CAMPAIGN CRAFT: CRAFT SECRETS; Surviving sickness and charging yaks for BT’s hi-tech talk

30 days of snow, sites and sherpas made this scenic film.

30 days of snow, sites and sherpas made this scenic film.

Filming high in the Nepalese Himalayas was never going to be easy for

the RSA Films director, Jon Greenhalgh, who shot BT’s latest corporate

commercial, ‘Hillary’.

Few on the team were prepared for the weather changes, for charging

yaks, bouts of altitude sickness and the gruelling schedule imposed by a

30-day epic shoot.

The 60-second spot had to demonstrate the benefits of Camnet, a hi-tech

BT product that allows people to communicate with words and pictures.

Determined to take the spot beyond corporate flag-waving, the Saatchi

and Saatchi art director, Adam Hunt, and copywriter, Ben Nott, asked the

climber, Sir Edmund Hillary, and his son, Peter, to star in the ad.

Peter Hillary was joined by two other climbers and advisors. They were

the New Zealanders, Kim Logan and Bruce Grant - who tragically was

killed in the recent K2 disaster. Hillary senior was filmed in Auckland

where he lives.

The action opens with a series of images of the high Himalayas: children

scrambling up a hillside, yaks and sherpas from Namche, the Sherpa

capital. The team’s favourite moment was an ambitious shot off the

storyboard showing a sherpa sitting on a Buddhist chorten (praying

site), his head above the clouds, as the film pans over the sky to a

world beyond.

Sir Edmund Hillary’s voiceover recalls his 1953 Everest triumph, and he

notes that today’s advances are in technology, not geography.

Conversations in the future will be held ‘face to face and eye to eye’.

The camera shows him talking, via Camnet, to Hillary junior, who is

retracing his fathers steps.

Filming was divided between four locations in Nepal, and Mount Cook in

New Zealand. The shoot started in the Himalayas in May, where the snow

line was too high for filming. So the snowfield scenes were shot in

super 16mm at 10,000 feet on Mount Cook, by a skeleton crew of

Greenhalgh, a wild Czech cameraman, Evan Bartos, a focus and a loader.

Greenhalgh recalls: ‘Even in New Zealand - which was 4,000 feet lower

than the Himalayas - we were filming on glaciers, chained to each

other, obeying the climbers’ orders at all times. It was a dangerous

process for us all.’

Most of the film was shot over two days, with the other 28 spent

travelling or waiting for the right weather. Greenhalgh says: ‘Sheer

grit kept us going. You couldn’t pre-plan or recce because each day was

so unpredictable. Almost every day we thought we wouldn’t bring a film


Post production was done on Henry at Soho 601 and the soundtrack was

written by Left Field. An authentic feel was crucial. Greenhalgh says:

‘We didn’t want to over-post, the one thing we did enhance was the

colour and grading. Our reference was Robocop-meets-the-Himalayas.’

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