CLOSE-UP: CRAFT/PLAYSTATION 2 - A film made in a bedroom has gone international for Sony, Matthew Cowen says

A young unsigned film-maker finances his own short movie project in

the hope of breaking into the big time. He dreams of developing a

feature film, but instead finds his home-produced masterpiece snapped up

unexpectedly by a large advertising agency. Before he can say cut, his

personal project is the basis for a vast international ad campaign.



Sound familiar? Of course it does. The arrival of Charles Stone III's

lolling tongue has accustomed us all to the idea of would-be Scorseses

hitting the commercials jackpot without even realising they were in the

ad business.



But Budweiser's "whassup?" campaign is no longer the most unlikely

independent project to be jumped on by a creative department.



That distinction now belongs to the work of Tim Hope, who two years ago

sat down at his home computer and came up with the tale of a quiet

astronomer who transforms into a werewolf, boards a rocket and sets off

on a destructive rampage around the universe.



It may not sound like an ad - and it certainly wasn't conceived as one -

but as of last Friday, that's what it is. Hope's five minutes of

anarchic animation is now the 60- second launch spot for a new Sony

PlayStation 2 brand campaign.



Unlike Stone, however, Hope was not plucked from total obscurity by the

agency in question, TBWA/London. The Wolfman, as his opus was named, had

already had a transforming effect upon his career. Put together in his

bedroom between experiments with stand-up comedy, the film came from

nowhere to scoop the Edinburgh Film Festival's McLaren Animation Prize

in 2000 and went on to pick up similar trophies from Japan's Digital

Animation Festival and The British Animation Awards.



The key to this success was Hope's distinctive, layered animation

technique, which produces visuals that can seem sinister, other-worldly

and nostalgic all at once - think of Paddington working from a horror

script.



The success of The Wolfman's fresh animation style saw Hope snapped up

by Passion Films and within 12 months he was working on music videos -

most notably for Coldplay's single Don't Panic. It was his original,

amateur effort, however, that caught the eye of Graham Cappi, TBWA's

creative group head. Cappi quickly decided that if The Wolfman hadn't

been written to Sony PlayStation's "the third place" brief, then it

ought to have been.



There was, of course, more to producing the ad than simply ripping off

Hope's original idea. The film had to be cut from five minutes to one

for the initial cinema ad and then to 40 seconds for the follow-up TV

spot. Hope worked with Cappi to re-record the soundtrack and reshoot

sections to give the storyline greater clarity and remove moments that

were just too weird. The original film featured a lengthy opening

sequence where Little Red Riding Hood sings homicidal nursery rhymes and

a musical interlude where the moon serenades the hero astronomer. The

film's finale, where The Wolfman crashes his carbon rocket into a planet

and departs in a sea of floating limbs, was replaced by the endline: "Be

whatever you want to be in the third place."



The cuts also had the effect of highlighting the Tim Burton-style

sequence that shows the astronomer transforming into a wolf. That Hope's

visual style seems so influenced by that particular director is a stroke

of luck for PlayStation 2 and TBWA. The ad broke alongside Burton's

Planet of the Apes remake last weekend.



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