What do you do when you have one of San Diego’s most popular sports personalities as your company spokesperson? You make a cool commercial with him! That’s what we did. Maybe you’ve seen our new Tony Gwynn Jr. solar commercial during a Padres game this season. If not, you can view the 30 second TV commercial right here without all those major league baseball game interruptions:
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If, instead, you’re interested in hearing about the production of this TV commercial, please read past the button.
We’re very proud to have Tony represent our brand. It’s especially great that he’s also an HES Solar home solar + storage customer. We’ve installed Tesla Powerwall home batteries and expanded his rooftop solar system at his own house.
For our new 2023 TV commercial with Tony, we wanted to do something better than just a direct Tony Gwynn Jr. solar pitch. We wanted to take advantage of his charisma and show off his athletic skills. Tony’s retired as a pro ball player, but during the commercial it was clear he still has the form and power of a pro athlete.
THE SOLAR COMMERCIAL CONCEPT
The planning started in the final months of 2022. We wanted to produce a TV commercial that we could run during the Padres baseball games. With Tony as our spokesperson for several years now, it was natural we’d want to feature him… but how?
We started with the message (more on this later) rather than the specifics. We wanted to tell Californians that solar was a way to capture ‘your’ power. There are thousands of dollars worth of energy bouncing off nearly every California roof every year. If you are a homeowner in San Diego county, you know how much sunshine we get. Many people are letting it heat up their home during the summer, when they could use it to cool their home by powering their air conditioner with solar panels.
We considered some ideas that would have Tony in a casual environment, maybe talking to neighbors or co-workers. But with the message of ‘power’ we felt we needed to use his batting power. So we came up with a bit of a backstory of Tony Gwynn Jr. going out to a practice field to challenge himself by trying to hit off a young pitcher.
We knew we wanted an athletic and powerful-looking pitcher. One of our own residential Project Managers, Ryan Hall, “got the call to the show,” when we asked him to play the role of pitcher. He’s a former Marine and also a former power lifter, so his athletic look was not a problem. He also has long hair and a long, red beard. Throw an HES Solar baseball cap and jersey on him and we think he looks like a pro-level pitcher.
We fine-tuned our concept with the talented group of filmmakers at Rowlbertos Media. We played with a loose script, scouted a few locations, and Rowlbertos assembled a tight crew for the one-day shoot that would cover three locations…
PRODUCTION OF THE TONY GWYNN JR. SOLAR SHOTS
What’s the last thing you want in a solar commercial? How about rain? California had a tremendous season of rain in late 2022 and early 2023. It’s great for replenishing our state’s water reservoir levels, it’s great for the plants and for the wildflower blooms, and it actually is a wonderful cleaner for all the solar panels already installed. But it’s not great for a TV commercial about capturing the power of the sun.
The shoot day was set for Monday, February 13th. We watched the weather as the calendar days crept toward us. The date, sports fans may already recognize, was the day after the Superbowl. And the romantics will spot it was the day before Valentine’s day. Add to that Tony Gwynn’s Jr.’s prep for Spring Training baseball broadcasts and you can understand that the worriers among us had plenty of material to work with.
The evening before the production date it rained in San Diego. We hoped it was only sprinkling in Poway where we were scheduled to shoot at Sportsplex USA’s Poway location. The facility has three fields, batting cages, and a restaurant and bar. We’d be filming before the facility was open to the public, so as long as it didn’t rain too hard in Poway, we were looking good… but it poured in Poway that night.
We arrived at the location to find mud and puddles on the beautiful infields. Our optimistic side noticed the grass was especially green, but the infields looked awful. The Sportsplex USA Poway crew did a fantastic job prepping the batting and pitching areas so we were good to film regardless of the mud.
The skies were a little cloudy as the production officially started, but Rowlberto’s and Director of Photography Jamie Allender did a great job of using the available light and also taking advantage of the gloomy skies. The beginning of the commercial is designed visually to convey an athlete “digging deep” to meet a sport’s challenge. The scene has a bit of a “things seem rough right now” message. So in the end, the gloomy clouds actually added to the tone of the opening shots.
Tony was, as always, great to work with. We started with shots of Tony and our amateur-actor/non-pitcher/real-HES Solar Project Manager walking out to the plate. The original commercial concept was that Tony and the pitcher were both excited to challenge one another with their skills.
It was supposed to feel like the end of Rocky 3 when Rocky and Apollo face off without the crowd or the boxing purse. Hey, ya gotta aim high, right? The shots were not ultimately used because time is incredibly tight in a 30 second commercial, and the two appeared too friendly. There wasn’t a layer of challenge to the conversation.
On to the pitching. This is what we’ll say about our actor – he’s a really talented solar project manager! He actually did great, throwing pitches with and without a ball as the commercial director Rob Knauf put his crew all over and around him.
Then it was time to get the shots of Tony at the plate. He stared down the pitcher – this wasn’t acting, really, since Tony’s the real deal and has done this at the highest level in the sport. But Tony delivered that great, serious stare-down as, once again, Rob’s crew grabbed every angle with their Red camera.
Some of the baseballs were ‘prop’ baseballs made of hard foam, and some were real baseballs. When we needed some shots of Tony connecting with a pitch, the crew lobbed him the ball from just a few feet away and Tony drove them into right field. It was startling to hear when Tony was tossed one of the real baseballs. There’s a sound when a bat connects with a ball just right that sounds so satisfying. The sound of Tony Gwynn Jr. hitting the ball is used in the commercial, but the recorded sound doesn’t do it justice. Anyone who hasn’t been to a pro baseball game lately should get seats down close to home plate to hear/feel that sound. The sound in person is dramatic.
