Above: The “Vault Man” with his ladies.
Have you been to a movie or turned on the TV lately? If so, you’ve probably seen Minnesota’s Colin Ryan starring in a Vault Energy Soda commercial that is about as surreal as it gets in the wakeboard community. Put it this way, it involves that Chihuahua from Transformers, the Heaney brothers, wakeboarding, and a $20,000 mechanical alligator. How does this have anything to do with wakeboarding, you ask? Read on.
Apparently Coke, which makes a drink called Vault, is targeting the action sports markets in a big way, and they decided to have a sense of humor about the whole thing, so they sent a casting director out to find someone who had a gruff, chiseled, rugged look (they actually said the opposite of Keith Lidberg, because, let’s be honest, Keith’s a pretty man) to ride a plank of wood, going fifty miles-per-hour behind a cigarette boat. The “Vault Man” would then do a double front flip, grab a trout and throw it on the grill in mid-air (the fish was going to be computer graphics), then land and grab a live Chihuahua out of a mechanical alligator’s mouth, win the contest, and get all the babes. Then he’d drink Vault, of course.
Needless to say, this thing was going to be funny. Whether it turned out terrible or great, it still would have been hilarious. Turns out, early reviews say it’s great, and while the Directors and Producers didn’t know a whole lot about wakeboarding, they did the right thing by listening to Colin and calling in Hollywood’s most recent wake transplants — the Heaney Brothers — to get a few X-Stars and a lot of wake knowledge in to help things out. They obviously killed the whole cigarette boat with a wooden plank thing, but the rest is pretty much the same.
After a massive casting effort that involved half the wakeboard community (the half that wasn’t sponsored by an energy drink), they ended up with Colin Ryan and Corey Bradley as the two Vault Man potentials, and Gunner Schuler as the Mountain Dew Man, with Nick Heaney driving the Vault Man, and Julz Heaney driving the Mountain Dew man.
This story is interesting because Colin and I were on Lake Powell for BROstock (after having just crashed our houseboat into the shore) while the Casting Director for this commercial was going around interviewing riders. We were both boozed and having a good old time of debauchery and mayhem on the Minnesota houseboat when it came time for Colin to interview. In his non-challant swagger, Colin did his video interview that ended up winning him the part. I really wish we could get a copy of this interview tape, because it must have been hilarious. We were both acting like complete morons, and I didn’t think they got one second of usable footage out of the whole thing. Turns out I was wrong and he got wakeboarding’s biggest Hollywood roll.
The Videographer for this shoot is a guy named Matthew Libatique, and when you Google his name, you find he regularly works with Spike Lee, and he had just gotten done shooting Iron Man. He’s also known for shooting Grinders, Pi, Inside Man, The Fountain, and Requiem for a Dream. Now he would be shooting a Vault commercial with Colin Ryan (bit of a contrast). The Assistant Director had shot one of Kobe Bryant’s Nike commercials the day before the Vault shoot. Colin will take the story from here.
“It was one of the biggest-budget commercials in a long time,” says Ryan. “It was a four-day shoot with everything, they were saying every hour was worth like fifty thousand dollars.
Above: Looks like a Pro Tour event right? Actually it’s just a huge commercial.
“When they flew us out there for the audition in Hollywood, it was like 50 of the hottest babes in the audition room for like four hours, three of them at a time would come in with Corey and I, and sit there while we were acting like we were grilling the fish and drinking the Vault.
“It was funny because the biggest argument between the directors and Coke was the length of my beard,” says Ryan. “They freaked out on that. The directors and producers didn’t want it trimmed at all, and Coke wanted it like a shadow.
“This was the original plan, they were going to have whoever it was — it ended up being me — go behind a cigarette boat at like fifty miles per hour on a plank of wood because I’d be the Vault Man and I’d be able to do anything. And I’d have to do a double front flip on a plank of wood. And then the Mountain Dew guy would have a nice normal setup. I told them then I was the wrong man and they needed to contact Shapiro. So then we got Nick and Julz Heaney to bring their MasterCrafts. I just did like 7s and 5s for them. That’s what it came down to, because you had to be able to hit the wake and throw something and catch it, so you’d hit the wake, get up in the air, act like you were grabbing something and throwing it, then spin out of it. Then you’d land right next to it and grab the Chihuahua and bring it to safety. In auditions Corey wanted to do S-bends or Vulcans, but unfortunately with the space restraint, and un-weighted boat , and repetition of getting it all in the right spot, that would have been nuts. Once we were in production the tricks were limited to the above restraints. Also the vault man and dew man had to do the same tricks by law of the contract.
“Basically, what they wanted was you had to be able to hit the wake, act like you’re putting your hand up in the air — like catching a fish coming out of the water and throwing it just as you left the first part of the wake — then when you landed, you had to land within five feet of the $20,000 fake alligator from this place called Animaltronics, or something, the guys who make all these big fake animals for movies, like Jaws and ET and Gremlins and all that stuff. I had to land right in front of it in the same frame and grab a stuffed Chihuahua out of its mouth, and eventually I had to grab a real Chihuahua out of its mouth with all the humane society and animal rights activists there, and they would shut down the commercial if we were hurting the dog or something. The funniest thing was that people — like the directors and producers — were more scared, and way more impressed, by just grabbing the dog out of the alligator’s mouth than they were by doing a 900 or a 720, they thought it was just way cooler.__
Above: The famous Chihuahua from Transformers.
“It took one try and it was perfect, the little Chihuahua had a life jacket on and it must have been tranquilized because it just sat in the mouth of this fake alligator.
“Then at the end I got to have these babes rubbing me down like I was the Vault Man and I had just won this competition and I was on top of the world and I’m drinking my Vault and grilling a trout. During the actual commercial I had to drink like four bottles of Vault in an hour, so after that I was numb and tingly. It has 1200mg of caffeine per bottle, and like 78g of sugar.
“I wiped out really hard once. On the first day, the tech day, on Monday, we were trying to dial it in with boat speed and what length from shore, and when we were out on the water, Nick Heaney and I were kind of the directors and producers because these guys had no idea where we needed to go and how fast and where they needed to be with their cameras. The two guys were underwater in S.C.U.B.A. gear running the alligator, and it looked so real, it was crazy. So the tide was low and they wanted me to get right next to it, so I was like fine I’ll just jump right on it. So I charged in and did a huge grabbed 540 and I landed right on their heads almost, so I had to totally bail and jump out of the way and I ended up hitting the shore in like a foot of water and I tore the shit out of my bindings and cracked my board pretty bad. They thought I was dead. They thought I broke my neck and they were going to shut down production, but I was like ‘no, I’m fine, just give me five minutes.’ They were like ‘this is the Vault Man.’
Above: The “Vault Man” rescues a Chihuahua from the fake alligator’s jaws.
“It was cool to see how it all worked. They had the big cameras on the trolley systems on the beach, and then they had these big Nautica, 40-foot boats with the big-ass cameras with Red technology on them.
“The big moneymaker is that it’s going to be in the movie theaters for every preview this fall, is what the Coke people were telling me.”
Check out Colin Ryan, the Vault Man, in movie previews and commercials this fall.__