Remember that champagne I was putting in my cereal at the end of May last year? Well, it ran out. But today I'm buying myself a magnum and drinking it out of the bottle ... I have an announcement to make.
Drumroll, please ...
Thanks Dad ... bang up job as usual.
I JUST GOT SIGNED BY INDY8 CONTENT!
That's some tasty looking pudding. Keen to have a go for yourself? Take a browse here. Or maybe you want to read about it on Shots or LLB?
Anyway, it seems I'm pretty close to breaking the internet and for some reason, which I don't mind, I'm being referred to as 'McQuiggin'. Oddly, the way they've been using my surname reminds me of an old 90's tagline for Mr. Big Chocolate Bars.
I'll bet you a fiver that Ridley Scott directed it.
"When you're this big they call you McQuiggin."
Without question Indy8, and their Mother company Independent, have a tidy roster of directors and I'm proud to being joining the ranks [expect a long winded post on our first job together ... it's going to be a fun one.].
2017, so far, you've been making sweet, sweet love to this young man. My best guess is it has something to do with it being the year of the Rooster. As always, big ups to all of you who held on. My advice to you is to hold on even tighter; cause this ride is about to get wild ... like bucking bronco wild.
... or how I made a series of ads in a very reasonable amount of time and loved every minute of it.
It's pretty safe to say that this post is long over due [what's 25 weeks in internet years?], but it feels fitting as what I'm writing about made it's way onto the airwaves the other night.
As you may know, these types of posts have become a bit of normal on this Scrapbook [See here and of course here]. You see, I love doing a funny, odd piece of work and then finding the time to write a 10-page dissertation about the trials and tribulations of the entire experience - it's part of my cathartic process. Luckily the viewing numbers are up - I’m aiming for a solid audience of 3-4 people this time round and a comment would put me over the edge ... BOOM💥 !
Ultimately, what’s different about this long winded post and, ultimately, the job I’ll consistently reference is the fact that it was an actual gig, with actual people, who actually got paid … including yours truly.
Sidebar:I'm loving my new 24k gold chains, paying for a 2nd class stamp with a fifty-pound note and the perfectly chilled Champagne in my organic hand harvested Frosted Flakes.
This was actually my second project with the super-cool kids over at Mindseye. It goes without saying that this outfit and their roster of directors are seriously off the chain … if you haven't seen their wares I suggest you take a moment and have a solid laugh.
Anyway, that's enough of a prelude ... it's time to put on some music, sit back and enjoy the show.
I'll start at the beginning as it seems to be the logical place to start.
It was a very typical London day [it was probably raining or at the very least overcast] ... I was in the middle of another smaller project with Mindseye. A shoestring budget, and my penchant for creativity, forced me to play Sushi chef with an x-acto knife - you can enjoy my knife skills here.
Please note:My hands have never fully recovered.
Anyway, Hughie [Mindseye MD] provided some respite when he dragged me down to his 'den' of an office [it has bookshelf wallpaper, a portrait of a hamlet like figure and I'm sure I saw a smoking chair in there - he's a classy guy] ... anyway he showed me the printed version of this:
My first taste of the Unshackled.com 100% yellow ...
... the Parrot of Truth ...
... and of course Vinny.
These are just the first three pages, but the following 12 pages read like a crazy bee-inspired dream come true. It felt as if the creatives had tapped into my YouTube browsing history, it's a bit scary, and pasted it into this fairly well-designed document.
But what the heck is Unshackled.com you ask? Good question. Join the club cause at this point I still didn't quite understand what it was either.
The brief was a starting point and it had me dancing in my chair ... but for those who know me, I played it cool [phiff ... hardly].
It pretty much went down something like this:
Hughie: The budget is a bit tight, but you interested?
Moi: [I'll leave it to Kristen Wigg to formulate a decent version of my response].
The people in charge [aka. Hughie and the Agency] battled out the details for a few weeks ... and next thing I know we've agreed to six scripts, a two-day shoot and I'm on a conference call with the boys and girls at Love Creative in Manchester. This is where I first met Jonny Kight - literally the best-looking producer in the business, but don't let his looks fool you ... he's a take no prisoners kind of guy.
