, they casted me to be the host of the culture episode of the Shortcut to Happiness Campaign. I must admit I gave myself a little fist bump after I received the call and as soon as my knuckles met I got nervous as I realized that these guys are accustomed to working with actors in the US. I wasn't sure how I would measure up but I was motivated to put the work in.
The team arrived in the first week of December and I met up with them on the evening of December 10th. They were staying at an incredible villa in the district of Savaneta. As I was pulling up to the house around 8pm—hungry and tired from a long day—I hoped the meeting would be short. I walked out to the crazy view of the beach from the outdoor deck and encountered a huge table set up for a feast: lobster, red snapper, salad, rice, the Aruban breeze, the sound of the waves... I suddenly hoped the meeting would be long. I greeted the faces I already knew and met the rest of the team. It's impressive how many dedicated people it takes to pull off such a production. We went over the schedule and script and after hanging out for a bit I headed home to study my lines.
The Shortcut to Happiness campaign aims to provide returning and potential visitors with a local guide to one happy island. As the host of the culture episode, my task was to highlight some of the things you just might not find in the guidebooks. So the following 3 days were filled with stops at monumental buildings, pop-up art shops, music events and locations that feature public art.
Yet describing Aruba's vibrant art scene to the camera was not my biggest challenge. The true test came when I had to learn how to ride a scooter in five minutes. With the brilliant crash course by Producer Jonathan Vieira, I got the basics down and was able to move from one location to another on the epic red scooter.
My job was made easier by Gregg and John's clear vision. Even though their initial ideas and concepts were tweaked along the way as they allowed themselves to be inspired by the moment, they communicated the adaptations successfully and provided continuous feedback—not only to me, but to everyone on the team. We also received repeated visits on set from the big boss, the client— the head of the North-American division of the Aruba Tourism Authority, Mr. Ed Malone. His subtle nods as he heard me nail my lines was motivating and his laughter when I messed up was refreshing.
As I write this blog relaxing from the long days, the Concept Farm team continues to work in the flaming Aruban sun shooting the other two episodes of the Shortcut to Happiness campaign. The adventure episode follows host Deaxo Croes around Wild Aruba, while host Sergio Silva leads the Culinary episode to discover Off Beat Eats. I am wishing them a lot of success from my couch :). This has been an awesome experience, my gratitude goes out to Concept Farm and Aruba Tourism Authority for trusting me with this task. I have learned a lot, met wonderful people, engaged in great networking and most of all I enjoyed showcasing Aruba's emerging art scene. Thank you for all the good food, laughs, patience, passion, frustration and satisfaction. Looking forward to the final video!