Diving Into Preacher's Weird, Wonderful Work for Meow Wolf

Does this mean malls are cool again?

"The Real Unreal," a new show from experiential art and entertainment company Meow Wolf, opens July 14 at the Grapevine Hills Mall near Dallas.

Not much about this project has been conventional. From pitching it with our production partner, Easy Pete's, to planning every facet in writing rooms with the folks from Meow Wolf, to filming it in the liminal space of an abandoned mall, the 7-month journey has been remarkably weird.

For us, the trick on this project has been trying to evoke a Meow Wolf experience (aka psychedelic journey) without spoiling the narrative that visitors will experience for themselves. The first thing that struck us was the fact that such a bizarre encounter was going to take place in one of the most banal places on earth—a mall. We decided to lean into that tension.

There's so much collective memory associated with malls, and we worked hard to drill into and twist those impressions as much as possible. Of course, that started with the idea of mall walkering. A uniquely American pastime that probably started in the '80s and still persists today. Who wants to walk outside in the fresh air when you can march briskly past the food court and Zales?

We knew we also had to play with the photo studio—whether the Sears photo studio or the snazzier Glamour Shots. We recalled the strange habit of putting automobiles in the middle of the mall. We wondered what would happen if we put some strange creatures inside such cars. Huge shoutout to artist, Joe Cappa, for bringing those unreal creatures to life. Working with artists like Joe was one of the more gratifying aspects of the production.

In a world where so much is birthed in the graphics program of a computer, it was a fun challenge to fashion our world with just imagination and hands and paper mache. Our favorite parts of the campaign were all made practically and captured in camera. Which, not surprisingly, is exactly how a Meow Wolf happening unfolds.

Then there was the joy of creating a very bad-in-a-good-way mall jingle. And breaking it beyond all comprehension. If only more clients asked for more jingles, advertising would be a much more fun industry to work in.

As much fun as we had making the films, it was equally bizarre to craft the OOH and social assets. We can't really tell you what the OOH means, but hopefully it gets people thinking that whatever is happening at Meow Wolf, it’s certainly not normal. Nor were our last 7 months. It's gonna be hard to make a bank ad after this.

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