’I want a film choc full of nice comforting things - family values,
England as it used to be, that sort of stuff. But at the same time, I
want unease - a kind of edginess - so that when we spring the final
twist on the punters, they are almost expecting it.’
That, broadly speaking, was the brief that landed on the desk of the
movie director, Ridley Scott, for Orange’s branding commercial. The ad
was designed to position the mobile phone operator at the forefront of
technology and Scott’s job was to create a Utopia but give it an unknown
Realising the comforting images was the easy part. Round up a few
idyllic children and film them in New Zealand to get the feel of Olde
The subliminal anxiety was much harder to achieve and, like most big
challenges, could only be approached by using a myriad of small
solutions rather than one bolt from the blue.
The commercial was art directed by Rooney Carruthers, the joint creative
director of WCRS, and written by his then partner, Larry Barker. It
unrolls a series of Arcadian images connected to a communication theme,
while a voiceover tells you that technology will soon make all these
unnecessary. Thus children are seen receiving letters from a postman,
cycling to school and so on, until the end scene reveals that this
terrible place, where human contact is no longer needed, isn’t earth at
all but some far-flung planet.
Charlie Gatsky, the agency producer on the commercial, explains that
most of the film was shot in morning or evening light in order to
accentuate the shadows, while slow motion was used to heighten the drama
of each scene. Similarly, the film was graded to give it a sepia feel.
During grading, some colours were crushed and others brought out to give
the brilliance of midday.
One of the key effects, however, was an accidental brainwave. The first
day of shooting took place at an isolated lighthouse where winds belted
along at over 100mph, whipped the sea into evil-looking spikes and sent
up showers of spray that caught the light. It inspired Scott to reach
for his camera and use the film of the sea to create a moody, alien
To enhance the sense of unreality, WCRS also commissioned M62 to produce
some evocative string music. Finally, Gatsky went to the Mill for a host
of special effects created in Flame, ranging from indecently hurried
clouds, to fast-revolving shadows in order to create - as she describes
it - her ’surreal yet idealistic world’.