Part of being a good filmmaker, I believe, is to constantly try new things. For me that includes equipment, new technology, different Crew members, new Clients & new Ideas etc. Recently I had the pleasure of working on a new Campaign that forced me to think about my own “filmmaking process” in a different way. That project was a Television Commercial (TVC) for Ponds, a beauty product.
For me this particular project was different because it was a beauty Ad! It was different because the process of making this TVC was different to other work I have been involved with. I suppose on a filmmaking level, the nuts and bolts is the same, just the interaction with the Agency & Client was quite different. As you may be aware, many of my Commercials involve the heavy integration of 3D. This Commercial was no different. The balance here was to create a “Beauty Spot” which involved a “high concept idea” of pages from a magazine flipping helping us to tell a story, but remained soft, feminine and playful.
It all started back in January, when Kemistry Films in Jakarta Indonesia contacted me to have a look at a concept for a TVC involving pages flipping. I had previously created a TVC for Canon that involved a “Flip book” style and I guess once you have done one, you get calls for more (hopefully?). Any case there was enough of a difference for me to be interested in the project. The opportunity to extend my repertoire to include beauty products was enough of a lure.
On the 1st of March, I flew to Jakarta from Singapore, having just completed a Canon Commercial for China. In fact, we were still finalising the Online that Sunday for Canon and by Monday afternoon I was attending preproduction meetings for Ponds in Jakarta! The TVC was written by Ad Agency Ogilvy & Mather in Jakarta by creatives Dinah Sumantri and Dewi Putri. Both are young, very considered, super thoughtful and I’m not just saying that because I was working for them! They were incredibly cool to work with. Both had produced many beauty spots in the past for Ponds but had not had a huge amount of 3D integration experience. Nor had the Client. So finally, after months of preproduction work, I finally met with everyone in Jakarta to discuss how we were going to make this TVC. Creative Director Dewantarie Hadikoesoemo helped walk the Client through the process and if there is one thing I could stress the most is the importance of “Managing peoples expectations”. It’s absolutely critical on these types of of jobs. It’s also fantastic when the Agency is so supportive in this regard and Ogilvy & Mather rose to the occasion.
This Ponds TVC is built around a competition involving three winners. I spent several days putting most of the winners through, not only make-up and wardrobe tests, but also a photo shoot. I used this opportunity to break them into the weird world of advertising. I always like to rehearse whenever I can to eliminate much of the initial folly that can take place. That way we can concentrate on making the best possible TVC with the most fluid, tightly integrated 3D and post production effects etc. Importantly though, it gives me the confidence to mould their performances in the best way I can.
On the 7th of March, Goh spent the day pre-lighting the sets for the shoot. He is a true gentleman to work with. A quiet achiever with a real flare for lighting which I really appreciated. Actually my entire crew was fantastic. Rini had recommended a brilliant Production Designer from Malaysia called Malek Prada. He came up with some pretty awesome designs and Set pieces which was great. Fendi, the make-up artist, was another very creative individual who sculpted our girls “looks” and really brought out their best. Wardrobe stylist Imelda Untoro was yet another vital ingredient to the overall success of the “look” of the TVC and her gracious and understanding manner made her a pleasure to interact with. Others I had worked with before included 1st AD Eugenea Agnes, who was not only an absolute pleasure to work with but conscientious and diligent while always being fun spirited. What more could anyone ask for! Rini had assembled quite an amazing international crew as well as provided a very solid and capable local Indonesian crew, which as awesome!
On that day we tested for as many scenarios as we could before finalising for the shoot. I place a lot of value in rehearsing Actors before any shoot. Keep in mind all our Girls were “civilians” not actors! None of them had any experience at all on screen. They all had a speaking roll to play as well as look glamorous on screen and to their credit, performed magnificently.
On the 8th of March we started filming. The two day shoot was actually quite involved, requiring everyone to imagine a 3D world around them. Quite a number of elements were required to be filmed including a huge list of high resolution images to be used as textures for 3D. Having Damien there on set was absolutely fantastic. He’s a very creative person and it’s great bouncing ideas off him while actually still on set – a process that I really enjoy. Finally with the 2 day shoot behind us, it was time for Post. The guys from BMD flew back to Singapore while I continued on at VHQ Jakarta to oversee the Telecine with Goh Meng. Rushes looked great and I finally met my Offline editor, Zaki Marican. He is a freelance editor who edits on his Macbook Pro and an external monitor. It’s an ever growing trend for editors to be completely independent from Post Houses. Zaki was great. On the 11th of March, he cut the TVC in a small amount of time using the rough 3D animations created on set by Chachoon and Damien Yang. The TVC was actually quite polished even at this stage. Later that afternoon, Rini and her assistant Producer Elle brought in a Composer to receive a brief from me. We talked about musical styles and I handed him a few references. At the end of the day, I felt like a lot had been achieved and good work had taken place!
The 12th of March, we presented first to the Agency and then later to Client. They loved it! On the 13th, I finally flew back to Singapore to handover the Rushes, Edit Decision List etc to Damian at BMD. With that, I left Singapore for home – something I hadn’t done for almost 3 months due to all these back to back projects! The next two weeks, Damien and the gang at BMD spent enormous amounts of time creating and rendering amazing 3D content. They were sending me mpegs to approve along the way. Derri NG (BMD Producer) and I sent each other quite a few emails back and forth, fine tuning things.
On the 30th of March, it was time to fly back to Singapore for the last leg. Over the next week, we rendered out each of the scenes. The Client and Agency arrived in Singapore on the 4th of April and we presented for them a work in progress. The purpose of these final Client/Agency meetings is to make sure that we are all on the same page and are moving forward in the right direction. It affords some minor changes at this point, if the Client wants something corrected by giving the 3D team some time to effect the change. The last couple of days are fixed in stone though. It’s merely a process from then on to finish the TVC. That’s exactly what we did. Hours before I was due to fly back to Australia, I was still overseeing the last renders in the timeline. Lead animator at BMD, Vincent Yoe, spent a few days glued to his seat, continuously! He is one of the most gifted animators I know with a style that I really enjoy. Off course there are others working with him who are equally talented and I thank them all for their help on this project. Damien weaved an incredible amount of compositing magic, blending the 3D with the live action shots and once again proved that he is an exceptionally talented compositor! The Girls all look fantastic and the 3D is very fluid and beautiful to watch in my opinion. Damien is incredible person and a very trusted and dear friend of mine. I always enjoy catching up.
Just as a side note, many of the images you see on this blog entry were shot for the Commercial also. They were used as part of the content of the flipping magazine, although much of that was reduced by me in the final version. I took hundreds of shots of all our cast & crew, including the Agency to be able to fill a magazine full of images etc. This in itself was a big task. As usual, this type of job is a huge collaborative effort. From the resourceful crew at Kemistry Films, to the clever gang at Ogilvy & Mather to the persistent & talented tribe at Blackmagic-Design, I think we created a nice spot for Ponds. The three winning Girls all look great and have a light and feminine touch to their personalities. I would like to thank the patient crew of the shoot for helping me to create this TVC. Hope you enjoy it also. Cheers!