Spot-on stock footage + the 118 118 guys + some crazy wonderful scripts. The idea is soooo blindingly good and simple, how did it come about and what was the original brief?
The brief was very simple. 118 118 have this terrific property in the two runners with their mad hair and moustaches, they’re offering this really great phone directory service and they’re sponsoring films. They wanted something sympathetic to film lovers and they wanted a lot of them because this particular medium gives the ads enormous exposure. We worked with writer Johnny Watters and came up with this elegant solution to all those issues.
Assuming the writers created the scripts in response to the stock footage, how did you go about filming the 118 118 men?
It was one of the most enjoyable writing jobs we’ve ever had. We found about a hundred film clips of actors talking on the phone. And then got to work writing gags. After about two weeks we had 110 scripts written using that material and we shared them all with our clients. The guys who run the company just wanted to make the funniest ones so we whittled the scripts down to the ones they laughed at the most.
How many scripts were written and shot?
Out of the 110 scripts we ended up with 50 that everyone liked.Then we made animatics of all of them with the film clips and drawings.
Were the actors responding to the footage or was there simply a prompt? Was the production a breeze or were there any unexpected problems? The editing must have been entertaining.
We cast two new 118 boys and got them in to rehearse which was a really useful exercise, it meant we had everything worked out enough to shoot all 50 scripts in just two days. During shooting the boys knew the footage that they were reacting to and we simply read the lines out. Max Gotlieb built us a fabulous telephone exchange with loads of period details, Bertie was the producer and directed the photography so he’d used a pre-light day to ensure there wasn’t much fannying about between set-ups.
Our editor, Tristram Edwards was on set for everything and cut the new stuff into the old footage as we went. We’d be shooting a line and we’d hear someone laughing over Tristram’s shoulder at the last edit which was reassuring. The Mill took all the raw Alexa footage and matched each one to the original stock footage and Ben at 750 did the same to replicate the original sound quality.
What next – is there more coming up?