GIANT Films’ Karien Cherry recently directed NBC Universal’s new campaign for the South African market. Made up of four standalone 60 second spots, each featuring an ordinary South African’s extraordinary story, the campaign is held together by the tagline ‘100% Character Uncovered.’
The campaign offers an authentic glimpse into characters that have managed to (re)write their own stories, hence the tagline which precedes every spot/story in bold lettering: 100% Character Uncovered. With NBC Universal utilising their in-house advertising agency, and this particular brief originating from their London headquarters, this meant that the majority of the job had to be facilitated remotely between South Africa and the UK.
While the concept itself originated within the agency, the execution was a hugely collaborative process. Cherry spent time with each character, alongside them in their daily lives where she interviewed them and thereafter transcribed the interviews, editing together the voiceover scripts using their own words. “I then presented the scripts with accompanying visual scenes and mood boards to the agency, and went from there,” she expands.
With each spot realised through a documentary approach, the campaign exhibits an honest feel throughout, “balancing spontaneous, real-life sensibility with beautifully composed, cinematic visuals,” explains Cherry. “It was clear that a documentary approach would allow our characters the space and time to reveal themselves to us. We worked around our characters’ schedules and the dramas of their real lives, and accessed spaces they were familiar with,” comments Cherry. In order to enhance the desired realistic and spontaneous feel, the campaign was shot handheld and relied on mostly natural lighting, “which allowed us to move quickly and have a less intrusive presence,” Cherry explains. “I go into a shoot of this nature knowing that, if I’m lucky, a part of our day will turn out completely differently to what I had planned. Being willing and able to embrace a spontaneous moment on set could offer up the truth of that moment in a way that could never have been scripted – and that’s the magic of cinema. Both you and your gear need to be flexible enough to change course at the drop of a hat.”
Apart from the underwater footage featured in one of the spots, which was shot on the Red Dragon, DOP Pierre De Villiers shot the campaign on the Sony FS7 using a set of Zeiss Super Speed primes that enabled shooting in low light conditions. “The FS7 offers great ergonomics, allowing long hours of handheld work, and is a good size for documentary shooting where you often need to access small spaces. Combined with its image quality and low light capabilities, it offers a huge amount of value in this budget range,” says Cherry.