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15th June 2017
Funny girl
Title of film: Spec commercial: Visit Iceland
Director: AJ Colomb
Production Company: Bitefilms
We like Real. We like humour. We really like this new director, Andrea Jade Colomb's work. Just signed to Outsider, she's a breath of fresh air who's going to create a directing storm

Please describe your childhood.

Born and bred in the sticks of Boksburg, Johannesburg – I grew up like most South African children (with my older brother) – running riot bare foot, building tree houses, playing cricket in the garden, swimming, brawling with all the boys… and generally just being a little shit.
Painting and drawing was my time out from being a terror – I’ve still got a few bits and pieces splashed around the walls of Boksburg today!

I was very keen on sports – hockey was my thing and I unfortunately missed out playing for South Africa as we set out to emigrate to England in my teenage years.

We moved to Harpenden in Hertfordshire (a huge contrast to Boksburg!!) – and I didn’t like the weather very much.

(I still don’t.)

But overall, my childhood was great and moving to England was the best thing ever to happen to me (despite the weather).

Your visual story-telling sits comfortably in the House of Humour, Outsider. Please tell us a potted history from when you decided to become a filmmaker and were signed to Outsider?

My love for film has grown over the years – I don’t think I instantly knew that being a film maker was what I wanted to do. Though I was always obsessed with watching films – in particular The Quick and The Dead, The Last of the Mohicans and Mary Poppins. I was also a huge fan of Mr Bean and Faulty Towers.

But it took getting kicked out of Sixth Form and looking at courses at college that allowed me to be creative (I loved art and probably the only subject I turned up too) – I came across a ‘media’ course which involved cartooning though that was scrapped the day I joined! But it also involved film studies and from there I was hooked.

From college, I graduated at the University of Westminster with a BA Honours in Film Studies and Production. I thankfully made a contact at RSA Films whilst finishing my degree and became a runner there for a year and half. The desire to become a director grew more and more, watching and learning from the best and realising that it’s all possible – and I desperately wanted to jump into that creative chair.

Towards the end of my time at RSA I was asked to make Dawn Shadforth’s MVA Awards three-minute video – for which I teamed up with an impersonator buddy of mine, and we literally just took the piss out of Dawn and her work (we could of made a 30-minute film with ease). I loved every minute of making it, and directing sort of ‘off-the-cuff’ – we had no script, we just jumped in and out with funny ideas and set-ups. This may have been my defining moment where I thought ‘taking the piss’ may actually be a career.

I then left RSA to pursue directing more seriously – making a few test commercials and music videos alongside working as a freelance creative researcher, which helped fund building my reel (so far all my films have been self-funded). Working as creative researcher has been invaluable not only for the cash, but for the experience with working in the industry and learning from great directors.

I don’t think I strongly saw comedy or ‘visual story-telling’ as my style (or maybe knew too much about it) – but it has grown out of my love for films that are visually engaging and how can I say… unpretentious! I think after working on so many treatments over the years, I’ve really learnt about my style and what I like (and for sure, my passion for commercials). The kind of script I love working on – and certainly the ones I roll my eyes at and want to take a poke at. And that is certainly how ‘What’s Your Wild Rabbit’ and ‘Visit Iceland’ have come about…and from making ‘Visit Iceland’ I became an Outsider!

We particularly like ‘Welcome to Iceland’ and see that it’s a test commercial. Is this based on personal experience? Please tell us about making this film – the script, the shoot, the everything about it….

Yes and no. As I mentioned above, I’ve worked on so many wishy-washy scripts and seen that kind of ‘flowing’ ad stuff on television that I thought, hang on, this is not really what it’s like! Like, seriously come on.

So without going to Iceland, I wrote an experience that MAY (or probably should) happen and having it happen to two ‘normal’ people seemed more appropriate. I guess the script could of been adapted to any country really – but Iceland at the time seemed to be over shot and from what I do know of the country – it’s meant to be fucking cold – so from these films, how on Earth are the characters running around in only woollen jumpers and being happy about it.

So I made my characters, wrote a few scenes and off I went to Iceland on my own to test them out. It was fucking cold. The wind almost took my car door off. There was gooey shit in-between my toes at the hot springs. I got disgustingly drunk with some locals. I got lost. The horses are shit and slow. And if you are vegetarian, you ain’t eating! BUT nevertheless, I had the most amazing experience and it’s by far the best place I have ever visited – which I wanted to also make apparent in the film.

And so I got back to Denmark (where I was living at the time), rounded up my cast and crew and off we went back to Iceland to shoot the story. It was literally just myself and my DP running around with the (brave) cast – with the producer behind us and backpack full of snacks and hot drinks.

We came a day early to carry out a recce on all the locations, but by the next day when we came to shoot, they had all radically changed! David, our DP/Camera/Superman was a true hero – with viking blood running through his veins he tackled every wave, ice storm and hill top thrown at him.

The characters developed more and more over the two days of shooting as we generally took on the Iceland experience – Trine our female hero was a stand up comedian who has never been in front of camera before and Kristian was a stage actor who really would do anything. So they gave me a lot to work with and many moments were created there and then. A lot of which I could not show!

