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18th June 2012
Making connections
Title of film: Missing People, Phone Call
Director: Ben Strebel
New Director: Ben Strebel

Following on from Ben Strebel’s hit short film, Once And For All, for Clock Opera and his music video Strange Attractor for Animal Kingdom, (see Related Content) the Somesuch new director shoots his first commercial – a heart-rendering spot for BBH client Missing People.

Missing People, Phone Call, is your first commercial and it’s incredibly powerful. What were the main challenges of the production and what were the key lessons you learnt from shooting it?

The biggest challenge was shooting everything in one day. That and the fact that we had four rain machines going at all times. In other words we all got completely drenched! Communication with the actors was the most important thing. I wanted to create intense emotional performances. So I tried to make the process as organic as possible, letting the actors breath and find their own pace. There’s no way to command or hurry along an actor who is about to explode or break down. I really didn’t want it to come across as forced. On this job I learnt to ride their waves and be ready and alert at all times. After each take I would evaluate the performance and gradually develop it to my liking.

Did the end film end up as you envisioned?

I usually approach each shoot with a shot-by-shot storyboard. But when I was on set on this I became more confident and started to grab things that I saw on the day. I tried to trust my own instincts a bit more. The nuances or details, the accidents which you simply cannot plan for, often end up really making the film. Having said that, overall the finished ad came out pretty close to what I had originally imagined.

New directors often say it’s difficult to keep to their own vision and to know when to let go in favour of, say, the creatives idea. Did you come across any challenges like this?

I definitely didn’t experience this. I love intense, emotive British drama and so do the two creatives I had the pleasure of working with at BBH. Together we embarked on an exciting journey developing the script and characters. Emma and Matt were very supportive throughout. Originally the treatment included a few extra elements, which served to build the tension between the two characters and their worlds. But when it came to the edit, we all agreed that it worked better without. The characters were strong enough.

The casting is very strong. What was the process in finding your lead?

The brief from the creatives was to create a harsh, gritty slice of drama. ‘Tyrannosaur’ is definitely one of my favourite recent films. Des Hamilton was the casting director on that. I was so lucky that he was around to work on our commercial. We found the mother straight away. She was perfect and could build from absolute calm into hysterics within a matter of seconds. I think the subject of the film touched her very deeply.

The boy was slightly trickier to cast simply because of his age. I ended up running what turned into an actor’s workshop for a day. Finally Dan stepped into the room and effortlessly delivered an amazing performance. He grasped the role from the outset and was super easy to work with.

I was also able to have a rehearsal day with the actors. I always think it’s difficult when actors meet on set for the first time. We worked together to develop their characters and to really bring them together as mother and son. So even though you never see them on screen together, you believe their bond.

You’ve just signed to Somesuch we hear. What are you currently working on?

I was absolutely delighted to sign to Somesuch & Co. It didn’t take long before this opportunity to shoot Missing People came along and I look forward to many more like it. I am currently prepping a commercial that shoots in Germany in the coming weeks and pitching on some music videos.

See storyboard for Missing People in Related Content

Credits
Agency: BBH
Creative Director: Nick Allsop
Creative Team: Emma Castagno and Matt Tassell
Agency Producer: Michelle Kendrick
Director: Ben Strebel
Producer: Lucy Kelly
DOP: Ben Kracun
Art Director: Kate Evenden
Casting Director: Des Hamilton
Editor: Hazel Baillie
Post: The Mill