Audi campaign kicks off with epic commercial

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Behind the scenes with Sam Coleman and Thando Hopa

While beauty may definitely be in the eye of the beholder, it is all too often boring in its portrayals on screen. Audi’s new campaign is particularly refreshing as it explores an almost undefined beauty. In their global campaign for the new Q2, #Untaggable, Audi illuminates how the most beautiful things in life are actually quite impossible to define. The SA version of the TVC challenges stereotypes and paints an alluring picture with African model, actress and activist, Thando Hopa, who also happens to have been born with albinism.

Directed by Sam Coleman of Giant Films, who says that when Nic Wittenberg and the team at Ogilvy explained the project to him, he knew the campaign would be a strong one. Coleman says the concept was to translate the global campaign and to make it relevant to the African market. They had already found Hopa as the perfect embodiment of the #Untaggable concept. “Thando is a rare individual because of her many dimensions,” explains Coleman. “She is a fashion model with albinism, a lawyer, an activist for the rights of people with albinism, an actress, a filmmaker who was just invited to Directors Lab at Sundance in Utah.”

The global Audi campaign concept is #Untaggable, and they are running a series of films that explore society’s need to constantly #hashtag everything. “The films are a bombardment of imagery including Marilyn Monroe and Lionel Messi energetically cut together with titles that say things like:  Do we have to hashtag everything? #blonde? (Marilyn Monroe), #fashion, etc… The point made in the end is that the Q2 is ‘untaggable’ – the reason being is that you can’t call it just an SUV or a sports car, or a coupe because it is all those things and more. So what’s implied is that you can’t put it in a box in an age where we instantly hashtag everything.”

Coleman says that what was unusual from a director’s point of view was that the casting was already done by the agency. “Usually a big part of my job,” says Coleman. “I just had to focus on showcasing the different facts of Thando’s personality in a visually arresting way. I had to connect with Thando very quickly at the wardrobe call the day before the shoot and find some common ground as she informed a lot of the approach in the way she was portrayed, which was deeply personal to her. She was very sure of her own image, what she was comfortable with and it was great to work with such a strong personality.”

The commercial was shot using interiors in the industrial docklands of the port of Cape Town which gave impressive scale and grit. It was filmed in one day on an Alexa mini. Well known for her carefully crafted lighting, Vicci Turpin was the DOP.

The Cape Town branch of Upstairs Ludus performed full post for the TVC with Xander van Der Westhuizen doing offline edit, Nic Apostoli doing grade and Charmaine Greyling doing online.

The colourist, Apostoli says they used Davinci Resolve and Autodesk Smoke. He says his biggest challenge was to make Hopa appear as ethereal as possible. “A combination of grading techniques were used to build this unique look and separate her from the background, while still keeping her in situ,” he explains. “Pushing the boundaries, we were able to achieve an industrial vogue feel. Besides the usual online clean-ups, layers of textures were added to create a sense of atmosphere throughout the piece, particularly in her eyes. Metal textures were used to enhance the background, driving home the industrial look.”

Apostoli adds “We were given carte blanche to explore, create and have fun, resulting in a beautiful piece we are all proud to be a part of.”

Van Der Westhuizen says that the edit began on set. “We had four days including shoot day to present and approve the commercial. Sam gave me complete freedom in the edit and basically just said, have fun. Fun was definitely had, after an AM session with the agency we had clients come in and not change a single frame,” van Der Westhuizen explains. “The approach from my side was to do an edit that is as unusual and as ethereal as Thando. Including a burst near the end of the entire commercial in reverse, it felt like a good way to enhance the vibe as we introduce the car.”

Coleman chose to work with a frequent music collaborator of his, Markus Wormstorm on the score, who created a pulsing tech house track featuring traditional African ululating. Established contemporary artist Bridget Baker worked on styling outfits for each scene, and the production design was by Josie Minty.

Coleman says that working on this piece was an eye opener for him. “I wasn’t aware of the level of persecution against people with albinism in certain African countries before the project,” he says. “I think a positive take out of the commercial will be that it will help normalise the perception of albinsim. I hope people will cast people with albinsm more, and not just because they look different. I was attracted to the script because it feels very different for a car ad, and actually hardly featured the car, so I was impressed with Audi for going for it too,” Coleman concludes.

The United Nations General Assembly in December 2014, adopted a resolution proclaiming 13 June every year as International Albinism Awareness Day with effect from 2015, this shows just how seriously this medical condition needed empathy. Let us hope this campaign does more than sell cars.

Key crew:

Executive Creative Director: Nicholas Wittenberg
Director: Sam Coleman
Producer: Boris Vossgatter
Executive Producers: Emma Lundy & Cindy Gabriel
Director of Photography: Vicci Turpin
Art Director: Josie Minty
Offline: Charmaine Greyling
Editor: Xander Van Der
Colourist: Nic Appostoli
Sound Design / Composer: Markus Wormstorm

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Cera-Jane Catton
Cera-Jane Catton is a writer and journalist with years of experience in community newspapers, blogging and freelance journalism. She has worked in a cache of capacities, often finding herself behind or in front of the cameras, intentionally and less so. She has been a stunt double in two Bollywood movies, has worked in various capacities on a number of natural history documentaries, and other international productions shot in South Africa. Cera is a former Screen Africa journalist.

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