Never Too Late, a gritty documentary series from Vice’s television channel Viceland, shows the nonstop hustle of turning a late-night passion into a full-time profession. In each episode, a different creator receives a challenge to push their skills past the known limit — like a visual artist given 72 hours to create an immersive neon infinity mirror experience. The artists – three Los Angeles-based and one in New Jersey/New York City – were filmed in real-time, lacing the series with rich natural tension.
As the lines between traditional and digital content continue to blur, Never Too Late represents the melding of branded content and docu-style filmmaking into a hybrid format that embodies the authenticity modern advertisers crave. We spoke with director and show-runner Thomas Beug about the goals of the project and the experience of shooting long-form branded content versus traditional commercial work.
Q> Was it Viceland or adidas who engaged you? What was the original brief?
TB> Viceland engaged me to produce and direct this project, which was a collaboration between Viceland and adidas Originals. The brief was to create a show (Never Too Late) about artists who have day-jobs but pursue their true passions at night. At the start of each episode, artists are given a real-time challenge to create something unlike anything they’ve done before with a limited budget and timeline. Our aim was to shoot the series in a follow-doc manner, but also give it a distinct visual style and embrace the night-time aesthetic.
Q> What are the perks of shooting an online series for a network?
TB> Making Never Too Late came with all the processes and expectations of creating a full-on cable TV show. It was exciting having a firsthand role in the ideation process, like developing the narrative arc, writing beat sheets, working with an executive producer and development exec and constantly refining the idea to create the most entertaining content we could.
Q> How is this different from shooting traditional commercials?
TB> The ‘show-runner’ position definitely gave me many hats to wear! I was involved in pitching storylines, beat sheets, directing the episodes as well as being closely involved in budget oversight, and then story producing and post-production on the back end. I also really enjoyed working with a seasoned TV production team; the high level of collaboration between all departments brought a lot of unique, expert opinions to the table. Specific branding directives were relatively light on this project, which was cool. The adidas team were most concerned with the series feeling genuine and being entertaining to watch.
Q> Did you change your approach for each individual creator and art form?
TB> We adapted our shooting approach for each creator and their art form, but also made sure that there were stylistic elements that were consistent across the whole series. For Lord Fin, the dancer, we organically captured more moving camera sequences and dynamic setups. For Tiza, the neon artist, we concentrated on slow-motion and macro compositions to really illustrate the intricate process of her craft. Across the series, I tried to capture dramatic wide shots of these artists working alone at night illuminated by a practical source but otherwise surrounded by darkness. This, to me, was an image that really captured the essence of the Never Too Late concept.
Q> What was your favorite part of shooting the series? How does it relate to what you do when shooting more typical commercials?
TB> My favorite part of shooting this was getting to know these four artists and watching them try to pull off something momentous in a really short period of time. It was high pressure and high stakes and that made it exciting to make and hopefully fun to watch, too. Getting to know interesting people on-the-job is definitely something I also love about the more typical commercial work I do. Whether I’m making longer or shorter form doc-style content, I think it’s all about bringing out the best in people, making them comfortable, getting them to talk and capturing their true selves on camera. If bringing drama to the table is part of the brief, I think it’s really important to do it in a natural and believable way, which is something we worked hard on for this project.
Q> Stylistically, do you try to do different things after shooting something like this series?
TB> I’d like to do longer-form content after this series. It gave me a taste for crafting narratives and how you build drama and intrigue into a concept rather than trying to fake it, which can often end up feeling like reality TV. Whether there is a brand tied to the project or not, content needs to be entertaining in its own right if people are going to take the time to watch it. From a stylistic stand-point, I really enjoyed filming at night and working with practical light-sources and reflectivity. This is something I’d like to explore more in my future commercial work.
Watch the full series HERE.
Watch more from Thomas Beug HERE.