“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.” – Arnold Glasgow

We really don’t know where to begin with this surprise proposal post. How do we summarize everything that has happened over the last year with this surprise proposal? From logistical hurdles like taking phone calls that spanned multiple time zones, to rigging our cars with hidden cameras, doing fake interviews on the streets of New York City to capturing an intimate dinner proposal without the ability to touch or alter our cameras – every single aspect of this proposal tested our abilities as storytellers.

When we were approached by Michele from The Heart Bandits about a surprise proposal happening here in New York City, we didn’t know just how crazy it was going to be. Michele introduced us to a gentleman by the name of Mohan via email and asked that we all jump on a call to discuss the details. A thick Australian accent greeted us with the stereotypical Australian phrase – “hey mate!” We loved him already. Mohan walked us through his idea and general plan. In a nutshell, he explained it like this:

Vanessa and I are arriving in New York for a 3 week holiday and I’d love to have some guys follow us around as we’re being tourists and doing New York kinda things. One of the nights I’m planning on going to dinner with Vanessa where I’ll have a fake waiter offer her a menu to select her first course. The menu will coincide with the 3 ring choices I’ve picked out. I’ll propose and I want it all captured on film. 

We thought the idea sounded awesome. Then Mohan slipped in a minor detail:

Oh, and you can’t be seen or heard at any time while we’re here – I want the video to be a surprise that I play on our wedding night.

This was a first. Normally when we film surprise proposals we can at least show ourselves after the moment and congratulate the couple. After hashing out some more details, we decided that if we’re going to do this, why not go ALL OUT. We decided on the final idea…and this is what it was:


One of our shooters, Mike Giardino, was to be a fake driver picking them up from the airport. He’d arrive holding a sign pretending it was a shuttle from their hotel, the New York Edition, and wear special video glasses capturing the interaction. The car he’d be driving would be outfitted with a hidden camera. Mike would exchange in small chit-chat as another shooter followed their move from a distance. At the hotel we’d have another shooter waiting for their arrival.


The activity day would be broken up and captured by 3 shooters – shooter 1 would get them exiting their hotel and follow in a taxi. When they got to SoHo, shooter 1 would help shooter 2 capture their every move. Shooter 2 would do most of the leg work while Shooter 1 went a few blocks ahead. When they left SoHo, shooter 1 followed and headed to Juliana’s Pizzeria where shooter 3 was waiting. Shooter 3 and shooter 1 followed as they had some food and walked the Brooklyn Bridge. Shooter 1 would then follow them on the subway as they made their way to Grand Central Terminal.


This was the most important and challenging part of the whole experience. Mohan had rented a small private room at Eleven Madison Park where the two would enjoy the amazing food and fine dining experience. As mentioned, the fake waiter, who was actually a Harry Winston Rep, would ultimately give Vanessa the ring by hiding it under a cloche. When she lifted the cloche, she’d see a box instead of her food. Becuase this room was so tiny, we couldn’t handle or manipulate our cameras. We had to set them up and then leave them for the duration of the night. But how can we leave 4 cameras in a small room without being seen? The awesome floral team at Martin Jobes Designs was hired to create large floral display pieces that would allow our cameras to be hidden but still capture the proposal. With some planning and a little bit of luck, we were able to get everything we needed.


The final day included a special treat – Mohan wanted to get Vanessa’s reaction to the proposal dinner but because we still couldn’t out ourselves as a crew of people capturing the proposal, we had to think of a creative way to get her to talk on video. It was decided that a fake news crew doing interviews about tourism would be our best chance. We hired another of our shooters, Taylor Barker, to pretend to be the news reporter. She stopped the couple and asked them questions about tourism and just as we had hoped, Vanessa was eager to tell us about her proposal that happened a few short nights before.

Mike was again stationed to be their driver and take them to the airport where we got additional footage on our trusty hidden camera.

After the 3 weeks, we had all the footage to create the film, and that’s exactly what we did. We sent the film to Mohan who was ecstatic. He couldn’t wait to show it! Only one small problem, he had to sit on it for over a year. For over a year he had to pretend that something he had worked so hard on, had planned so meticulously, didn’t exist. We’re still not sure how he did it!

But a year later, his patience would pay off. It was his wedding night and surrounded by all his family and friends, he put Vanessa front and center for a big surprise.

Unfortunately due to scheduling, we weren’t able to get to Melbourne for the big reveal. But the guys at Soda Films captured the amazing reaction beautifully. She sat there, in awe, as this magical film was presented to her.

This has been one of the most rewarding projects we’ve ever worked on and we’re so happy that Mohan and Vanessa will forever have this memory of their surprise proposal. We hope you all enjoy it.

Surprise Proposal by Michael Justin Studios