Behind the scenes: POWERHOME’s commercial with Detroit Youth Choir

Behind the scenes: POWERHOME’s commercial with Detroit Youth Choir

Last Updated: December 26th, 2019 at 10:10 am
Read Time: 5 Minutes

DETROIT – What do you get when you combine one of the most historic theaters in America with the Detroit Youth Choir, the runner-up act on the 2019 season of “America’s Got Talent”? You have the setting and star power that worked to make POWERHOME’s latest commercial its most memorable yet.

On the Monday before Thanksgiving, members of the POWERHOME team including CEO Jayson Waller, 45 members of the DYC and 50 extras gathered at the Fox Theatre to create the magic. The undertaking spearheaded by the Sussman Agency was massive, yet the concept simple and splendid. As the pitchman of the POWERHOME brand, Waller would explain to viewers why they should choose POWERHOME when adding solar panels at their homes and businesses, and this ridiculously-talented choir would provide the vocals to the 1960s hit song “Let the Sunshine In,” originally sung by The Fifth Dimension. Not only that, but the group added choreography they perfected for the song a few days earlier. Take a look at the finished product here:

Bringing together all the parties involved wasn’t as difficult as you might think. The wow factor with this idea made everyone say yes quickly.

“This is our first commercial, so we wanted to make it work,” DYC director Anthony White said. “But I also wanted to give the kids that really don’t have an opportunity to do things to do it. Most of our kids already have exposure, but a lot of them don’t have exposure.”

Setting the scene at POWERHOME’s commercial

While setup started at approximately 8 a.m., filming didn’t begin until shortly after 11 a.m. as house lights were adjusted, scripts were reviewed and placed into teleprompters, and the talent got ready. The choir walked on stage at 11:05, and from there it was go time. For all the choir members, it was a school day, so they missed out on formal instruction. (Surprisingly, we didn’t hear from anyone that minded!) But White was quick to point out that even this opportunity is educational for each member of his group. This commercial is another chance to learn what it’s like to perform and be professional.

And my goodness were these kids professional. Before even walking on stage, White and the choir’s etiquette coach reminded the group of what to expect, and how they were expected to act. Yes, they were still kids, and some needed redirection during the 8-plus hour day, but through the hundreds of takes and the continuous singing of their 13-second snippets, they maintained their energy when the lights came on. Here is one of those takes, showcasing the choir from a most unique perspective.

“Those kids are amazing and they sang their hearts out,” Waller said. “In between takes, they were dancing and singing. I was exhausted, and I’ve got more energy than anyone I’ve ever met, yet they kept going and going. It was awesome to be around them and feed off their energy. They’re very talented and I’m excited to have them part of the brand and be part of this movement. It’s exciting and surreal.”

The tricks of the trade

While the DYC cranked out take after take of the song, the actual audio heard in the commercial comes from the choir’s time in a Detroit-area recording studio 10 days earlier. When it comes to a commercial, any brand seeks perfection in every aspect, and those kids delivered it for POWERHOME.

You’ll also notice that the effects make it look like Waller was speaking to a full theater. Yet it was the extras, stacked two- and three-wide on either side of one of the theater’s center aisles, that provided this effect as a camera operator dollied up and down the aisle on a metal rail. Only a few extras got their faces on camera as part of the commercial, so we thought we’d capture all of their faces for posterity here. They may have had the toughest job, as their time to shine came at day’s end. We’re grateful for all of them, especially for the guy who said, “Sunshine forever!” at the very end of the clip.

A few other things proved humorous throughout the day. The paint tray on a wooden six-foot ladder braced one of the 40-plus-inch teleprompters. Many of the smoke machines that created the dramatic, hazy effect sounded like 1960s-era Volkswagens. And the smoke produced by many of those machines were routinely wafted toward the stage by stagehands holding large, rectangular placards.

Mixing the lights with the smoke and combining those effects with Waller and the choir made this absolutely memorable, even for the choir members themselves.

“I was really excited [to be here] because people will be able to see this,” said 16-year-old DYC member Victoria Hunter, who has been in the choir for five years. “My friends can just turn on the TV and see the commercial and go, “Oh my God it’s Victoria!’ So it’s cool to know that I have something that will last other than AGT.”

Detroit Youth Choir leaves its mark at Fox Theatre

One of the most poignant moments of the day came as lunchtime ended, as White was asked to sign one of the walls of the downstairs dressing room, where so many other performers have signed their own names. White left a simple message: “The Detroit Youth Choir Was Here!!”, and he signed it “Mr. White and DYC 2019.”

After his final penstrokes were complete, White’s choir broke into cheers and also into song. Their camaraderie was goosebump-inducing. As much as the DYC helped to elevate POWERHOME’s brand, we hope we returned the favor.

The bigger POWERHOME gets, the bigger its aspirations are as it looks to build its movement of solar energy across America. It is with that how-can-we-top-this mindset that makes us so proud of this finished product. Through countless hours of work from all parties, we’re rolling this commercial out across our nine-state company footprint. We’re letting the sunshine in, and we invite anyone who wants solar to join us on that journey.

“This is an epic song with an epic group that’s really hot right now nationally,” Sussman Agency executive vice president Dino Rotondo says. “You bring those two things together, it’s going to get people’s attention and connect with the consumer on an emotional basis. When you’re building a brand, that’s what you want to do. The song, the energy of the song, the energy of Jayson coming together, is going to drive that.”

Let the sunshine
Let the sunshine in
The sunshine in

Try not humming that tune for the rest of the day. In case you do, simply give us a call at 800-765-2715, and we’ll be happy to see if you and your home qualify to add solar.