Director Stephen Daldry is best known for work on the stage and in his films, Billy Elliott and The Hours, both nominated for Best Picture Oscars. But between projects (coming up is Billy Elliott: The Musical, with Elton John, and the film Everest), he shoots spots, most recently for the Diamond Trading Co. and J. Walter Thompson/N.Y. At the end of the two-day shoot, Daldry spoke with Creativity about his creative process. In choosing a commercials script, he says he doesn't prefer special effects or wild spectacles. "I tend to go for more human stories, ones that pack an emotional punch, which is very hard to do within a 30-second limit." However, this particular spot, part of DTC's annual holiday campaign, tagged, "A diamond is forever," was shot in the naturally chaotic location of London's Trafalgar Square, via Saville Productions. The spot features an American husband and wife strolling through the crowded locale and up the steps of the National Gallery, where the husband surprises her with a second proposal in front of loved ones.
According to Daldry, the biggest challenges of the shoot came from variable weather, the crowds, and avoiding cliches in a potentially cheesy situation. "The visual style is not the starting point, but how you present the emotional heart of the scene," he says. "It's taking that moment and working backwards, trying to find a spontaneity in the actors. Finding an emotional truth that is full of sentiment but not sentimental." How does he achieve that? By letting the actors spend time together to form a sense of humor, relate and have fun with each other. "It's the notion of play that is the hardest to achieve, " Daldry says.