Seriously surreal

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Still from #BeTheMentor ad

South African Breweries’ #BeTheMentor campaign, conceptualised by creative agency Joe Public, went live in November 2015. The ad encourages people to serve as mentors to South African youths and features a man in his 20’s reflecting on some of the less than wholesome decisions he made in his younger days. It drives home a powerful and necessary message about underage drinking while at the same time effectively captivates its young target audience by using abstract visuals and surreal imagery.

Bomb Commercials director Teboho Mahlatsi was a natural fit for the advert, drawing on his background working on educational TV drama Yizo Yizo to deliver the concept successfully. Visually, Mahlatsi decided to explore a very new space where the story was not told in such a literal way. “I divided the narrative in two halves with the memory scenes shot and represented in studio. In the studio space I wanted to create this highly art directed and abstract conceptual imagery,” Mahlatsi explains. “All the realistic stuff where he is walking around was shot outside in a literal space, an actual street outside.” The commercial was shot at the end of October and first week November 2015 in and around Johannesburg.

The agency had presented what would become the ad’s voiceover but gave Mahlatsi creative freedom on the visuals and delivery of the concept. Mahlatsi gave the beautifully written voiceover added impact by having it performed in a rap style with a stop and start rhythm to give young people an easier way to identify with the older mentor. “The primary thing is to not to come across as preachy, and that was also a big thing for the agency – that the older guy is kind of cool and he’s not a parent. He’s not being judgemental – he identifies with his younger self. He’s more of a brotherly figure.”

The ad was shot using an Arri Alexa and for Mahlatsi the most important thing was using a prime master lens to produce a crisper, more cinematic image. “I come from that school of thought of creating more cinematic images with an epic feel. It needed to really be epic in this ad and I think the lenses were able to do that,” he comments.

Key crew members who worked on the production include executive producer Gavin Joubert, producer Marc Harrison, line producer Maurice Dingli, DP Jamie Ramsey, production designer Dimitri Repanis, and stylist Trudi Barklem. The offline edit was carried out by Andrew Trail at The House Post-Production while the online edit was handled by Ministry of Illusion.

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