Is it me… or is turkey dead?
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2018, ‘twas the year of culinary change. The year The Big Bird moved over for a chicken, everyone was talking “source” and carnivours met something a little more Wicked. So what exactly was this year like in the tabletop world?

Early predictions were for change, but the truth behind certain brands revealed, there was still a long way to go. Talking about a different kind of social, it was suggested 27% of (global) food brands still didn’t make the most of social media, despite “food” being the no1 search on Facebook. Not the case for Sainsbury’s, M+S or my old friends at Wagamama.

It was a record-breaking year for vegans. Supermarkets introduced more vegan lines. From crispy carrot pastrami to sourdough pizza, the Wicked Kitchen had arrived. Waitrose announced production of new vegan sandwiches and in cappuccino-land everyone left soya behind for nutty oaty alternatives.

At home I was lucky enough to create and direct new content for Wagamama’s vegetarian and vegan ranges with a major refresh for all their OOH screens, especially the master screen at Heathrow T5, which their MD said “changed the way consumers see Wagamana, elevating the brand to a fashion icon”. No pressure then. The brief was especially tailored towards the match between OOH, commercial and Wagamana’s Instagram look and feel. Now that’s social realism. You can see the results here in the New Year.

There was also a move away from “pure” tabletop food to a ramp-up in human emotion. Tesco talked “food love stories” even though M+S had been using voice over and slow motion for years they decided to replace syrup with real people for the 2018 Christmas campaign.

It was also the year of collaborations. Despite a recent spat John Lewis did not disappoint with their perfectly timed Bohemian Rhapsody inspired spot. Back at M+S I had my own adventure in food land thanks to a partnership between the green and white super brand and high street supremo Wasabi.

The challenge was to produce content for a number of different formats. I’d love to share the spreadsheet Danny Coster from Leap produced but you’d need to be Professor Brian Cox to work out which part of the mix fits which screen without having to use a flux capacitor.

With this many alternatives to consider we needed to establish a universal resolution and settled on 4k using an Arri Amira. Cliff Evans created a number of in-vision masks to flip between frames and Danny’s post team were on site to monitor the data as it was sucked into the matrix. Luckily no unwanted time-portals opened during filming. 

We also combined live action with photography working alongside my old collaborator Ben Fisher. This gave the client not only a cost effective solution but also a way to guarantee footage that matched and kept the brand’s unique look and feel. The shoot was at Background Studios under the control of the ever-talented food stylist supremo Lisa Harrison who worked closely with Wasabi’s own test chefs.  

So all in all, it’s been an exciting year and I wish you all…

Happy Holidays and a joyous New Year.

Carl Prechezer
Is it me… or do you have to swim with sharks to win a Cannes Lion?
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EXT. WATER. DAY - Three simple words, but as Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and Baltasarb Kormákur found out, filming at sea can be a deadly business.

I should know, I foolishly wrote those words to start a screenplay back in the day before Catherine Zeta-Jones met Michael Douglas. Blue Juice - week 1, day 3, the Atlantic Ocean… we’re shooting Ewan McGregor stealing a wave when a rogue rip dragged the crew half a mile down the beach. Mark Silk – the underwater cameraman and DOP (Dad doubled Sean Connery in Thunderball and the family are rumoured to still own the crotch-connected-wetsuit) - was unfazed. But in an instant, on simple error at sea had put the production 3 days behind.

Lesson number one: replace EXT. WATER. DAY with BE. VERY. AFRAID

The Attack was made for 2018 Healthcare agency of the year Havas / Lynx. My friend Tim Jones was the CD, produced by Thea and Luke at Maker Projects, this piece of unbranded content was facilitated by the fearless Mighty in Cape Town.

I originally heard about The Attack from Olivia Hirschberg at Johnny Foreigner. It was a story based around a middle-aged surfer who swims out past the back line to be attacked by what appears to be a shark. In fact, it’s his own heart. The project represented an important shift in the world of Pharma advertising. As Tim Jones says, it was an attempt to get clients to “ditch the overtly cliché and scientific scripts in favour of something that goes deeper.”

So exactly how do you produce a film with a heart stopping risk assessment for a modest content budget that goes on to win a Cannes Lion?

Let’s begin with EXT: for EXTERIOR.

I knew, from my love of surfing, Portugal and The Canaries are the places to consider shooting exterior water in February. But both can be unpredictable and have the propensity for backbreaking surf.  Just ask Andrew Cotton. This was unbranded content, not The Big Wave Project. It was time to consider slightly warmer waters. 

Positioned in the middle of a perfect peninsular there’s a location that’ll make water lovers weep at it’s legendary beauty; it also has a great local film community and my friends Jeanne + Terence Maritz at Mighty productions. Terence is an incredibly tenacious / talented DOP and bonus, he’s a surfer. So it had to be…

EXT CAPE TOWN. Now what about: DAY?

As any English diver will tell you, winter water can be challenging. Even at some of the best dive sites in the world epic clarity needs patience. Mother Nature performers for only one God and David Attenborough doesn’t do content. 

Aside from location we needed a place to shoot the actor in a controlled environment and to give us the classic Jaws POV. In Cape Town there are not one, but two types of pools, plus a great water crew, the Frog Squad. First there’s an open-air swimming pool, 2nd a series of tidal pools with shallow water, an oceanic horizon and a concrete wall to protect you from the local residents – As Matt Hooper would say, “Carcharodon carcharias aka The Great White Shark”.

