How do you approach these types of projects? I tend to plan the movements two or three weeks in advance of the shoot. I create a mood film of what I want by using existing footage of matches. I start by looking at the script – this helps you work out what the pace of a match should be. The game in the Budweiser ad was a Sunday kick-about, so it wouldn’t be very fast. The players would probably have hangovers or smoked a cigarette before the game. They would also be prone to mistakes that wouldn’t feature in a higher-standard game. For example, the "hero" of the story kicks the ball against his own player – that’s a typical mistake. For these players, it’s more about luck than judgment.
How do you get the players ready? My choreography begins about 20 seconds before the sequence that is being filmed. This helps get players in the right position and mindset. Otherwise, everyone would crowd the ball. Everyone is given marks they’ve got to hit. There are 22 people on that pitch but only eight or nine are shown in the final edit. During the five-hour rehearsal, I worked with each individual to get in the right frame of mind.
How did you get into sports choreography? I was a footballer but, after injury, I decided to be an actor. I joined Dream Team on Sky 1 and ended up advising them on how to film a football team. I moved to Los Angeles and worked on Goal and Goal II. When I came back to the UK, loads of brands contacted me. I set up my own company ten years ago.
What is it like working with the world’s top footballers? There’s mutual respect. The footballers have seen me on TV and realise I’m there to make them look good.
I make sure people feel comfortable on set. Footballers have a set programme of how they go about their training each week. Their bodies aren’t used to adding on an extra four hours of filming.
Also, when footballers are playing in front of 80,000 people during a match, it’s instinctive. But if you put them in front of a camera crew, it’s more difficult. When we ask them to celebrate a goal, I make sure everyone on set celebrates too so they don’t feel like they are on their own. I try to make every shoot fun.
What’s next? I have just finished a Nike ad with Neymar in Barcelona that uses 360-degree technology. That’s going to be a big one.