Next we shot some ‘homerun point-of-view’ shots with our drone. Those who were there know who crashed the drone, but that name needs not be mentioned here. Moving on!
We thanked Tony and got a group shot. The mud had thrown an early twist to the start of production but we knew we had outstanding footage thanks to Tony, our pitcher, and the Rowlbertos Media crew. It felt like the ‘hard part’ of the production day was done and the rest would be easy because we’d be in more controlled environments.
PRODUCTION OF THE TESLA POWERWALL SHOTS
The second location was a beautiful home with a very impressive energy storage system. It contained four Tesla Powerwalls and a SPAN panel. HES Solar is very proud to say we designed and installed this system. Thank you again to the homeowners for opening their home to our production.
We used two more HES Solar employees for the “actors” in this scene. Maybe we were a bit too on the nose with our casting, but we use our two main battery installers to play the parts of… battery installers! Thank you Paul Gibbons and Edwin Rubio! If you’ve gotten a home battery from HES Solar in the past several years you probably met someone who’s now in a Tony Gwynn Jr. solar commercial!
One of our actors decided to ham it up, and arrived ready for his scene with a robe over his ‘costume.’ On a movie set, the actors often use coverings like a robe to ‘protect’ their costume between takes. Anyway, it set a fun tone for this portion of the day.
The Powerwall you see in the commercial is a prop of sorts. It’s a real Tesla Powerwall housing, but there is no energy storage inside. A real Tesla powerwall is too heavy for one person to easily lift, so there was some hamming it up with our installers wanting to look like they could easily carry a Powerwall. We even shot some pieces that demonstrated a mostly-realistic two-person carry.
At the end we opted to portray the battery install as realistically as possible in terms of respecting the weight of a powerwall. We used a dolly and the installers only lifted the home battery the last little bit into place.
We also shot a high/low double high-five between the two installers. You know, the high-five made famous in Top Gun. One of our actors really wanted that in the commercial. We shot it, but ultimately didn’t use it. It was fun and we knew we had the basic shots we needed, so we shot some of these ‘low percentage shots’ in case they would be something we’d use. Sorry, the “Top Gun-style High Five” wound up on the cutting room floor.
PRODUCTION OF THE SOLAR FAMILY SHOTS
The sun was done for the day, but HES Solar and the Rowlbertos Media crew were not. We moved to our third location as the sun was signing off. This was not a concern. We in fact planned to shoot this scene at night. We wanted to show a family enjoying their energy at night, because home energy storage is now a bigger part of maximizing the benefits of a solar system.
The family dad is also a HES Solar employee… maybe not so much an employee as he is the owner and CEO… it’s not surprising he has an HES Solar system and also a Tesla Powerwall battery at his home. So he’s literally the modern version of, “I liked it so much, I bought the company!”
That makes for a lot of solar people in our commercial. Tony Gwynn Jr. solar spokesperson and solar and home battery owner, our second location was an HES Solar home battery system (with HES Solar rooftop panels on the roof – also seen in “the sun is still out” shot), and a final location powered by an HES Solar system on the roof and an HES Solar-installed Tesla Powerwall in the garage.
We wrapped late into the night but not close to the next day (not by film production standards, anyway). We knew we had the footage that we needed and a lot of additional footage that would create plenty of options. A saying in filmmaking (usually attributed to French filmmaker Robert Bresson) is that a film is born three times – when writing, when shooting, and when editing. That applied to our 30 second commercial, so we were were excited to see what would happen in the Rowlberto’s editing room.
EDITING THE FOOTAGE
With the footage shot we just had to record the Tony Gwynn Jr. solar message, slap it all together, and throw it on TV, right? Well, pretty much. Nearly everyone in San Diego knows that Tony Gwynn Jr. is a broadcast baseball announcer and also has a talk show on 97.3 The Fan sports radio. As great as Tony was as a major league baseball player, he might be even better as a broadcaster and commentator. So we knew we had a strong, recognizable voice for the commercial’s voice over.
Tony was a total pro, and probably recorded ten minutes worth of voice over (which takes longer than you think, even with a pro!). He gave us a lot of great options, which created even more freedom in the editing process.
Rowlbertos Media delivered the first cut, and the final edit was fine tuned via remote meetings and screen sharing. It was really fun to see everything come together. The biggest change from the original concept was cutting out the shots of Tony and the pitcher walking out to the baseball field. If anyone wants to buy footage of a great baseball announcer and a great solar project manager walking together and talking about Whataburger vs. In-n-Out Burger, or needs shots of them debating the better sandwich shop between Jimmy John’s and Jersey Mike’s, we’ve got some primo footage for you to look at!
The ‘walk out’ just didn’t fit with the intensity we wanted to reach. Tony’s look with his bat in hand did the job perfectly to show an athlete’s focus and intensity. The other shots cut together great, we picked the sections from Tony’s voice over that fit the feel and message the best, and that was that.
TONY GWYNN JR. SOLAR COMMERCIAL MESSAGE
The commercial was done on-schedule and ready to air before the first Padres game. Really, it was! We elected to air it for the first time on Saturday, April 15. The purpose of this timing is tied to the actual message.
California solar state-wide had some significant billing changes that went into effect on April 15. California solar system projects submitted to the utility after that date get different rates than projects before the date. So while the solar industry (including us!) was promoting the earlier solar buying landscape right up until April 15, we were also creating our message for the solar landscape after April 15.
We think the Tony Gwynn Jr. solar commercial does a great job delivering our message, and the message is this: The solar landscape has changed, but the sun still shines down on it. HES Solar will show you how to get the best from your solar and solar + storage system.
We’re very proud of our commercial. We hope you like it, too. And if you think we did okay with TV commercial production, you should see how good we do solar!