2022: We all have those movies that made our childhood. Some are guilty pleasures and some become modern day classics. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation has slowly become the later. In this movie and film series, Chevy Chase created a character with Clark Griswold that finds a balance of being clueless, yet some how lovable, that is everyone’s Dad. It’s a character made for him and that only Chevy Chase could pull off.
So when I heard and eventually got hired to cover this event of “Chevy Chase lights up Raising Cane’s for the holidays” in the suburbs of Chicago, I was all in. It was promoted as Chevy coming in character as Clark Griswold with Raising Cane’s founder Todd Graves, to “plug in” the more than 13,000 holiday lights on the Restaurant to kickoff the holiday season. Sounds pretty simple right? As I soon found out, nothing is ever that simple.
First off, I think the sheer out pour of people on that usually warm November night was much more than they anticipated. On my way to the shoot I got a call from the publicist, usually a bad sign, but instead warned us the area was a “shit show” and directed us on how to maneuver and park inside the secured area. The writer and I got in fine but as I was grabbing my camera gear, security started to throw us out as the publicist arrived and once again saved the day.
This is where it gets interesting, I am brought into the mix of it and along with hundreds of people flanking the restaurant, there’s clearly a bigger production that is usually used with a event. I start talking with the DP and he informs me that this being an event was new to him and had only found that out yesterday. Now it all makes sense, this is not just an event, it’s a commercial shoot.
First set-up was Chevy and Todd arriving at the restaurant. As you can see there’s teleprompters surrounding them and this is clearly not set for the general public.
The second set-up was more what I expected when I arrived that evening. The gathering of fans to help kick off the holidays with the lighting of the restaurant with special guest Chevy Chase and founder Todd Graves.
It was interesting to be privy to the process of making the commercial. I think anyone that knows a little about Chevy Chase’s reputation knows he can be difficult. Now although he did at times come across a bit harsh, I’m not sure he was wrong about trying to make the best of it all.
From there we went inside for the final shot and I more or less got my portrait. The space was lit for the commercial and after a few takes, with Chevy eating the whole time, I was given my cue to get a shot with the two of them.
As a photographer, you always have that desire for one more shot, it’s almost a clique at this point and sometimes you get it and sometimes you don’t. This was one of those times you don’t. Still, a successful shoot that could have been a train wreck at any given moment.