A day in the life of
When the Adline editorial department decided that a fly-on-the-wall feature would be a darn good idea, many of the original subject suggestions were deemed unsuitable. Apparently, Angelina Jolie probably wouldn’t let us be a fly-on-the-wall in her bedroom and even if she did, it’d be pretty difficult to tie it in to the industry. So, after much deliberation, a more sensible suggestion was mooted.
Here at Adline, we tend to get told when a client has appointed an agency or if a new campaign is about to launch, but so rarely do we get to see the process at an earlier stage. So, when an enthusiastic member of the team said, “Let’s be a fly-on-the-wall for a TV commercial shoot,” it seemed like the perfect opportunity. “Which agency has that underwear account,” then came the suggestion from one of the team, while, “Wouldn’t it be great if it was an overseas shoot,” exclaimed another hopeful.
So, when we were doing the rounds and popped in to see those wonderful chaps and chapesses at Manchester’s Connectpoint, they liked our idea and had the perfect shoot for us. It wasn’t the lovely ladies in their unmentionables that some had hoped for, nor was it the trip to foreign shores that perhaps, on reflection, could have caused a few heated discussions about who should get to go along. For scheduled to be shot in the next few weeks was the new TV commercial for the British holiday brand, Pontin’s.
Now, while sunning ourselves on a beach in Western Europe or gazing longingly at aforementioned underwear models would have been jolly good fun at the time (and as a sidenote, we’re still very open to offers on that front, just ask to speak to Keith), there’s something about Pontin’s which roused our interest. With British holidaying taking a bit of a bashing in recent years, and Pontin’s being a brand with a long heritage that many holiday makers are aware of, the firm’s marketing activity is vitally important.
So, fast-forward to the day of the shoot, and Adline has just arrived at Prestatyn Sands, North Wales. We’ve turned up just as the cast and crew are enjoying a hearty English breakfast, in preparation for a long day of filming, and are met by Connectpoint’s account manager Ian Lambert and creative director Simon Broadbent, the latter of whom wrote the commercial. Throughout the day, Lambert has the unenviable task of ensuring the client – marketing manager Mal Storie – is kept happy, and that Adline doesn’t get electrocuted or trip over any cables that could bring down the whole operation. Running the show, as far as the production goes, is director Dave Mills and director of photography Ross McLennon of Manchester based production company The Gate, whose crews are busy setting up the first shot of the day.
These shots, which form part of the top-secret-concept-that-we’re-not-allowed-to-talk-about, feature a go-kart race between two excitable father-types, whose ability to smile and make woo-hooing noises after 36 circuits of the track is something to be applauded. (We’re reassured by the agency and film crew that this process is not slow, it’s what is referred to in the industry as “meticulous”.)
Perhaps most fascinating is how each shot evolves. From asking genuine patrons to jump around cheering, sometimes waving Union Jack flags, to using golden filters in front of what we refer to in lay circles as ‘big lights’, each shot is layered and textured from the original storyboard until it comes alive on camera.
There’s a reason for the golden filter, by the way. When you’re filming a commercial, which aims to promote a holiday destination, the last thing you want is for a cold and overcast day, and despite Connectpoint and The Gate’s persistent weather-checking in the run up to the day, it’s sadly not playing ball. Therefore, the filters are giving that illusion of sunlight necessary for luring potential punters to holiday at the resort, and thanks to a very generous Pontin’s patron, who is distributing tea and coffee to the shivering team, we’re not feeling too cold either.
Now, if Superman, Spider-Man and Batman all worked the same city (this is going somewhere, honest) there’s every chance, despite their shared plight to fight crime, that there might be a bit of tension among them from time to time. So on the set of a TV ad shoot, when you’ve got the film production crew, the agency and the client all with their own views on creating the best commercial possible, there’s always a chance that there will be the odd to-do.
Therefore, by the time the go-karting shots are completed, it’s getting close to lunchtime, people are feeling peckish, and Adline’s Jedi-like skills are sensing a disturbance in the Force.
The problem is that The Gate has had an epiphany, and one that is neither scheduled or on storyboard, and Pontin’s and Connectpoint are slightly sceptical about whether there is the time or the need to shoot it. Words are mumbled, private little conversations are being had here and there, and people are beginning to look noticeably stressed.
However, suddenly something changes. Whether it’s because they’ve all realised how important it is that they should all get along and work together for the greater good, much like Superman, Spider-Man and Batman should, or whether it’s because they’ve just noticed an Adline journalist standing nearby, nobody can tell, but for some reason the discussion has cooled and balance has been restored.
It’s at this point then that we take a break and head to the on-site Beachcomber’s Restaurant to tuck into some grub, before heading back out for the afternoon’s filming.
When it gets to two o’clock an enthusiastic child actor is dangling (very safely, we’re assured) from one of Pontin’s most popular attractions, the Zip Slide. Once again, care is being taken to get the perfect shot – filming from the front, from behind, from the side, from close up, and from far away. Fortunately the youngster’s enthusiasm is showing no signs of waning.
As the shoot moves into late afternoon the action moves indoors, and the entire film crew is moving into the swimming pool area to capture shots of a family in the water. Once again the shot is built up gradually, getting runners to pour water down the slide, drafting in genuine Pontin’s punters as extras and getting a child to splash into the water in a number of different ways.
Once towelled off and fully dressed, it’s back outdoors for shots of Pontin’s popular characters, such as Captain Croc, Action Pack Jack and Megamix Mick. Seeing as they’re actors in suits (apologies for shattering anyone’s illusions there) these shots have a 30-minute time-limit (it’s apparently a bit warm inside the costumes), so it’s not long before we’re back inside for the last shots of the day. First off it’s a talented young performer belting out a pop tune, which is then followed by the dancing showgirls whose outfits are enough to make both Adline and the crew blush.
It’s now dark, the shots are in the can, and so all that’s left for Pontin’s, The Gate and Connectpoint is for the commercial to be edited into four 30-second commercials before it airs on TV in January 2006. For Adline, we’re heading to the office to see if Miss Jolie has replied to our e-mail. Fingers crossed.