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How This Video Creator Went From Fake Commercials On TikTok To Real Commercials

A macro shot of golden metal pans across the screen. Plates of food spin around, and a gold fork comes down toward the plate… pasta is disappearing, as if being chased down by the fork. Then text appears on the screen, it says, “Le Fork.” This 47-second video had 2.4 million views and put video creator Grace Wells (@gracewellsphoto) on the content creation map.

Grace Wells is a filmmaker who focuses her work on short form videos, typically commercials. She is a TikTok sensation with more than 2 million followers, all of whom adore her series: “making epic commercials for random objects.” In just a few years, Wells has gone from a TikToker posting videos for fun to a full-time freelance content creator working with top brands on commercials. We sat down with Wells to learn more about her crazy journey, what a shoot looks like for her, how she approaches short-form storytelling and what advice she would give to others.

Grace’s first “random commercial” on TikTok. Shot on the Sony Alpha 7 III with the Sony 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 and Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro lens.

From Linguistics To Video Creator

Our story begins with Wells in graduate school for linguistics. She was living in Edinburgh, occasionally borrowing her roommates' camera because she needed a creative outlet. She decided she enjoyed photography so she saved up her waitressing money and purchased a camera. At that point, Wells was mostly focusing on still photography and began finding amateur models on Facebook to meet up and shoot.

Then, the pandemic hit. Wells finished graduate school in lockdown and was looking around for other ways to express her creativity. She was unable to collaborate with models as she had before, so she knew she needed something she could do at home and alone. “That was how I ended up doing a total 180 and going into product stuff, because I knew I didn’t need anyone to do it. TikTok was also on the rise so I figured I’d join and just see how it went. I thought it would be a more fun creative exercise to do commercials for things you would never see a commercial for.” And clearly, she was correct. The internet went mad for her funny commercial subjects, her creative shooting style and her ability to create something high quality alone in her apartment.

Becoming A Full Time Video Creator

From there, Wells’ trajectory completely changed. She slowly started being approached by brands and asked to create real TikTok ads for their work. Wells was able to leverage her following, who was already enjoying her fake commercials, to build an income as a video creator. Her second brand deal was with Celcius energy drinks, and that TikTok received 9.7 million views organically. That was when Wells officially quit her full-time job.

In addition to brand deals, Wells has gone on to direct national commercials and ad campaigns for groups including Amazon Prime and Airwick. This, of course, has been a huge change. “I think communication is the most important aspect of directing," she explains. You need to basically articulate what's inside your head, and that was the biggest hurdle for me. I'm used to being by myself and doing every single role and not having to explain myself to anybody. But it’s also my favorite part, so it's kind of like a double-edged sword. I'm working with all these people and that's kind of hard, but it's also really fun to meet and become friends with these incredible people.”

Grace is also in the process of building a course that breaks down all the work she does to create these ads. “I think there’s a lot of interest in the tabletop style and there's a lot of resources for photography but not a ton for video.” Her goal is to foster an online community of people who create content similar to what Grace does. You can sign up to stay up to date on the course release HERE

The Process Of Creating Epic Commercials

Although these quick, high-energy videos make it look like Grace is creating them in a day or two, it’s actually a much longer process. Grace walked us through it and if she’s working on her own piece it will take about two weeks, and for a brand deal it will take about four.

First, she meticulously plans it all out and storyboards everything. Then the first choice she always makes is the music. Once she has a clear vision, she starts sourcing props and sometimes building sets (check out the video below where she builds a kitchen sink with running water plus two other sets!) After that, it’s about a week worth of shooting and editing the piece together. Grace told us that lighting was by far the most time-consuming aspect of the shoots. “People don't realize how complicated lighting is, and the fact that I'm only one person means each shot can honestly take me a couple of hours.”

To make the magic happen, Grace uses quite a bit of Sony gear: the Sony Alpha 7S III, Sony Alpha 7 III, Sony 50mm f/1.4, Sony 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6, Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro, Sony 12-24mm f/4 G and Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master. Her go-to setup when she’s in her studio is the Sony Alpha 7S III and the Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro lens. Grace is obsessed with the autofocus and the quality of the footage, particularly the 4K 120 FPS on the Sony Alpha 7S III.

“For a lot of videographers autofocus is not super important because they're the camera all the time," she explains, "but what tends to happen is that I'm my own model and so I can't physically manually focus the camera from standing in front of it. That was my main issue when I had a Canon camera, the autofocus was so poor and so slow. But then I got the Sony Alpha 7S III and Sony Alpha 7 III and both are lightning fast and very accurate and it's just saved me so much time.”

Simple Solutions For Seemingly Complex Problems

So many on TikTok and beyond have been inspired by Grace’s work and her “do-it-yourself” attitude, and we asked Grace what advice she would give to aspiring filmmakers. “I think the biggest thing for me is trying to find simple solutions for seemingly complex problems," she says. "I think that's the root of a lot of the hacks that you see in my videos. For example, if I wanted to do a shot where a spotlight shines on the product, and I don't have a fancy spotlight, I'll literally just cut a circle out of a piece of paper and put it over my light and channel the light in that way. Or when I want to make a product spin on its own, I will just stick a fidget spinner under the table and spin the table top. I think there is a misconception that you need to invest a ton of money on equipment or lighting or whatever, there's always a simpler way to achieve at least something that's very close to the vision that you have.”

She continues, “It's also important to know that there's no one right way of doing things and you're going to have to adapt. I learn something new on every single video shoot that I do, because every single shot is totally different from anything I've ever done before. That's one of the things that keeps it interesting, is just having to constantly adapt and recognizing that there's no formula or one-size-fits-all solution.”

Moving forward, Grace is still really enjoying the short format storytelling she's been doing. She loves the creative challenge of telling stories in short form and how it has allowed her work to change and evolve over time. Grace is also busy working on her course, which should be released this year. Keep up with Grace on her Instagram (@gracewellsphoto), TikTok (@gracewellsphoto), and Youtube (@GraceWells). 


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