Monday, May 6, 2013

Never Be Afraid to Ask...Coke Cooler

For The Lake Effect at Silk Road Rising, the set designer wanted a standing Coke cooler in the corner of our set (a small family-owned Indian restaurant).
I was a bit worried about the idea, because our budget was fairly limited and I knew that purchasing one would be cost prohibitive. Also, a quick search on ebay and craigslist turned up only antique or vintage models.
Pretty quickly I realized that the only way we were going to get what we needed would be to go straight to the source. I called Coca-Cola.
I happened to have learned many years ago, when my grandfather was closing his old family pharmacy, that the big drink coolers found in restaurants and convenience stores do not belong to the stores themselves, but to the drink companies. Pepsi, Coke and other brands set up an account with the store owners, provide the coolers and then deliver the stock to fill it.
I found a service number on the Coca-Cola website, called and explained to the person who answered what I needed. I was sent to three or four different people, explaining our needs to each representative and then being forwarded on to the person who they believed could best help me. Eventually I spoke to Jose, who was able to figure out how to code the delivery for company records and arrange a time to deliver our machine. It arrived on schedule without any problems and immediately made the set look so much more like a real restaurant. All of this has been COMPLETELY FREE!
One of the most important parts of making something like this happen is good phone communication skills. With every person I spoke to I acknowledged that this was of course a strange request, and mentioned over and over again how much the help was appreciated. I stayed open and flexible in terms of what arrangements could work for us. I mentioned that we are a non-for-profit, and offered to provide any documentation that would be needed for tax records (they have not indicated that they needed anything at this point). I also made a point to tell them that the machine, and the logo would be clearly displayed to our audience every night. I had numbers on hand of audience sizes and numbers performances to back up my claim that this would be useful advertising for Coca-Cola.
 A couple side notes. After the rest of the set had been dulled down and dirtied to make it look more real and used, the bright clean colors of the coke cooler were overly distracting. The director asked if I could dull it down in any way. The solution I found to darken the color, without damaging the piece, was to gaff tape a layer of dark brown tulle over the entire side of the machine. The gaff tape should remove without leaving a residue, and the thin creases wrinkles in the fabric blend perfectly into the side of the machine from just a few steps away.

The only other problem we had with putting the machine onstage was the noise. The sound of the refrigerator motor, on our hollow set, in the marble floored theatre was just too much. The machine is rigged so that the lights and the refrigerator are run together on the same plug. 
Our lighting designer was able to solve the problem by installing long LED strips inside the machine and running them independently (this also allowed her to have more control over the lights and run them off the dimmer system).