What was the original brief for AFL’s Nothing Like It film and how did it evolve, it seems quite a spontaneous shoot?
I’ve worked with the creatives at GPY&R a handful of times last year, we did Odyssey House and Schweppes together. They sent through an idea of taking the best of AFL footage around the world and recording the reactions of those that had never seen it. The idea was to remind people back home how unique our game is.
Initially, the brief was pretty open, such as the choice of locations. It’s funny, it’s kind of daunting when someone gives you a globe and says ‘where do you want to go?’. One day we’d be so confident we had the right mix and then we’d sleep on it. The next day we’d be like ‘shit… what about Wales… those guys are nuts’ so we’d throw the plan back up in the air again. Eventually, we all decided to visit places that had a strong relationship to their national game, what ever that was. We ended up with Buenos Aires, Texas, New York, Northern Wales and Shanghai.
So you were given quite a lot of freedom on the production?
As I said, I’ve been pretty fortunate to work with the creatives a bunch of times, so they entrusted us with a lot of freedom. There’s a style of shooting that I’m becoming increasingly more attached to: no storyboards, street casting, ‘loosely’ chosen locations. Essentially it’s crafting a narrative on the fly, just being open to anything that might pop up. It felt like the right fit for this type of job.
I hadn’t been to a couple of these places… the idea of being sent through location selects from fixers all over the world (who were absolutely brilliant incidentally) and locking in from that seemed nuts. So, we kept it as loose as possible (as loose as we could with a client) and then allowed for as much time as possible to wander around, talk to people. Generally we just tried to find those hidden gems that might be a little off the beaten track.
Was it a small crew with a tight portable kit?
We had a small crew with two cameras – Ryley Brown the DoP on one and myself on the other, my producer Tobias Webster and a sound dude Alec McCloskey, a couple of guys from the agency, one client and a fixer from the area.
We’d rock up to places with a back up TV in the van in case wherever we were didn’t have one, a few DVD’s of the footage, gather people around and then show them the footage. Before leaving I had a bit of a panic attack – the pre was fast and furious and it hadn’t occurred to me before we were about to leave what would we do if everyone thinks our game is shit?! We brainstormed a bunch of ‘backup’ ideas, do we chuck on some ‘fail’ compilations such as Eddie Murphy’s ‘Delirious’…. or maybe just some porn? In the end, we didn’t need to do anything. The reactions to the footage was totally nuts! Not exaggerating, everyone loved it.
The highlights for me were the semi-pro American football team in Houston Texas and the fisherman in Northern Wales. They were brilliant. Total characters, the type you could spend months trying to find through conventional casting.
We shot on two 5D marks 3s, using a cinestyle and flat preset. We then put some very old glass on the front of the camera. The DoP had a set of uncalibrated Russian lenses that softened everything up. I’m really proud of the look he created.
Any disasters or near disasters?
All up we were away for just under three weeks. It was an incredible road trip with no real disasters… unless you count the fact that a couple of people who will go unnamed decided it would be a rad idea to go swimming in an outdoor pool, in midst of winter, in Northern Wales. If that was stupid enough, one of them dived into the pool only to find out that it didn’t actually have a deep end, it was a kids’ pool with water only a foot deep, he nearly broke his neck. We might have set off a hotel fire alarm at one point as well… might have.
Did it take forever to edit?
We had a lot of footage, I’m not going to say how much, it’s not a ratio to be proud of. We cut for a week at The Butchery with Graeme Pereira. He killed it.