PRODUCTION REPORT: Out of the ordinary

By Jenny Watts, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 20 June 2003 12:00AM

Sometimes a job crosses that fine line between challenging and daunting. Jenny Watts speaks to people who overcame some unusual obstacles in directing and post-production.

ADDICT

When Kai-Lu Hsiung, the managing director of RSA Films, agreed to shoot an international commercial for the launch of Christian Dior's perfume, Addict, she knew fashion houses didn't usually use ad agencies. But LVMH's high-profile project was being led by John Galliano, so who would turn down such an opportunity?

It was the first time Dior had given the launch campaign to its haute couture division, rather than perfume, and Galliano had chosen Jake Scott to direct.

Galliano proved to have a clear idea of what he wanted, so when Hsiung received a call from a woman in Dior's perfume division with a list of erroneous enquiries - despite Galliano's insistence that he was controlling the project - alarm bells started to ring.

Then, having settled on Budapest for the shoot's location, Hsiung became concerned that despite drawing up her own contract, no-one would sign it. And while most pre-production preparations see the circulation of countless edits of a script and artwork, Galliano's strict instructions were that the only person allowed to see Scott's idea was himself.

This led to the rather bizarre sight of Scott, on a trip to Paris, having to pitch to five members of the perfume division by acting out the script himself.

Back in London, questions that should have been addressed weeks before - such as budget, and where the commercial would be running - began to rear their heads.

On top of this, Galliano wanted to see Scott's storyboard, which had to be sent to China where he was preparing his new collection. Meanwhile, the lack of communication between the two Dior departments had become clear to RSA, which was busy playing referee to the in-house divisions by stonewalling the increasingly insistent calls from the perfume department requesting details of the creative treatment. And still no-one had signed off Hsiung's budget.

Forty-eight hours before the shoot, the script had still not been approved.

Having fended off perfume's continuous requests to see his storyboard, Scott finally went to Paris to pitch it to LVMH's chairman, Bernard Arnault.

With all the costumes made and the crew in position, it could have got nasty if Arnault hadn't liked the treatment. Luckily, he did.

Still, the whole farcical affair was rather close for comfort for Hsiung who, despite repeated efforts, only got the contract going after they'd finished shooting. "It was ridiculous, the most stressful job I've every produced," she remembers. "When you don't have an agency involved, you feel so vulnerable."

At times, the preposterousness of the whole situation made her think they should walk away. And it may be a while before RSA does another job without an agency. "I'd set up some rules beforehand," she says. "I'm more wary now."

XELIBRI

There aren't many post-production jobs that take ten weeks to complete and involve creating 200 head replacements.

But Mother's ambitious global launch campaign for Xelibri called for the creation of a visual world of tomorrow where everyone has the same face, and it was down to The Moving Picture Company to deliver the goods.

With a cast of more than 200 people, MPC's main challenge was to make everyone - irrespective of sex or ethnicity - look the same. Director Traktor's original plan had been to cast sextuplets but, unsurprisingly, none could be found so they had to make do with one man. "Traktor did well to find someone so androgynous," MPC's post producer, Graham Bird, recalls of the actor.

A team of four Inferno artists worked round the clock on the job, using a combination of live action and computer-generated elements to create a futuristic feel.

But there was no falling back on repeatable motion, prosthetics or doubles for this job. And a lot of the shots were hand-held. "That added to the challenge," Bird remembers.

A long time was spent in the editing process, locating shots and identifying individuals' head actions. Characters were then isolated and enlarged in Inferno for a better view of their movements so the actor could mimic them.

He then spent three days getting his head movements to match those of the individuals from the film. The heads were then separated and the skin tones blended to match.

On top of that, there was a plethora of different lighting conditions from the shoot which then had to be perfectly matched on the green screen.

The smallest attention to detail was imperative, even down to getting right the shadows on characters' faces and reflections in windows.

Such a gargantuan job could have had its fair share of problems. But ten weeks later the triumph of meticulous planning was completed on time. "It was only a late night on the last night," Bird says.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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