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25th March 2019
The ups and downs of love
Title of film: Bianco, The Lift
Director: Daniel Kragh-Jacobsen
Production Company: New Land
Without dialogue, set in one location, and with a runtime of almost five minutes, New Land director Daniel Kragh-Jacobsen returns to commercials with the almost greatest love story ever told for shoe brand Bianco. Two people fall in love with each other without the other ever knowing. The only thing that keeps them apart is their overthinking. We talk with the director about longer format narratives for advertising, and the benefits of taking a two-year break from commercials to shoot tv series and short films. Oh he forgot mention The Lift has already clocked up over 10million views across social media and reposts.

Tell us please about the insight and concept behind the idea.

The board came in from the Copenhagen-based agency &co (they have done things like the Momondo DNA journey) and I thought it was a really strong idea.

The motivation behind the campaign was to address a time and age where social media constantly portrays a perfect glossy world, and this false ideal probably doesn’t help us all to become secure about our own ordinary lives.

So the agency came up with a love story to make that insight concrete. I thought this was a brilliant take because love is the most instinctual and animalistic feeling. It was the most dramatic story they could have found. It was also really interesting that a clothing brand, normally associated with creating the fake glamour of our Instagram feeds, actually wanted to address this illusion that their industry perpetrates.

So why did you want to direct this story?

I was really intrigued by co-developing and directing an amusing commercial, because this was new territory to me. I personally love comedies more than drama, but for some reason (maybe my dark Scandinavian soul) I am more comfortable in telling drama.

What was the development process like?

There was already a really good draft of a film, once I received the board, so it was like any really good creative process in the commercial world – we just needed to start developing together.

In a love story, it’s always crucial how the characters meet each other – what they call the “meet cute” in romantic comedies, so we really worked on this aspect of the script together.
If you don’t have a good meet, you aren’t hooked into the characters’ wants (their project in the film) and who they are.

Even though this was a commercial, we found that we needed to take time with the first scene. So many people have said to me (or written on the comments field on Facebook and YouTube, which I LOVE to read!) that in spite of it being a five-minute commercial, they never wanted to fast forward. I think this is all about the set up.

Another important factor is the crescendo – the build-up of tension at the final moments of the film. Again – we really needed to take time here – let the music work its magic. We are playing around with the audience’s expectation. My hope was that the audience would start screaming at the screen: JUST DO IT!

Is it hard to choose the story, once you start developing?

We had too many scenes, more than what we had time to film. In the end we cut three or four scenes, because we only had one shooting day. I wasn’t worried about that. I can easily feel which scenes I am really excited about shooting, and which ones I’m not. But it was nice and interesting that everything could be switched around, except for the beginning and end scene, and as she always does editor Carla Luffe found the exact right story at the end.

As this is a one location film, I’m thinking the production challenges weren’t major for you guys?

Well… The production stage is always where your dreams are shattered.
Luckily when you have a strong team working with you, some of them survive.

This is a fully Danish production with Danish actors and with production by my wonderful company New Land in Copenhagen. The money was small, but when you work in Denmark it feels like you always get an extra mile somehow. Even though it’s expensive to pay for labor in the Danish film industry, there are a lot of other costs that aren’t there, because it’s not as rigid an industry as for instance the British or American.

By now our DNA at New Land caters to these smaller budget projects, because we know that this is where the interesting creative ideas are. We are used to doing them, because we all grew up producing music videos together.

Following our earlier short film “The Family” for Ford, which won a Gold Lion in Cannes, we made another longer format narrative with a commercial message behind it last year called “The Friendship”. This was a campaign film for trying to raise awareness for young people in Denmark who have a hard time handling and discussing financial difficulties. Ironically, considering the message, this was also a really small budgeted film. (See film above).

How did the look and feel of The Lift evolve?

I worked with the DoP Jasper Spanning, who I have collaborated with for many years, and before even talking about it, we had both decided we of course wanted to build the elevator.

After this we just got into the story. That is the great thing about working with him. The aesthetics are everything to him, and he’s someone who always fights for shooting on celluloid when it makes sense, but at the end of the day it’s more about story than anything else.

Jasper came up with the really interesting idea to not reveal the characters visually too much until the end. We see them from every side, but because they are sheltered from each other emotionally, the same is the fact with the camera. The audience doesn’t notice this, but I think this consequential framing choice really adds to the way you experience the story.

You said it was all filmed in Copenhagen, so I take it you worked with Danish actors. You’ve also done this in previous years when you did your music videos for Rhye. Why is it you always find a way to work with Danish actors on international projects?

Well on this film the project is Danish, because Bianco Shoes and the agency are Danish. But even if this wasn’t the case I would probably have opted to do the production exactly the same way anyways.

