Sony was a new client for Fallon. I almost didn’t want to get the brief, it was very boring. They had this line you had to use – "like no other" – and it didn’t make any sense to me. So I thought, what if I put something before that line, like colour, colour like no other. I started to think of crazy art installations. Ideas are always very personal but I had already wanted to shoot a promo with people throwing bouncy balls everywhere from a balcony. If this was done with a big budget, it would be the dream. You would have a crazy wave of "colour like no other".
In 2006 we went to San Francisco with 250,000 balls. The stampede of balls set off car alarms, smashed three windows, blocked drains and people couldn’t get out of their houses. The client didn’t say hello to me to begin with – he was looking at me funny thinking: "I’m here because of this crazy Argentinian." By the afternoon we were having a drink together.
We had a giant net at the bottom of the hill – 25 students were paid to clean up the balls in buckets. It took us three hours between shoots to set up again. We released the balls around eight or 10 times. A month later, people were still finding balls. It was amazing. We got it going viral before going viral was a thing.
I was shooting a commercial in Amsterdam for Sony. As we were switching lenses, I was talking to the DOP Dan Brown and the producers about the best drum solos of all time. I pitched In the Air Tonight because I said it felt like a heavyweight boxer gorilla. Everyone laughed. But inside of me I thought: "That’s really good." We went out drinking that night. It sounds sad but when I got home at 3am I opened up my laptop and wrote a page on it, almost as a treatment.
A month later, Cadbury came in saying: "We love Sony ‘Balls’." We had so many bad clients knocking on our door at that time saying they wanted to do something like Sony "Balls", but they meant they wanted to do the exact same thing. We were like: "Go way." I said to Cadbury: "I’m not gonna give you that. But I’ll give you something really arty, random and emotional."
I always wanted to be a director but didn’t study cinematography. I was driving directors crazy by sending ideas to them, doing my own film school. "Gorilla" was the first commercial I shot. But the client thought it was too weird and for three months it was shelved. It was very cruel, I was thinking I’d never be a director. Then research came back and said it was great. And I was like: "Phew, I’m good." It was a very interesting journey.
Originally the idea was that everything took place inside a hotel. My treatment was to take everything to the sky. A woman wakes up in the middle of nowhere and it’s like a video game, jumping from bed to bed. In between you have crazy moments. I was very honest with the client. I said: "It’s an amazing dream but it’s scary you are so into it." In the pre-production meeting I began to read them Shakespeare. The client said: "Juan, I don’t even understand your accent but do what you want." We went to South Africa – I said let’s do it for real. It looks better – like really releasing the balls in San Francisco or putting Michael Garon in the gorilla suit rather than using animatronics.
I said let's do it for real – it looks better
Our actress wasn’t scared of heights. She threw herself out of an aeroplane – a 200m freefall with a harness. I’m scared of heights but I never show it. Inside I’m always like: "Why do I do this?"
It’s an amazing shoot when you edit it together. It is not trying to sell you anything other than the magic of going to sleep. It reaches into the mystery of life. How can you sell a TV or a bed or chocolate? You have to go with emotion – it’s not about the day to day, it’s about trying to connect with that deeper fibre of what being a human is all about. I want to make capitalism work. But I want to create something that makes me feel something.
Juan Cabral was a creative at Fallon and is now a director