Spotlight: South Africa

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Egg Films | Cape Town

Egg Films executive producer Colin Howard discusses production challenges featuring locations that vary from underwater to mid-air to snake-infested wilderness.

Danone/Volvic | "The Wheel"

The challenge on this job was location related-part of the storyline called for a clan of cavemen to drag a mammoth boulder up the side of a mountain in very prehistoric rocky terrain. It took a military-sized art department two days to get the specially constructed fiberglass boulder to the location through rough snake-infested territory. The crew had to climb a specially constructed pathway consisting of safety ropes and lights to reach the location predawn and at sunset with tons of equipment, unit gear and props. We had an emergency chopper on standby and, thankfully, did not have to use it.

Agency: WCRS/London Director: Chris Dada/Academy Films

T-Mobile | "Transparent" | "Transparent 2"

At the 11th hour, production had to source and purchase an old Ford out of petty cash and grind the roof off in the middle of the night (they were looking for an interesting convertible). We were shooting with the car the following morning.

Agency: Saatchi/U.K. Director: Jason Smith/Homefilms, U.K./Bob Industries, Santa Monica

Volvo | "Shark Cage" | "Sky Surfer"

To illustrate the safety/protection element that is often a feature of Volvo advertising, a female diver is shown in a shark cage with several angles and closeups of a Great White shark approaching the cage in an aggressive manner. The specially built aluminum cage is then revealed, and it's the identical shape and size of the Volvo SUV XC90. This was attached to the side of the boat and lowered underwater by means of a pulley system in an area known as Shark Alley. The underwater cameraman (Mike Valentine, who shot The Beach's underwater footage) shot the Great Whites from inside the steel Volvo cage and from other shark cages. Shooting underwater in the open ocean is difficult enough at the best of times; mid-winter in the Atlantic with rough seas, poor visibility and an ocean teeming with Great Whites, not to mention making a cage to match the exact dimensions of the car ... you get the picture.

In the second commercial in the campaign, the script called for a sky surfer to "surf" in the air and do various extreme tricks and maneuvers at extremely high speeds. A parachute then needed to open up in the shape of a Volvo S40 and V50. It would have taken several years to test and design a real parachute shaped like these models, so we found a Cape Town kite specialist to make a smaller version "blow up" kite to simulate a parachute in the shape of our Volvo from above. We shot the kite and parachutist separately and they were combined in post.

Agency: Euro RSCG/London Director: Jorn Haagen/Academy Films

Moonlighting Films | Cape Town

Moonlighting shot its 800th international commercial in October, so their producers have heard some strange requests before. Below, marketing director Beccy Kellond and producer Libbi Ball outline a truly challenging shoot for Dutch insurance company Centraal Beheer. The spot centered around the quest to locate a shipwreck and its cargo, a priceless Buddha statue.

Centraal Beheer

The directors were filming deep sea shots in a local dive pool with a submerged shipwreck set, so we needed to do intense research and preparation to guarantee authenticity in all aspects of underwater scenes, from flora and fauna, to the use of professional Kirby dive suits. We also had to ensure that all cast and crew were qualified dive masters, and train those who weren't. Exterior scenes were shot during three days at sea off the Cape Town coast, on board the Sardinops, a government research vessel. A shooting platform was rigged to the side of the ship, and a catamaran sailed alongside, from which crew were transferred by a third boat while a fourth boat was kept on standby. The gentle swell of the sea resulted in a lot of seasickness!

Main underwater shots were filmed in one day at a local dive pool, which was closed for one week for extensive prepping to recreate an authentic deep sea shipwreck scene (with art director Billy Keam spending virtually all week in the water). Grips blacked out and rigged the entire pool, and a separate filtration system was installed. The shipwreck was built entirely in a set-building studio, then dismantled, transported to the pool, rebuilt, submerged by crane and held down with weights. The Buddha statue was flown out from the U.K. and the pool was dressed to replicate the sea using manufactured shells, plant life and sand (all of which had been tested extensively for authenticity). The final challenge was to restore the pool to its normal public self-within 24 hours of the shoot.

Agency: DDB/Amsterdam Directors: Dom & Nic/Outsider

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