It’s just a lot easier to access talented actors here, because the industry is so small and the schooling for talents is so good. Also, I have a network here, and I take it I have a good reputation, which means that some actors want to be involved in a project I do, even though it’s a commercial. We all know that actors are careful not to do commercials, especially when the money is short. But this is actually kind of a secret mission of mine. If one day actors start speaking positively about being in certain types of commercial, then I believe we have revolutionized part of the industry.

At the end of the day, these films would never have been anything without the two people on screen telling the story. If we are not able to work with talented actors like this, the storytelling of our industry will never evolve. I was very lucky to find Anna and Niklas, who both have great comedic timing, and are both unique individuals, who both created characters, that I was curious of getting to know.

You spoke about New Land, that have produced this film. Tell me about the experience of co-founding the company New Land with friends at 27, and now you are celebrating your 5-year anniversary together. How has your involvement and attachment changed to the company?

New Land is a very special place to me, because it really just was a bunch of people in Stockholm and Copenhagen who knew of each other and respected each other’s work, and then finally decided to join forces and create a commercial production company.

For me it’s been a bit of a journey finding my feet in the commercials industry.

I come from narrative filmmaking, went to film school at American Film Institute Conservatory and ultimately, I feel like what I do best is directing narrative, more than designing/directing situations, emotional vignettes or picturesque images. Which a lot of the time is what you do as a commercial director. So sometimes commercials are a bit tough for me to navigate.

We (Producers Thor Brammer Jacobsen, Catrine Bjørn and Erik Torell, and directors Casper Balslev and Gustav Johannson) founded New Land in the summer of 2014 right after I had left film school. At first I just simply said yes to every project I could treat on and hopefully win. But I quickly felt very empty, because I didn’t understand why I was standing on the filmset. What was the story I was telling? Why was I there?

So I decided to take a break, and for two years I mostly worked with narrative projects. I returned to New Land and commercials because I missed my family there, and I missed the mission we had actually set out on together, when we founded the company five years ago. To tell stories with a commercial backing, that are emotionally gripping and relevant. I’m excited to see what the future will bring for us all.


Daniel Kragh-Jacobsen

New Land

The Lift Production Company: New Land Producer: Maria Ottesen Executive Producer: Thor Brammer Jacobsen Agency: &Co Creative team: Katrine Winblad Nielsen, Lea Flodgaard, Mathias Trads and Thomas Hoffmann. Directed by: Daniel Kragh-Jacobsen DoP: Jasper Spanning Editor: Carla Luffe Production designer: Gustav Pontopiddan Sound design: Mathias Dehn Composer: Anders Singh Vesterdahl Colorist: Hannibal Lang, Bacon VFX Post production coordinator: Benjamin Musaya Directors assistant: Bertil Vorre The Friendship Agency: The Unicorn. Creatives: Thomas Pries & Peter Metcalfe. Client relations: Mette Hørdum. Producer: Benjamin Muasya. Executive Producer: Thor Brammer Jacobsen. DoP: Nicolai Lok. Editor: Emil Gundersen. Production Designer: Maj Nygaard Katzenelson. Sound: Jonas R. Kirkegaard. Composer: Johan Carøe. Casting: Amanda-lie Natalie. 1st AD: Ves Møller Rasmussen. 2nd AD: Rasmus Hougaard. Gaffer: Casper Bülow Christensen. Stylist: Sarah Emilie Thaning. Steadicam: Torben Meldgaard. Props master: Szonja Toman. Line Producer: Henriette Mittag Manhattan. Productions assistent: Amanda Hedelund. Colorgrading: Peter Diemar Colorgrading supervisor: Mia Bang Stenberg VFX: Alex Dubrocard Postprod. supervisor: Victor Beckmann Ford, The Family Directed by: Daniel Kragh-Jacobsen Written by: Ingeborg Topsøe Executive Producer: Thor Brammer Jacobsen DP: Jasper J. Spanning Editor: Sofie Marie Kristensen Production Designer: Nanna Rosenfeldt-Olsen 1st AD: Julius von Kauffmann Focus puller: Ivan Molina Carmona Gaffer: Noah Lynnerup Best boy: Kasper Mønster Line producer: Thomas Yong. Production manager: Camilla Rotheisen Produktion assistant: Benjamin Muasya Runner: Peter R. Andersen Colorist: Hannibal Lang Sounddesign: Mathias Dehn On set sound: Frank Mølgaard Knudsen Post koordination: Camilla Rotheisen Post house: Cameo, CPH. Editing assistant: Patrick Lund Larsen Production company: New Land ( Agency: Very, Copenhagen. Produced for Ford, Denmark. Ford: Supporting Families Against the Odds.