When late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon parodied The Lonely Island's "I'm On a Boat" in 2016, Village of Wilmette, Ill., Assistant Engineering Director Jorge Cruz's idea was to turn the song into an "I'm On a Plow" video for a local American Public Works Association (APWA) holiday luncheon. For one reason or another (probably because everyone involved, though committed to the concept, work in public works -- 'nuff said), the video didn't happen until a year later. By then, the backing track had changed to "You're Welcome" from the Disney animated film "Moana."
"Not many people realize the reason we can all function on a daily basis is due to the hard work of public works," says Rachel Lang, who works for Corrective Asphalt Materials in Sugar Grove, Ill., and has young children. "The song just popped in my head while I was out with clients."
It Takes a Village (More Than One, Actually)
APWA's Chicago Metro Chapter called for volunteers and a small creative group formed. Lang scheduled a brainstorming session after an APWA meeting. As the video's director, Cruz was there to make sure scenes matched lyrics. After the Village of Algonquin gave Steve Ludwig the OK to spend a day filming the video as the main character, he and Cruz discussed possible locations in the village. Cruz also wanted a scene simulating construction, so Kane County Division of Transportation Director of Transportation/County Engineer Carl Schoedel volunteered an almost-completed project still closed to traffic. John Clark, PE, ENV SP, vice president of Peralte-Clark in Arlington Heights, downloaded the song's backing track from iTunes into recording software and rewrote several sections as he recorded it (it's him, not Ludwig, singing) to match the rhythm or the way Dwyane Johnson sang the song (Clark's 12-year-old daughter sings the “You're Welcome” overdubs at the end). He sent the media file to Cruz, who edited it (yes: cruz also is an engineer -- though not a sound engineer).
"Once I had locations, I needed to organize the shots to be efficient," says Cruz, who shot the video on his iPhone without a tripod. "We shot everything in one day. We were a little tentative at first; but once a few takes were under way, people got comfortable. I thank everyone because they were extremely patient and allowed me to take multiple shots." (In the interest of full disclosure, this group of public works pranksters has also performed live as a band.)
Please Share This Video
Cruz and everyone else I contacted for details have responded quickly and thoroughly, so I thank them. If you want to meet them, they'll be picking up their Exceptional Performance in Chapter Journalism Award at APWA's national convention in Kansas City this August. In the meantime, he asks everyone reading this to share the video with residents and elected officials in honor of the 58th annual National Public Works Week.
P.S. Don't miss the outtakes to Pharrell Williams's "Happy" at the end of the video.