Shining a light on everyday workers

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Still from the Metropolitan commercial

“We wanted to bring to light what’s done in the dark – giving praise to those who might think they aren’t being seen.” – Sunu Gonera

When the morning breaks, the city is gleaming with pride and alive with possibilities as a result of the men and women who continue to nurture it tirelessly, in its dark hours.

Edward Molefe, a hardworking taxi driver and family man taking care of his family of six; and Miles Maja, a determined young man who works as a security guard and is also completing his degree in business management are just some of the real characters featured in the latest commercial for Metropolitan.

“The idea behind the campaign was to shift the focus off Metropolitan and onto its customers, with the message: We see you. We’re for you,” explains director Sunu Gonera.

“My treatment focused on introducing these diverse characters to the world in a heroic and cinematic way – irrespective of their trade or profession. I loved filming real people – taxi drivers, security guards and shopkeepers as though they were the stars of a feature film. It’s how they deserve to be seen.”

Coincidently Gonera happens to share some of the same sentiments as the characters he shot for the commercial, that was until Ogilvy & Mather gave him his first break.

“I have a long history with Ogilvy. I owe a lot to them; they were the first agency to take a chance on me. I did my first commercial for them – a freebie for the Sports Trust – that went on to win a bunch of awards and opened a lot of doors for me,” he shares.

Gonera also recently shot a KFC and a Castle Lager advert for the agency. The Metropolitan ad is his latest work for Ogilvy and features musician, Spoek Mathambo, who plays the narrator of the story.

“Spoek was the perfect spokesperson for this film. His acclaimed documentary Future Sound of Mzansi saw him traveling the country in search of raw talent within our electronic music scene, so we knew that giving credit where it’s due came naturally to him,” says Gonera.

The spot follows musical pioneer Spoek Mathambo around Johannesburg between midnight and the early hours of the morning, as he acknowledges real people for what they’re already doing to make everyday a success. “Spoek acts as our guide and allows us to steer away from the typical vignette formula,” Gonera explains.

Besides shying away from classic insurance scripts, one can’t help but notice the rich African elements that we have come to know from Gonera’s recent works which include the award-winning One Source music video with Kuli Chana for Absolut with Native VML.

“I’m wary of the idea of having a ‘trademark’ in my work; I believe the concept should always dictate the style of the commercial. So I always start with the brand and the idea behind the board, and then come up with a treatment that suits those.”

“(With) that said, I have enjoyed exploring an unapologetically African aesthetic in my recent work. There’s so much beauty here that’s been underexposed globally, so I’m passionate about using our own lives as our primary reference point, rather than trying to imitate Hollywood or anywhere else,” Gonera adds.

Gonera confirms that it is through his work on One Source that he landed this project. “I feel like I found my voice on One Source and Metropolitan was a brief that allowed me to continue to push that kind of Afrocentric aesthetic,” he says.

As a financial service provider, Metropolitan puts commendable effort in trying to get into the minds, hearts and financial situations of their everyday client, as they push forward with the brand’s essence in amplifying African success.

“Sharing success is a very South African concept. So many of our everyday heroes originate from tiny towns, small suburbs and townships, and return to their roots to share their success, because they know that they are who they are because of the people around them. I hope the ad will help people see themselves as the heroes of their own stories and will help people realise there are no small parts in life – we all have an important role to play in making South Africa a success.”

The spot was shot in the heart of Johannesburg; perfectly positioned at the economic hub of the country also known as the city of golden opportunities and where some of the characters work and trade for a better living.

Shot on the Alexa Mini with anamorphic lenses, Gonera says that the camera was predominantly handheld to keep the feel organic, with a drone used on a couple of scenes to give scale.

Shooting took place at night with two lighting teams set for the task ahead – one with camera and the other pre-lighting. Lighting was also kept simple in order to focus the attention on the main characters in the spot. “We largely used single source lighting to highlight the idea that our characters mostly work in isolation during the dark hours of the night.”

“We wanted to bring to light what’s done in the dark – giving praise to those who might think they aren’t being seen,” Gonera shares.

Nic Apostoli from Comfort & Fame did the grading; while the Deliverance Post team had Ricky Boyd on edit and David Oosthuizen handling online work.

Since the ad has started airing, it has received a positive response and also been featured on Shots.net, an international platform that showcases the most creative commercials, music videos, short films and animation from all over the globe. “It was also great to be featured on Shots, somewhere we look for inspiration and which doesn’t feature many South African ads,” concludes Gonera.

TECH CHECK

EQUIPMENT

  • Camera: Alexa Mini and a drone

“The camera was predominantly handheld to keep the feel organic, with a drone used on a couple of scenes to give scale.”

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Gezzy S Sibisi
Gezzy S. Sibisi is a senior journalist at Screen Africa. She is experienced in print, broadcast and digital media. Her portfolio of work includes working as a lifestyle reporter as well as contributing business and education articles to The Times, Sowetan, and Daily Dispatch publications. As a freelancer, she has worked on content development for corporate newsletters, community newspapers, blogs and educational websites.

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