CAMPAIGN CRAFT: CRAFT SECRETS; Sun, sand, sea and precision timing let C&G catch its pearl

C&G’s ad epic was filmed without the use of special effects, Harriet Green says

C&G’s ad epic was filmed without the use of special effects, Harriet

Green says

A team of divers in metal suits drop slowly to the bottom of the sea,

where they plod towards a sunken temple. A small boy spots them from his

tiny sailing boat, plunges into the clear depths and whizzes past the

cumbersome divers who have started to ransack the temple looking for


The boy heads for a nearby cave and scoops the prize - a shell

containing a massive pearl. The divers clump towards him, but the boy -

wearing nothing heavier than shorts - glides easily out of reach, rising

to the surface triumphant.

Viewers who hold their breath as Cheltenham and Gloucester’s latest ad

unfolds may be surprised to learn the film was shot live, with no

special effects, over a two-week period and needed a team of 55.

C&G’s agency, K Advertising, chose Mike Portelly of Portelly Films - the

recipient of numerous awards for underwater film-making - to execute the


Casting the film in Eilat, Israel, Portelly sought a boy in the mould of

Mowgli from the Jungle Book. The 12-year-old Israeli, Yaron Porter,

whose favourite bathtime trick was to hold his breath underwater, fitted

the bill exactly. During shoots Porter often spent 45 minutes 40 feet

underwater without equipment, sharing masks with divers stationed out of


For the site of his sunken temple, Portelly, with the help of the set

designer, Steve Smithwick, chose a plateau in the waters off Ras

Mohammed, Egypt. Ten tons of set - pillars, statues and amphora built in

Cairo - were dropped bit by bit into the water. Ten divers, operating

from two boats, took three days to tether the set in place (foundations

couldn’t be laid as the site is protected). Two more tons of equipment,

comprising camera, lighting and diving equipment, was shipped from


The ‘old-fashioned’ diving suits were built from scratch by the

specialist model-maker, the David Henden Company, to incorporate hidden

air systems. All the same, every ‘helmet’ diver was accompanied by at

least one ‘buddy’ diver who moved him into position. One early scene, a

wide shot showing the ‘helmet’ divers descending towards the temple,

required military precision. In all, 23 divers played a part, although

only seven are featured in the shot.

To help the filming, Portelly and his team kept in touch via a state-of-

the-art long-distance communication system that allowed continuous


Rather than use artificial light, Portelly maximised the daylight with

massive purpose-built reflectors. This was particularly important in the

cave scene when Porter moves through hundreds of shimmering glass-

sweeper fish to reach the shell. Divers were put in place to bat the

fish into shot as Porter (held in position by his ankles) waited to

glide through.

Portelly’s producer, Amos Manasseh, is convinced it’s worth the extra

time and effort to get real shots rather than creating effects on video:

‘Stuff that is done live in camera smells right even if you could

simulate the effects.’

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