I've learned a few things about conference calls over the years ... basically it goes something like this:
The nervous feeling in your stomach is always a good thing - this quote sums it up.
Prepare yourself for the worst hold music in existence ... I'm talking to you Powwownow. Seriously WTF?
If you don't remember a name just speak to the speaker based machine and let the right person answer. People know their roles.
Unlike radio or live TV 'dead air' isn't a bad thing ... it means they're thinking.
The call went swimmingly.
They loved the ideas I put forward, pushed back on others and we agreed the scripts needed development - which they wanted me involved with. I walked away with two words on my notepad: 'BE FEARLESS' ... this was in regards to my treatment that was due in 35 hours and counting.
I’m a bit of an odd duck in that I love writing treatments and love it, even more, when they have serious deadlines. Luckily, I was in the middle of another edit ... the treatment gods were about to make it rain.
Sidebar:I remember getting a brief at 4:00pm on Thursday and delivered the treatment at 10:30am on Friday. The only problem ... I was on 8:00am flight to Sydney. I pulled up my bootstraps did an all-nighter only taking a short break to shower and pack. I continued writing in the back of the cab to the airport, on a full economy flight and for the last hour I sat in the terminal finishing it ... thank you daylight savings, free WiFi in the terminal and very patient girlfriend. Needless to say, I won the job ... booyah.
That night I spoke to Grace [you might know here from previous posts ... she's kind of big deal around here] ... I was pretty enthusiastic about it all and told her they wanted me to 'BE FEARLESS'. "Ummm, babe ... they may have said it, but I'm pretty certain they don't mean that." was her response. I think it safe to say she's use to me getting a little carried away with things.
Regardless, I went full tilt. The next morning I had a plan, a young image research to hand and my fingers were tapping fastidiously away as I watched an edit progress in my peripheral vision. The final version ended up something a bit like this:
I've intentionally left out pages with words ... those kind of belong to Moi, but apparently it read as if I was speaking to the reader. I'll take that as a compliment, thanks, Max.
The treatment was submitted and I crashed out after several pints in Soho ... I blame the MSG in Wong Kei's food, not the sleep deprivation or the numerous beers.
A sunny long weekend in the South Downs and a few days later we got the job - high fives all-around. It's really exciting winning a job, even more so when you've just come off the back of another ... I think Publilius Syrus said it best with "a rolling stone gathers no moss" - momentum is a gift of the gods. Although, without this downtime I wouldn't have had the time to put all of this together. Dam.
Anyway, Jonny and I jumped on Virgin Train north to Manchester for a preliminary development meeting. We had few goals.
It literally got grey and greyer on the train up to Manchester. Note to self: Bring a better jacket next time.
We arrived in one piece - it was surprising fast and enjoyable. Jonny was a bit busy, producers always have a bit more on their plate than us director's give them credit for, regardless I made use of my time be reading and doing the work provided by John Vorhaus and his book: The Comic Toolbox. If you haven't read it ... do it.
This brings me to The City of Manchester and Love Creative.
Manchester was plenty cold, wet and grey - London was starting to feel like the tropics. But, within a few minutes of leaving the station it was clearly the place is seriously un-touched. The industrial revolution may have ruined a few things for us in the past, but it left us with some gorgeous architecture. It actually felt a bit like East London, but without the over-trended, try-hard lumberjack and jill, pointless beanie wearing, black and white copycats that occupy most of the decent spaces in the area. Trust me when I say "I'm not bitter".
Moving along. Love Creative was a serious sweet studio ... the door was a bit confusing but seriously, it was pretty slick. There's something about raw brick, large windows and wood floors that makes me get a twinge of an erection - hopefully, no one noticed. Either rent must be low in Manchester or Love makes some serious profits - definitely a bit of column "A" and "B" me thinks. Regardless, the meeting room was filling up with people and the sandwich levels were quickly depleting. If your not familiar ... free food in an agency is like watching seagulls fight over that one greasy chip at the beach - it's fun, awkwardly disturbing and somehow makes you feel like not eating.
With mouths full the team introduced themselves ... it was a full house.
Introducing Patrick and his nostrils ... the enormous Post-it note symbolically represents a sandwich.
