It started out like any other day. Unlock the studio doors. Turn on the lights. Send in the Circus Girls. Sixteen Circus Girls to be exact. No more, no less. I’m sure you’re asking “Why Circus Girls? Why not models or even dancers?” I guess it depends entirely on how one would answer a simple question – “How would you feel about getting mostly naked, getting painted for 12 hours, climbing all over other mostly naked painted women to make the shape of a car – all so we can take a picture?” If the answer is “Hell yes, sounds fantastic, when do we start?!” then you’re probably talking to a circus performer. Here in San Francisco, we have a small but flourishing circus community. They come at things a little differently than most people. First, these women have mad skills – contortionists, aerialists, trapeze artists, and ten other things I don’t know the names of. All with clear allergies to desk jobs and a slight addiction to adrenaline. Kinda like a deck of cards with 52 Jokers.

So when Dean Oram from The Richards Group called me and asked if I could make a car out of painted muscular women’s bodies for a Fiat ad, I said “Hell yes, sounds fantastic, I know just the people to call, when do we start?!” That leads us back to sending in the Circus Girls. Hot on their heels follows Craig Tracy, our Body Painter imported directly from New Orleans, and his team. Everything’s in place. The painting begins – one body at a time. The hours roll on and I begin to notice a variety of handstand push-ups, ungodly body bends and dancing to music no one can hear. I guess a mostly naked, partially painted circus performer has to spend the time somehow. Wheels begin to become clear, headlights on the sides of faces, logos conspicuously placed on a back, and slowly, a car takes shape. Everyone takes their positions and a test shot is taken. Everyone crowds around the monitor to discuss the changes. Everyone goes back to either painting, being painted, or waiting to be painted. As the hours go by, a new normal sets in. Many trips to the craft service table, lots of bending and lots of over-bending and dozens of finishing paint touch-ups. And then, finally, everyone takes their positions for the last time and we make a picture. Done and done. Champagne, collective laughter, euphoria, and a sublime realization of just how strange and wonderful the day really was.

The ad is running, appropriately enough, in the ESPN 2013 Body Issue. Also, check out the behind the scenes video on the Fiat YouTube page created by Sam Chase.

And just like any other day, I have far too many people to thank for helping make that day, in every sense of the word, fantastic. I will add that these projects don’t come together without a lot of people on the agency side pushing for a good idea and a client (thank you Casey Hurbis) who will champion an idea until it is done. Far easier said than done. Kinda like handstand push-ups.