Close-Up: Live Issue - When Nicolai Fuglsig said 'Hello Moto'

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 25 May 2007 12:00AM

Noel Bussey goes behind the scenes on the set of Motorola's new action-packed blockbuster ad.

The unpredictable nature of a shoot means most eventualities are covered by some form of insurance.

However, nobody at either Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO or the production company MJZ ever expected to make an extension claim because of a surprise visit to Madrid by royalty.

But that's just what happened on the shoot for Motorola's upcoming ad for its latest handset, the Motorizr (for mobile aficionados, it's billed as the first phone to include a high-definition screen that can play movie-quality videos).

The ad aims to show the development of film, from the silent era to the effects-laden blockbusters of the present day. The 90-second spot features nine film genres along the way, including a heist scene in which a bank robber is pursued down a city street by police trying their best to gun him down. The scene includes exploding money bags and thousands of blank rounds being fired.

The effect is very realistic. A little too realistic for the Madrid police, who argued it wouldn't really be advisable to film the scene on the very evening that Juan Carlos I, the King of Spain, was due in the city. The shoot would have to wait.

The ad is the brainchild of the AMV BBDO creative pairing of Antony Nelson and Mike Sutherland, who decided to ignore the old adage about never working with animals or children and employed horses in every genre they wanted to include.

The pair hired the talented director Nicolai Fuglsig, who, for the week-long duration of the shoot, proved to be a high-energy catalyst, always ready with a solution when something went wrong - which it often did.

Simon Thompson, the marketing director of Motorola at the time (who shortly after the shoot moved to lastminute.com), says: "The ad is a simple insight. It demonstrates the next evolution of film. But it is totally different from anything that has gone before in the mobile market."

Despite the daunting size and scope of the ad, Thompson exuded confidence on the shoot, mainly because of the quality of the team working on the production.

"A great director and creative team are critical, which is what I got in Ant and Mike and Nicolai - they have a massive passion for this ad," Thompson enthuses.

That passion was evident in Fuglsig's first meeting with Thompson and the agency, when he used toy horses and a background drawn in felt-tip pen to convey his ideas.

Out in Spain, that passion remained undimmed. Fuglsig is the kind of director who likes to be involved in every minor detail of the action; sometimes a little too involved. His attempt to tell the stuntmen, who are trained to work with real horses and not toy ones, the best way to handle their steeds, didn't go down all that well.

Thankfully, Fuglsig was working with an experienced crew whom he didn't succeed in annoying. The stunt co-ordinators, Tom Struthers and Jordi Casares, had just finished working on the feature film Blood Diamond, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio. The director of photography, Benoit Delhomme, also has a history of film work, and was involved in Break and Enter and the Nick Cave-penned film The Proposition.

Ask any of the crew, however, and the real heroes of the shoot were the members of the wardrobe department. With an ad depicting 11 different periods in history, many different sets of wardrobe changes were needed.

"They came out two weeks before us; and they really came through with some amazing costumes. Much better than we could have dared believe when we were writing the ad," Nelson says.

That said, the city visit by King Juan Carlos wasn't the only hiccup on the shoot. Another was that old classic, the weather. The main problem came on the fifth day, when the final scene, which involves a ninja riding a horse along the shore of a lake before leaping through a wall of fire in Ang Lee-style, was on the schedule to be shot.

In two minutes, the sky was covered in thick, dark clouds and a wind whipped across the lake, blowing the flames in the wrong direction.

With time ticking until the crew needed to break for the afternoon shoot (a medieval joust), the team took the unhappy decision of getting up early the following day and heading back to the lake, hoping the weather would change.

The weather wasn't much better the following day - a greyish sky above an ill-lit, rather drab-looking forest. None of this seemed to deter Fuglsig, though, who enthusiastically explains his grand vision for the final scene: "Obviously, there'll be loads of post-production work, which will make the fire much bigger, and change the background so it has volcanoes with arrows flying through the sky and big bursts of flame."

The wind that had caused so much trouble the previous day lent a somewhat serendipitous helping hand for the afternoon's jousting shoot, making the coloured tents and flags of the medieval town flutter in a blast of colour and life. And with the medieval castle used in the Charlton Heston film El Cid just five scant minutes away, the team couldn't have asked for a better location.

In a break in shooting, Fuglsig was eager to reveal another enlightening piece of information. "The ends of the lances are made out of pasta, so they smash more dramatically, and the suits of armour are made from latex and fibreglass, but are painted to look like metal," he explained, before pointing out that the two horse riders in the scene are father and son. "The father will stay on the horse, but the son is going to get knocked off about eight times," he says.

Film fans who spot the castle from El Cid will also have a field day while watching the western scene in the ad, shot in Almeria, the location for so many famous spaghetti westerns.

Here, things went a lot more smoothly, although the presence of so many people who resembled stereotypical Mexican banditos lent a rather surreal air to the shoot, leaving more than one of the crew members scratching their head.

Nelson explains: "It's weird - all the extras hang around all day, every day, waiting for work, but they all look so real, it feels like you're in a western town in the 1800s."

That evening, the crew broke for the wrap party. Thankfully, there weren't any horses in sight, and King Juan Carlos decided not to head South and spoil the celebrations.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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