After the pleasantries finished we asked the tough question ... what exactly was Unshackled.com? I guess that's the drama of working with a completely new brand ... there's no existing short-hand how to understand them. I'm not sure if that's an omen or conundrum for agencies and production companies - curious on people's thoughts [this is me fishing for comments]. Luckily, we learned plenty after Trevor [Love Creative CEO] spiled the beans and now I'm going to over-simplify it for my audience:
"It's like giffgaff, but shitloads better."
Unshackled.com basically exists to stick to the big boys. They hunt for the best no/low contract deals on SIMs and sells you the mobile phone of your choice separately - hence Unshackled. That was both Jonny and my "Ahhhh I get it now" moment.
Sidebar: Curiously you can finance your phone, among other things, using Zopa - which is an interesting Peer-to-Peer approach to lending. I'm no FA, but seems like an interesting investment ... maybe I switch to Cava with my cereal?
The dialogue continued for several hours. I even popped out for a quick walk around the block - it's a thing I'm doing nowadays ... clears the head, gets the blood moving. Now I'm not blowing smoke up mine or anyone else's ass, but the workshop was very successful ... it is really great meeting and working with people who genuinely give a flying f*ck. Everyone in that room just wanted the best for the scripts and it was clear that they genuinely wanted our help.
So, we ended up a bit like this:
It was a script/schedule plan, but somehow Jonny and I agreed to seven scripts instead of six in two days. Madness, but it seemed doable ... if I was on my "A" game. It appears had achieved two of our three goals ... now to the pub.
This leads me back to Jonny.
We had several recommendations for a couple pubs in the cool NYC Soho looking area where Love Creative was based, but for some reason, we were coming up stumps. One of us found The City Arms, a pub on the 'Ale Trail' whatever the f*ck that means, it seemed close and we both has "the thirst" [I'll do a blog post drunk one day on this subject] ... so we pushed forward to Kenndy Street with vigor. This is when we got lost ... or at least Jonny got us a lost on more than one occasion. He said something along the lines of "Google Maps isn't displaying directions how I'm accustom to navigating" this was quickly followed by "I took orienteering in Cadets". Sounds like a line I'd use on Grace when we'd be lost in backstreets of Rome or even worse Barrio Gothica in Barcelona. You can't bullshit, a bullshitter. Regardless, we found it ... seems Manchester was a little bigger than we thought.
To be honest, drinking is the catalyst to most male bonding and no matter how 'modern' the modern man becomes drinking will always be there to bring us together - unless of course it's dry January. Here's what I learned from my 1st of four drinking sessions with Jonny: He can seriously drink, for a health conscious semi-vego he loves crisps and he's still fucking ridiculously cool when he's drunk. As you can imagine the drinking quickly got out of hand ... mostly due to the lack of food, but luckily trains in the UK serve a plethora of crisps and more importantly booze on trains. Nothing like arriving at Euston nicely smashed ... that's me in an uber.
Sidebar:The Hemingway quote above was painted on the wall just above Jonny's side of the table. I'm was probably the only person there that realised it existed.
I'll fast forward past the script development and introduce the players. After two rounds of casting we ended up with this lot:
I love how casting stills have this intrinsic ability to make even the most attractive person look like a dog's breakfast. Clearly, there's an art form to making beautiful people completely unattractive.
You might be asking yourself who the heck is Jonny Freeman? If your not asking yourself then clearly you've worked out he's the man inside the 7ft Parrot suit. This was a seriously tough ask for anyone, but Jonny made it look easy. The suit, as most of them are, was a total pain in the ass and with hardly any vision, beads of sweat rolling down his black make-up'd face he pulled it off. Kudos to you sir.
It's a rare thing these days, but thru the magic of Patrick and Chris I managed to wangle a rehearsal with the every funny frontman Adam Fox. This guy is seriously one of the most loveliest hardworking actors I've met. The rehearsal was exactly what we needed ... we didn't beat it to death we just played, explored and found a few rhythms. I love building characters and part of it is taking about how a character stands, moves, his 'isims' so to speak. It was a few hours, but I think the proof is in the pudding cause anyone who's seen the finished product has repeated told me that Adam is 'brilliant' and 'he's going places' - I'd like to think I had something to do with it.
