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Matto Roboto

Client: A large temporary staffing company
Objective: Create opening video for an industry conference
Solution: Riff on a classic Volkswagen commercial

In 1999 a relatively unknown Tony Hale (later to become “Buster” in Arrested Development) starred in what was destined to become a Volkswagen commercial:


So when a client needed an attention-grabbing video to open their presentation at a staffing company conference we decided to create an homage to this classic, but instead of introducing the stereo on a line of cars we’d be introducing an app that this company uses to connect its workers with employers. We wanted to contrast the typical way these tradespeople get jobs via text and early morning phone calls with the app, which would give them more information and hopefully better work.


Short on time, as most of these projects are, we shot all of the primary footage on one night in a parking lot at the UW campus that was as close as we could get to the look of the original video.

Since the target audience would be people actually working in the trades, who can smell inauthenticity, we cast two of my old friends who work in construction but also do theater rather than find actors to play tradesmen. They came with tools and a truck, covering our prop needs. (But that’s yours truly’s framing hammer and hard hat.)

Fortunately since the lighting on the original video was minimal, we were able to make do with two LED lights on tall stands and a hidden strip of lights tucked under the sun visor so that we could see our protagonist clearly. Since we were going to have an ending that was shot in daylight, I didn’t go with quite as stylized a color palette as the original since the night shots would have clashed with the daytime shots.

A few funny notes on post-production. The phone screen was added digitally, which was easy because it doesn’t move. But we also weren’t sure what sign we wanted on the door of the truck, so that was an excuse to learn how to do 3D graphics and planar tracking. And it turns out that my old, battered hard hat we used as a prop had a competing company’s sticker on it, which I had to remove digitally. It was a good excuse to learn how to do a few new tricks.

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