On the road with Picture Tree


It’s the director / agency-team dream: travel the country to shoot a commercial.
It used to be, “Travel the world’, then, “We open on a tropical beach…’ but those
days are gone now, along with the big budgets. But if you’re working on a booze
brand or a cellular network, you should still pack your bags – at least for a road
trip between Upington and Kaapstad.

“I wanted the film to be representative of the whole country, so we spent lots of
time looking at different location options and routes through South Africa,’ says
Picture Tree director, JH, of the latest Cell C commercial. “But because we had
incredibly limited time, we decided that Joburg and various locations between
Upington and Cape Town would give us the best variety.’

With 10 days of pre-production and just two weeks to air on cinema, the Picture
Tree team was under pressure to deliver something visually unique on a large-
scale commercial, and JH was determined not to compromise on the images he
had in his mind.

“I wanted to create a film that would inspire people to get out there and live
their lives,’ he explains.

Conceptualised by Ogilvy Johannesburg, Cell C’s new brand commercial
celebrates the role connectivity plays in our lives and shows South Africans of all
colour and creed the full-time occupation of living, enjoying and connecting. In an
unusual move for a cellular network, there is very little representation of cell
phones and people are seen to live authentically, even while the voice
celebrates, among others: “The LOLs, the braggers and the profile-pic taggers’.

With finely crafted imagery, people are seen to laugh out loud instead of texting
“LOL’, driving stock cars around a dusty racing track instead of bragging about it,
taking images with a cumbersome classic, film camera instead of a phone or
compact digital model.

“Collaboration between the agency and us was very important because it’s not
only my film but also their vision that needs to be realised and to see it come to
fruition is always rewarding,’ says JH. “On a personal level, it was quite amazing
to stand in the desert with a Royal Enfield Bullet speeding through the dust,
knowing that only two weeks ago it was just an image in my head.’

The visuals are inspired by JH’s love for photographic images, especially
photojournalistic images that tell years of history in a single frame.

“I have no excuse, then, to say that 750 frames are not enough,’ says JH. “I
want my films, whether commercial or narrative, to have the same raw power in
every frame and be able to move people to a new mindset in the short time I
have to speak to them.’


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