The pools are next to a majestic beach called Mnandi, which faces False Bay, which faces Seal Island, which is famous for shots of breaching Great Whites. Why do all the best locations come with teeth? 

Now if you’re a diver, or person who spends a lot of time in the water, you know the odds for getting attached by a shark are 1 in 11.5 million, but as a director that decreases to 1 in a Spielberg. Not to mention respecting your producer and their risk assessment. So how do you shoot in shark infested waters and not end up like Chrissie Watkins?

Time for: DAY

With sharks, always avoid dawn and dusk unless you’re diving for the Blue Planet or having a holiday with Emperor Divers. Daytime visibility is mandatory. As the drone searched for shapes the Frog Squad buzzed the beach with a rib and it appeared the local predators didn’t like the sound of a noisy outboard. But we still had to put a real human - Martin Van Geems – into the water. By take 3 I heard a voice in my ear “I think we have it”, for a split second I though Sir David was onset but realised it was my producer, nerves tested to the max. Good call. The week after we shot at Mnandi the Frog squad, working at the desalination plant, saw a huge “Johnny” head out of the water just… looking around. As the old surfing adage goes – you should have been here last week!

BTW: The soundtrack for our BTS was created by the talented Brendan Crehan and if you’d like to see a copy of the full film, get in touch.

Carl Prechezer
Is it me... or has video gone galactic?
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Not so long ago, in a boardroom not so far away, the conversation was simple - we need a film and some stills, for press, maybe point of sale. Now, the requirements of the digital universe are a little more… galactic:

Notes, from a recent pitch:

“This video is for online, social and possibly TVC. We need 16:9, 9:16, 4:3 and widescreen, in case we use it at a conference - people love widescreen at conferences, it gives them the feeling our brand is really cinematic, like Star Wars. The film also needs to work with and without sound and have titles, for mobile.”

 “Would you like an opening crawl?” 

 “A crawl?”

 “Titles, like the start of Star Wars.”

 “As long as it works on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Vero plus all other social media and online platforms.”


The world has changed. As Scott MacFarland wrote in the Huffington Post “If a picture is worth a thousand words… a video may be worth… Forty billion, because that’s how many videos are streamed in the U.S. each month and… $6.3 billion will be spent on video ads this year.

That was written in 2014. Since then the global online video spend has gone galactic.

But for producers, directors and creatives this level of consumption is a real challenge. Clients may want to have it all (bending budgets well past Tatooine), but is it really necessary to create content that works across all platforms? Is planning and distribution dead, or are they unable to keep up with the needs of our online masters? And if you like something, how come there's often not anymore? 


Years ago I was shooting in NYC with a couple of young agency hotshots who introduced me to Instagram. It was new, fun and at first, you posted all the time. In a very short period of time I probably told Facebook far too much about my love of Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Cinema and Pasta ala Norma but as I slowed down and started looking around I discovered most images weren’t worth a thousand words and most videos definitely aren’t worth 6.3 billion, except those of cats, pandas and dogs defending the lives of small children against wild animals. They’re awesome. I also learned professional users and advertisers know when to post. Because let's face it, only the Dark Lord is permanently connected. 

Today, if you believe the press, Instagram is being overtaken by upstarts such as Vero, a migration driven by a dislike of an algorism and a hate of adverts – not my words. But does the platform you choose really matter? Isn’t it all about the content?


As a director it’s no longer about shooting and delivering a great film, now you have to consider the format. We spent years fighting our way out of TV’s ancient 4:3 prison for the universal freedom of 16:9; now we’re back in a rebooted 4:3 online universe where sound has been replaced by titles – apparently, on mobile, no one can hear you scream. Also…

Brightly coloured backgrounds are important Ah, but isn’t that a sponsored ad from… Facebook and Istagram, the companies who want you to be across all platforms at all times? But as the sponsored article seems to imply, a multiplatform approach needs different and varied content or else, as a creative friend of mine pointed out,  "the craft is lost and it’s even harder to stand out." But as she went on to say, "if you get it right you can create something truly great,  it can take minutes for half the world to see it." 


In a world with multi-platform needs it helps to be part of a creative team. I’ve shot for years with photographer Ben Fisher - Liverpool Victoria, Unilever and Wagamama and creative director Adam Ward - Deadgood.  The great thing about shooting different content for stills, video and social simultaneously, apart from the obvious cost savings, is creative synergy. Our campaign for Wagamama mixed content for a revolutionary giant screen at Heathrow’s T5 with social and online promotions. Bespoke content for bespoke platform shot simultaneously. 


What fascinates me is the way content is often still shot for a single use, a campaign, an event, a point of sale. In a video world dominated by Netflix, Amazon and video on demand, series is King. We repeat view, coming back to the same story over and over again. We want to keep watching because the content grips us, it indulges us and yet in a world where video has gone galactic there seems often to be very little follow up. 

What I'd like to see is:

More interesting use of formats. Like this one from WeTransfer

Diversification. Vary stories across different platforms.

More ongoing engagement. Tell deep and complex stories that encourage people to share because they touch us, emotionally

Good things do get made but far too often as creatives we're asked to produce something that fits all, which brings me back to... 

A recent pitch:

 “Do you need stills?”

 Pause, clearly not in the brief


 “I work with a great photographer, who’s just shot John Boyega for The Tate.”

 “Star Wars. Excellent… Can we get Boyega?”


Carl Prechezer