As all of this was going on and we were still deciding which scripts we were shooting I was pushing forward with my boards. This was my introduction to Dan Painter (the irony of his name gets me everytime). Dan is a legend. Not only is he funny, he's quick and just gets it. You see I obsess over my boards ... I've got kick ass templates, I build the edit on the page and keep tweaking them right up to the last moment - maybe it's my inner-Kubrick coming out - who know's.
The only issue was location.
Generally speaking, I prefer doing Storyboards after finding a location, but it seems in the strong UK economy [cough ... at the time] it's tough to find a double width shop that's empty. It's funny how much room we need to make something look the way it does ... I think there's a meme about how even in the biggest location imaginable the camera will still be parked in the farthest corner right up-against the wall.
Anyway, we ended up in Croydon after days upon days of scouting ... in-fact I remember it actually being Jonny's suggestion during the brief ... everyone should always listen to the producer. The shop was bare empty. Perfect. But, it had bare white walls ... not exactly what I wanted. We rolled with it and I think it may have worked in our favour.
Loading Bay - Previous, Previous Tenant (aka. Location Irony)
So everything was in check and we were ready to shoot. This is the fun part. I love being on set with new people, old friends and 12 hours to do the almost impossible.
I couldn't have done it without Sam Goldie, Will Jasper, Jonny Kight, Carmen Siu and of course Michelle Sotheren. Thanks guys for making me look good.
Here's a few pics from the two days and a couple during post:
Please note: My monitor on set becomes a piece of art / practical joke / lolly holder / workstation [I'm going to bore you with this on a later date]. The joy is I take a photo of each and everyone I sit in front of ... love the test photocopy of my face. Wish I kept it.
After a tight week of editing with the talented Keith Wright and a bit of TLC with the kids at UNIT we finished up and several of them found themselves available to the world online.
Sadly, only 'Contract' made it to Channel 4 the other night. It seems the advertising standards bureau has a bee in their bonnet about the ads ... a couple of them have been banned from the air [I'm starting to get a reputation] and they've f*ck with Scott Harris' grade. I'll give them 10 points for creativity though.
In the end the masses have started to see all of this hard work and hopefully it will inspire them to stick it to the man.
Here's the first 5 with the banned grade and end frames ... and in-case your interested there's two more lurking.
[I can't wait for those other two to get banned, I mean released.]
So, how bout another watch, a like or even a share ... these spots aren't complete without people like you seeing them.
Well I just finished a massive post summer run and it seems I've discover what it's like to have free time again - working from home is already starting to loose it's appeal. Anyway, expect to see bucketloads of new content soon and like every December and January I'm hitting the keyboard ... except this time I'm actually going to make something of it.
So, watch this space.
Before I go there’s a couple kudos in order.
Mindseye, thanks for throwing me a bone and letting me do what I love. Jonny, thanks for letting me have a Winnebago ... even if it wasn't for me. Tom and the kids at UNIT, you guys nailed it and it was great to be back in the saddle again with Mr. Harris. And to everyone else, I owe each of you a seriously big THANK YOU for helping me make the madness a reality - I've never enjoyed making a series of commercial projects more than I enjoyed making these.
It's been a blast,
CREDITS (only you can make it scroll)
CAST Vinny: Adam Fielding Parrot of Truth: Jonny Freeman Alison: Molly Roberts Uni Boy: Simon Christian MILF: Charlotte Morgan Biker: Patch Hancox
AGENCY Love Creative Creative Director: Dave Palmer Writer: Patrick Harvey Art Director: Chris Jeffreys Agency Producer: Fiona Williams
CREW Director: Jonas McQuiggin Producer: Jonny Kight Production Company: Mindseye Managing Director: Hughie Phillips Head of Production: Max Yeoman Executive Producer: Charlie Phillips Director of Photography: Sam Goldie
POST UNIT Producer: Tom Igglesden Offline Editor: Keith Wright Grade: Scott Harris
So, it's been almost two weeks and I thought it was about time to log a 'Dear Diary' entry about my latest spot for Doritos.
Here it goes.
