How Tom Tagholm personified the voice in your head for anti-gambling ads

Tom Tagholm directed GambleAware's debut ads, which are aimed at young people at risk of problem-gambling.

The spots depict a young man and woman who are tempted by the "voice in their head", represented by an older man urging them to gamble.

How did you get involved in this campaign?

The guys at 18 Feet & Rising sent us a good script. What I tend to look for in all of the things that I get engaged with is a singular bit of thinking – a clean focus and creative thinking. These scripts were definitely that – a bit of human storytelling.

Why do you care about this cause?

I’m always amazed by the amount of money, talent, creative thinking and media spend that go into getting people to gamble. It seems like gambling gets a lot of thinking on board, and I’m always slightly disappointed and surprised by that. This is an alternative voice without very much funding, but with a good idea and goodwill behind it.

Gambling is not illegal but there’s a relentless scale and volume of noise telling me to gamble, how easy it is, how little I have to do to get a free bet and get into that world. It felt like it was time to balance that out a bit and present an alternative.

What was your vision for the ads?

We had a day to shoot the two spots. Handheld camera was the right way to tell that story. I was watching with my six-year-old son and he said it felt like the guy [in the ads] was talking to him. We didn’t want a one-dimensional bad guy.

There’s a charm and seduction here that you’ve got to get inside and understand – that’s not to be ignored or underestimated. We wanted to get that right – that tunnel that gamblers get into and which can be tricky to get out of.

We never wanted the gamblers to look like one-dimensional victims either. The interesting thing about both young people in the ads is the potential power they have, the strength you can feel glimmering in there.

Do you have any advice for budding directors?

Get shooting on whatever format you have. It takes a while to find your voice and find out what excites you about storytelling. Don’t panic and feel you have to rush that process.

The tricky thing with what we’re doing is you can find yourself doing the same thing and not continuing to learn. Choose some good mentors, find people to learn from and keep learning.

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