The edit took me a very long time to finish as we had so much material – I also really didn’t want to fall into the trap of what I set out to demolish – ‘beautiful moments’ that are just that. I really wanted to tell a story from A-Z and create an emotional, yet fun film that takes the viewer on a real journey. And I hope the film does that.

Oh God …Wild Rabbit. Did you have to? But actually it’s very well done.  The framing, you knew just how much to reveal, yes VERY GOOD.  Is this another test? Do hope the client buys it, they should. Please tell us how this production came about and were there any major challenges in making it?

Ha, sorry!

This was another test commercial. I had been working on many of the ‘What’s Your Wild Rabbit?’ scripts for Hennessy and I thought… hold on, seriously?! It was the perfect tag line to take a dig at.

My gran at the time was in a nursing home and my mom had told me about an old couple she saw romping in a near by room during a visit. I know right. Anyway, un/fortunately the image stuck with me for a few days and with the tag line in mind, the masturbating granny idea was born.

The major challenge of making this film was keeping a straight face when seriously trying to get people on board to help me make it! I was very fortunate to have been working in Denmark at the time with Bacon Films in their creative research department. I have a long standing relationship with the guys there, and they were up for helping me boost my directing. The production was put together very professionally and I really have them to thank for taking it seriously and letting me do my thing.
The masturbating granny was a raging alcoholic and was a little pissed on set, but apart from that, it was a smooth operation!

How did you find Gilda Star and what was your directing method with her for your music video documentary The Social Skills track Invisible? 

I moved to Rome for eight months before I headed to Denmark in 2013 – we moved to an area called Pigneto which has a cool and mixed group of people, including a transgender community that has a strong presence in the area. It fascinated and intrigued me and certainly gave me a sense empowerment how they live together and really put a positive message out there, despite all the crap they have to go through during their life and day to day.

So I initially set out to make a documentary about the community (in a Nan Goldin style) but was then approached by a friend of a friend’s band who needed a music video. I thought this would be a great opportunity to explore the idea and use music video documentary’s, like Django Django’s “WOR’ as a reference. Gilda’s performance was an idea to carry the music video and give it a show(wo)manship that both she and the video needed.

Gilda lived opposite my DP’s home, and we finally got chatting after knocking on her door for days and days – I was instantly transfixed and so without speaking each others language, we formed a bond and were able to communicate… I really have no idea how, we just did and with some help from my DP and producer, we got by.

She had an endearing way about her and even though she was this strong character she needed a lot reassurance – I saw this, and I hope gave her the confidence to enjoy herself and feel at ease, encouraging her at all times and being her friend. Which we became.

At the end of the day, we had such a laugh and went out on a few crazy nights – as cast and crew, we all bonded and had a great time. Maybe part of my directing method too… Having fun!

What can we say about Gerry and the Pacemaker’s You’ll Never Walk Alone.  It’s the day after elections and could there be a more appropriate anthem? Where did you shoot this and how did you find the characters?

It’s incredible how appropriate this track is now and every other day that brings people together – it really does bring people together. So I am very happy with the direction I took for the music video.

Being an anthem that is associated with Liverpool Football Club (and also being a huge fan) I naturally felt that it had to be filmed up there. We found a few faces through a casting company, set those up and then the rest (and most of the faces we used) were street casted and shot there and then. Scousers are one of a kind, so naturally we found some great people and had a wicked laugh.

Though during our last take of the day (and with YNWA blaring) we were chased by a group of Everton supporters near the docks – all hand in hand with steal bars. Terrifying!

So after these inventive test commercials what’s next?

I was recently given a great opportunity by Outsider and the guys at BBH to make my first ever 30” TV ad, which is a follow up to the Barclays Digital Safety campaign directed by James Rouse – and explores how fraudsters easily hack into our lives and bank accounts just by us connecting to social media and revealing a bit too much.

The script was like nothing I had done before, and was a maze to work out – we follow the eyes of the ‘fraudster’ and picked out moments that are key to him collecting vital information that he needs to complete a loans form. So we were creating a character and her life through a serious of photographs and videos and then having to work with visual effects how easy it was to ‘read’ on screen through her Social Media profiles… all in 30 seconds! It was a huge challenge but wow, what a cool experience. I’m really pleased with the film. It’s different for me, but I think that’s a good thing. Even at this early stage in my career I want to keep challenging myself with each new brief. Don’t we all!?

Credits

Visit Iceland

Director/Editor. Andrea Jade Colomb.
Producer. Kerren Lumer-Klabbers.
DOP. David Bauer.
Stylist. Emilie Galsgaard Dinesen.
Fixer. Guðfinnur Ýmir.
Driver. Bent Kingo Andersen.
Sound. James Cobbard @ 750mph.
Grade. Jessica Vile @ Framestore
PRODUCTION CO. Bitefilms
MUSIC. Music supervision. Colin Smith, Andy Rogers, @ Eclectic.tv.
Title. “The Way to Your Heart”. Composer. Hal David and John Harry @ Burton Music LTD
SPECIAL THANKS. Mette Jermiin (Bacon CPH). Kate Taylor. Pete Riski. Chris Anthony (Framestore). Michael Cromwell (Universal Publishing Production Music), Caspar Delaney

Barclays,

Director: AJ Colomb
Agency: BBH
Production company: Outsider