Michigan Lottery’s “Give Thanks in an Instant” – A Beautiful Balance

“Anthony, we received an agency call… the client is The Michigan Lottery… and they want a 30 second spot done for the holidays.”


Although this might not seem like the most creative project to finish out the year, our job is to take those seemingly mundane projects and produce compelling content.


In the marketing and advertising world there is often straightforward content with one linear goal – a call to action to drive sales.


Coming from the world of freelance filmmaking, I got into this industry to tell stories and drive emotion.


There is certainly a struggle between balancing these two worlds.


The Michigan Lottery was not requesting a typical run-of-the-mill project. Their initiative was to thank people who work hard on the holidays – when most of us are spending time with friends and family.




Simons-Michelson-Zieve (SMZ) saw our website and knew we were a production company that produced high-quality work. When they saw the documentary-style short about an NBA player, spearheaded by one of our directors Hamoody Jaafar, they knew we were the ones. They loved that we had passionate in-house directors that were comfortable on camera, and loved that our production team could be nimble while capturing quality images.


We got the creative brief and jumped on a conference call.


SMZ aimed to tell a thoughtful story by giving a genuine surprise to people that truly deserved it. They wanted us to carefully select the recipients, be tight-lipped about the surprise, and get personal with our nominees. This was storytelling!


Hamoody came on board to see the project through, not only as the Director, but also as on-screen talent. Jamie Hackney stepped in to run logistics as associate producer, which proved to be a tremendous asset.


We went out and found real people with real stories that were truly deserving. This was our biggest challenge – meeting all of these wonderful people, assessing their presence on camera, all the while being sure to not give away our intent.


We decided to tell everyone we were filming a documentary on “working through the holidays.” We explained that we would come back if we were able to make the documentary happen.  This worked well as everyone we surprised forgot about our previous conversation and mentally wrote it off. We showed up and surprised them with a gift from Michigan Lottery, ultimately resulting in a genuine reaction.


At the end of production we captured not only a great surprise, but candid interviews with each recipient. We worked with SMZ and Michigan Lottery to deliver several great edits that everyone was happy with. We even have another project with SMZ in the works.   


Maintaining a balance between emotional storytelling and corporate sales is a beautiful thing. We don’t always get those opportunities, but we’re extremely grateful when we do.