These films are distinctly different – did the creative process of making them differ hugely?
Absolutely, they couldn’t be any more alien to one another. As we discussed last time, (see here) our working relationship with Ted Baker is a unique one. The parameter that was set by the brand was the location – at that point the brand’s still shoot dictated where the moving image was shot.
Everything else is on us really.
After we shot Wonders Never Cease for Ted we were faced with a “where do we go from here?” moment in terms of crafting a narrative structure with only models as actors, so frankly we decided not to. We’d touched on the idea of making a pseudo 80/90’s holiday show in the past, so with the backdrop assigned, we began to fill in the blanks and refine it for a fashion brand and came up with Get Out of Town. The little TV ads felt like a fun idea to try and we had a laugh doing them. The fun part was crafting the blink and you’ll miss it story unfolding with the couple in the background of the various scenes.
The music video is a different beast altogether. This is our third video for Jarbird, and our first performance video we’ve ever done. It was zero budget but an interesting experiment for us. We’d been big fans of Dan W. Jacobs’ work for ages, so it was really nice to collaborate with him on the animation. We shot all of the elements for him in the studio alongside the actual performance shoot and he just worked his magic. The conversations were really interesting for us as it was really unchartered territory.
The two things that these projects share is that it’s us trying something different within the mediums we’ve developed a bit of a recognised approach to. Everything else is almost completely opposite.
To what extent do you write the narrative/creative?
We do all of the narrative/creative. We always have done. That’s the lovely thing about the direct to client relationship that’s been in place for a few years now – it’s that complete trust. We’re aware of how lucky we are to have it, and we’re even more aware of how much of an anomaly it is, but it seems to have worked so far. Same with Jarbird. Our relationship with them is very upfront because they write all of the music for everything we do under the name Small Press Music – so I guess that’s another link between the Iona promo and Get Out of Town.
Where was Strawberry Islands shot?
Believe it or not, it was actually shot in Scarborough in North Yorkshire. Like most of northern England’s seaside towns, it has a faded majesty about it, but then the sun comes out it can look like the French Riviera from the right angle. We had insane luck on the shoot – it rained all day everyday apart from the one one exterior day we did. Needless to say it doesn’t look like Saint Tropez when it’s raining. In terms of look, our colourist (Julien @ Finish) always plays a big part.
The hotel interiors were the strangest. These places were the pinnacle of holiday destinations once upon a time, and now it’s all £9.99 weekend breaks and speakers playing Barry Manilow at a barely audible level in every room. You need to pump a lot of light into those places to make them pop and a majority of your day is taken up by old men in flat caps asking “What yer filmin’ lad?!” Love it. It’s pretty cruel, but we had this game, where whoever was being asked had to pitch a fictional feature film to the curious person asking. Some guy in Scarborough thinks that Samuel L. Jackson is starring in a Cliff Richard biopic shot in his stomping ground.
What’s up with the redheads?
Why not? They told us they wanted to use all ginger models for the stills campaign which means that we’re working with all ginger models in the film. Then we thought we’d just extend that throughout the piece. We got Fred Szkoda in again who we used in the Natural History Museum, because he’s a pretty man who can nail the cheesy presenter vibe. Dyed his hair red and off we went.
Any production nightmares?
We have no post traumatic stress about these two. The music video is simple enough, less parameters usually means less danger. The Get out of Town piece wasn’t too challenging either, we had some trouble with gear in the Baker’s Boats ad so we had to drop a few shots here and there to make it work. Our crews are tiny for the Ted jobs, so it was quite difficult communicating between the drone operators, the action boat and the camera boat to do some of the dynamic moments, but it was a good laugh.
What’s next for you guys?
Well, we’ve just done the follow up to this piece. We worked with a major director on it, and it’s a very different approach to anything we’ve done before – it’s a narrative, the production value is pretty mad – we shot the stills campaign too, and for the first time the film informed them, rather than the other way around.
Aside from that, we’re in a great place now for us to return to what inherently excites us as filmmakers. We miss the struggle of making stuff ourselves, of wrestling with themes and ideas rather than some of the things that working more commercially prioritises. “Why do you like what you like?” is quite a difficult question to answer to yourself – even though Crowns & Owls is a group, it still doesn’t really help. After the past two commercial years, we feel like we’re getting closer to working out what that is, we just haven’t shown it yet. Iona nods at it, but now is the time to embark on it properly. We’re very excited.