Actor, author and woodworker Nick Offerman takes on his dirtiest role to date, starring in an NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) campaign created and produced by Incredible Beast Omnimedia in which Offerman, who hails from a farming family in Minooka, Illinois, promotes regenerative agriculture by portraying worn-out topsoil, healed by cover crops.
NRDC is leading a campaign to persuade Congress to support the COVER Act as lawmakers negotiate a new Farm Bill to replace the current law, which was last adopted in 2018. The COVER Act would incentivize farmers to plant cover crops by offering them a $5-per-acre savings on their crop insurance bills—just as an auto insurer can reward good drivers with a discount.
Regenerative agriculture practices, including cover cropping, build soil health and fight climate change. They maintain roots in the soil, which sequester legacy carbon from the atmosphere, prevent soil erosion, percolate water quickly, protect waterways from pollution, increase soil fertility, and help farmers reduce their use of harmful chemicals and synthetic inputs, saving money. Currently, however, only about 5% of America’s cropland utilizes cover crops.
The “Face Plant” campaign, conceived of by Incredible Beast founding partner Sandra Itkoff and brought to life by creative agencies Upshot and AMP Agency, serves to enlighten and motivate the public and Congressional leaders on the importance of cover crops and their role in soil and food health—as well as the health of our planet. The campaign asks people to go to nrdc.org/soil to learn more about cover cropping and climate-friendly agriculture in the Farm Bill.
It was produced by Incredible Beast, a production company that puts farming and food at the center of the story, and directed by Morgan Sackett, known for his work that includes Veep, Hacks, and The Good Place.
Offerman is the face of the new campaign and plays the dirt in the lead spot, with only his scraped and pallid face visible as he talks directly to the camera about the daily harms he endures. He explains how “generations of chemicals and tilling have left me spent and lifeless—dried out, flaky, like dust in the wind,” then explains the vital role that cover crops can play in restoring the ground’s health as his face begins to take on a healthy glow and flowers spring up around him.
To learn more, we spoke to James Hough, Executive Creative Director at Incredible Beast.
What was the brief?
Incredible Beast, a media and lifestyle brand focused on unlocking the power of a healthy planet, enlisted our team to spread the word about cover crops and regenerative farming with the Natural Resources Defence Council.
How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?
We learned early on that Nick Offerman was attached to the project. So, as you can imagine, we wrote a ton of concepts built around him to explain what cover crops are to the general public. Ultimately, we pitched 18 concepts and narrowed it down to three for storyboarding.
What was the process behind ideating the concept?
A big piece of it was staying true to who Nick is; someone who genuinely cares about the world around him. We didn’t want anything to come across as preachy or too self-serious either.
And at the same time, we had a big story to tell, one that could positively impact the world. So it was balancing those things. Making the most of a loveable star and respecting the message without it feeling like a lecture.
What was the production process like?
Morgan Sackett, who’s directed and produced some of the best comedy shows ever (Parks and Recreation, The Good Place, Veep, Hacks) called in a lot of favors to try and make this come in on budget.
A lot of the crew from previous shows were asked to help. The location, Apricot Lane Farms, was also something that required the generosity of people that believed in the message.
What was the biggest challenge during production? How did you overcome it?
As with most pro bono assignments budget was a consistent concern. Fortunately, at the top, both the talent (Nick Offerman) and the director (Morgan Sackett) were able to bring it all together with Incredible Beast founder Sandy Itkoff.
What is one funny or notable thing that happened during production?
In order to capture Nick as “the ground” he was buried up to his neck in dirt and soil for hours at a time. This involved him laying on a pool float / air mattress with a blanket over top, then literally having the earth piled on top of him.
He was unable to touch his face or move his lower body throughout. It was remarkable to watch his focus, take after take, never once complaining and, amazingly, in great spirits throughout. Morgan said to Nick, early on, (paraphrasing) “Look what we got ourselves into this time.” He didn’t say exactly that. That would be hack. He said something cool.
What’s the main message of this project and why does it matter?
The main message is that we need to stop treating our soil like dirt. We need to plant cover crops between harvests to put good stuff, like nutrients and carbon, back into the earth.
It helps prevent soil erosion, increases biodiversity, improves the health of the land, and controls pests and diseases. At the start of this project I knew nothing about the subject. But, every day I learned more and it’s potential to actually make an impact on a huge scale.
How long did it take from inception to delivery?
We first learned that there may be something happening and made introductions in April. We just released it in September. It took a while to get all the things in the right place in terms of schedules.
What do you hope it achieves for the brand?
For both Incredible Beast and the NRDC we hope it gets people talking about cover crops and regenerative farming. We hope that it leads to changes in how people view farming, in how we get our food and what we eat, and in the way things are done. Very lofty goals. But aren’t those the best kind?
Credit list for the work?
Arohi Sharma, Deputy Director, Regenerative Agriculture, Nature Program, NRDC
Katy Jacobs, Director, Entertainment Partnerships, NRDC
Sandra Itkoff, Producer and Founder, Incredible Beast Omnimedia, Inc.
Morgan Sackett, Director/EP
Dean Holland, Executive Producer
David Miller, Cinematographer
Ian Phillips, Production Designer
Nate Young, Producer
Alexis Jacks, Costumes
Kate Mullin, Makeup Artist
Eric Kissack, Editor
CREATIVE AGENCY: AMP AGENCY / UPSHOT
Michael Rivera, Chief Creative Officer
James Hough, Executive Creative Director
Eric Sutton, Creative Director
Reid Flynn, Senior Copywriter
Lisa Hurst, EVP, Chief Client Officer
Jessica Dancewicz, VP, Account
Erin Grunbeck, Account Supervisor
Rachel Caufield, Associate Director, Project Management
Brett O’Bourke, Senior Director, Production
Kelly VanWart, Senior Content Manager
Vann Fulfs, Senior Editor
Udayan Kolandra, SVP, Strategy Director