Is it me, or is Cannes Lions 2019 the year for Health & Wellbeing
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No, this is not a personal training blog. We are not about to join the leather-skinned octogenarians jogging along the Croisette. But it seems 2019 could be a stellar year for health and wellbeing - over 60% of the Innovations + Glass Lions shortlists targeting healthcare issues:  

Pr week Shortlist

As a director, I’m relatively new to H+W, having hit the jackpot in 2018 with Havas Lynx’s The Attack. Hailed as a ‘new cinematic genre in pharma comms” the film went on to win numerous awards including Clio Health. Will this year’s entrant - The Engine – be victorious and who are the front runners for the 2019 Cannes Lions?

Even though, back in 2018 I said “be afraid, be very afraid”, I just can’t keep away from La Mer. So when my colleagues at Maker and Cannes Healthcare agency of the year came calling I forgot the tears and heartbreak of life on the open ocean and started singing…  “Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu to you ladies of Spain. For we've received orders for to sail back to Boston. And so never more shall we see you again.”

Unlike Quinn, this time, we had a bigger boat. The bad news, it was a Trawler. For you who’ve never set foot on Brixham’s most famous export imagine the bastard child of Water World and Mad Max Beyond the Thunder Dome. Only Master Blaster would love this beast. There are more lethal weapons in the hold of this ship than the basement of John Wick’s house.

Th Engine made The Attack look like a rehearsal: we had to be at sea, at night, in bad weather, with a limited crew, and a drone. Just pick any of the words in that last sentence and you’ve got a disaster waiting to happen. But that’s the thing about shooting for the world of Health and Wellbeing - the shoot is the easy part. Here’s my guide to winning in a world of rules and regulations:

No1: Listen, listen and then listen again

Not all briefs are created equal. If you thought scripts take time to approve, you’ve ain’t seen nothing yet. In the health industry, before you see a single word, there’s been A LOT of conversations. As a director you have to listen to everybody. There’s a lot of detail. For those directors who work on the auteur rule of a “single vision”, health is not for you.

N2: Learn to be patient.

As a surfer I know the meaning of patience. I’ve sat in cold grey car parks for days waiting for a few lines of corduroy. Working in health and wellbeing needs patience and you need to be ready to accept changes because, like the ocean, it’s going to go off!

N3: Work within the budget.

In 2019 there are no reshoots. Whether swimming with sharks or mounting killer cranes it’s all about bringing home the catch on time and on budget. Plan, plan and plan again.

N4: Be Brave  

Committees don’t rally the troops. Sometimes you have to ignore the detail and look at the bigger picture. You need to listen, but also learn the difference between politics and detail. If you follow the shoal you could end up in the shallows, or worst still, in a Brexit style deadlock.

N5: Remember your crew

As the mighty Quinn found out, you need a crew. A good production company, a great agency and a strong thoughtful creative director. If everyone isn’t working together the doubts will set in and you’re be walking the auteur gangplank with not even a parrot for support.

So who will win? Check out some of this year’s great entrants to see what’s blowing in the breeze:

Impossible Operation

See Sound

The Overdose Stopper

The Puck

Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (ICHV) -  "The Gun Violence History Book’: 

And if you’re in town next week give me a shout – I’ll be the one jogging with the octogenarians or swimming with sharks, depending on the weather or the Lion’s roar…  

Carl Prechezer
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