Ravenel bridge is backdrop for GM television spot

Charleston Regional Business Journal
Molly Parker
January 31, 2008

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge will make its national debut in a new General Motors commercial set to air during the Academy Awards on Feb. 24.

Though most of the details are being withheld, the TV spot features the new GMC Yukon Hybrid, which the company claims is the world’s first sports utility vehicle to contain a two-mode hybrid propulsion system.

A Los Angeles-based film company, Rhythm & Hues Studio, filmed the commercial in Charleston last weekend.

Robert Basha, a partner with Basha Productions of Mount Pleasant and Isle of Palms, helped lure the commercial here. The film studio originally picked a cable suspension bridge in Florida, but had to re-evaluate after discovering that bridge was in the midst of a paint job.

Basha said he shot film clips from a number of locations, and the studio bit at his Lowcountry showcase.

The TV spot aims to compare GM’s new 2008 fleet to some of the nation’s architectural marvels. Measuring 1,546 feet, the Ravenel’s cable-stay span is the longest in a North American bridge, making it one such marvel.

A cable-stayed bridge has one or more columns, or towers, from which cables stretch down diagonally to support the bridge deck. The cable-stay span is the distance between towers.

“It takes a lot of ingenuity to build a project such as the Ravenel bridge,” Basha said. “The same thing could apply to the process that goes into making any new product that is supposed to be modern and advanced.”

Known for its massive SUVs and trucks, GM has been criticized for coming late to the table with fuel-efficient models. This new fleet reportedly answers back. GMC advertises that the Yukon Hybrid, for instance, will get 50% better fuel economy than a standard SUV engine. The sticker price on the new four-wheel drive hybrid is $53,775.

The bridge is expected to join the Hoover Dam as one of several backdrops for the new ad.

The commercial required a crew of about 90 during the three-day period, Basha said, including police and fire officials who helped slow traffic on the bridge while a helicopter shot an isolated clip of the Yukon heading over the bridge’s peak.

Besides bragging rights, there’s another very practical purpose to encourage filming in South Carolina, Basha said.

“One of the big advantages of bringing the film work to Charleston is what it brings to the community as far as employment and what it does for the local economy,” he said.

“That’s the reason why the public should support these kinds of projects and not be too offended if they have to wait for five minutes for us to get our work done.”

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