Making a Superbowl spot is a bit of a dream of mine and, in-fact, it's on my 5 year plan. And what better way to fast track this dream then to submit an entry for the Doritos 'Crash the Superbowl' contest.
The low down: Doritos gets suckers like me to make an ad for them at my expense and they award prize money to sweeten the deal - pretty decent money and some amazing opportunities for exposure.
I'd been wanting to do an entry for years and it was the second year the contest had been open for international entries ... the stars must've been aligned because I had one month of no work (commercial directors have lots of free time) to pull it all off.
Nothing lost, nothing gained ... right?
With a rough schedule in mind I knew I had 30-odd days from concept all the way through to delivery ... and damn it went quick.
Initially, the ideas poured in and between Christian Lyndon (Editor/ Self-Appointed Oddball) and myself. We wrestled with about a dozen or so ideas, but we couldn't seem to capture our intensely dark sense of humour in 30secs. I have a whole new respect for copywriters/art directors. I was now one week over schedule and after a serious session of concepting I knew I had to either pull the pin or make something I wasn't sure about.
I was broken ... almost.
So, I did what just about all creative people do when nothing is working ... I sulked. And after approximately 35 minutes, opened a couple beers and sat down with my creative life mate, Grace Cross, and brainstormed my little heart out. I wasn't going to give up, nor was I going to do something less than controversial. I didn't want to win the big money, I wanted to be the shit stirring winner of social media. I went back to basics; pulled out a pencil, a pad of A4 and refocused.
Within an hour I had my creative 'eureka' moment - that bold rush of typing furiously on the keyboard, not caring about spelling or structure, just getting the idea on the page for refinement later.
This was the birth of 'NSFW' ... an Internet acronym for 'Not Safe For Work'.
I didn't even bother to write a first draft and just sent a paragraph on to several key creatives (aka. my industry friends) that had signed up to the project. The idea was vague at best, but it was definitely something that would poke the bear.
It was received with cautious arms, but I knew it was a go.
Time cruised on and I went about what I'd normally do on any job ... researching, casting, storyboards, meetings, more casting, refine the script and made sure everything was going to plan and budget (I was also playing Co-Producer).
Due to some scheduling hiccups with our studio space D-Day was November 3rd; giving me exactly seven days from shooting to delivery ... I wanted to do it six.
Here's a few Behind The Scenes pictures courtesy of Roger Lau. Take a moment to appreciate Chris Randak (the hairless Scotsman) eye f*cking the lens ... solid gold.
After a Doritos-stained shirt, a bit of set shuffling, a glass of Tesco's Finest Sparkling Wine and full clean up we wrapped a meer 2 hours, or maybe 3 hours, over schedule. Sidebar: Overtime is not normal for me and after 12hours I usually turn into a pumpkin. We hung about waiting for the rushes to be backed up and the original plan of editing that night wasn't appealing to me. Odd.
The next morning I got the drive couriered to Absolute Post in Soho. Before Christian and I got cracking I had only two mandates: Firstly, the final piece must be funny. Secondly, we had to edit to the sultry sounds of Kenny G (Here's the exact Playlist) to get us in an elevator mood - we contributed to at least 483 hits on this video. I'd be lying if I said Michael Bolton was never played or even sung out loud at some point.
The next 5 days were a tidal wave of self-doubt, laughs, worry and eventually over-confidence ... might've had something to do with the numerous coffees, late nights and canned pints we endured.
Highlight: Christian managed to show it to a few colleagues and was received with the normal laughs, "can I watch it again" and "is that on the server?" remarks. But one individual (who will remain nameless) said he 'got it' ... it went something like this: "yeah ... I got it ... he wants the Firefighters to choke him while the other guy is blowing him ... genius.". I guess advertising, like art, is always open to unique forms of interpretation.
One of the several late nights in the editing suite. Cafetiere Coffee in hand and Kenny G soothing our souls.
By Friday morning the edit was locked, the grade and sound was smashed out and the final commercial was rendered off, compressed, uploaded and submitted late Saturday afternoon. Within moments I received a confirmation email that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside; Grace snapped that feeling in half when she coldly said, "everyone gets that email".
'NSFW' in the Doritos: Crash the Superbowl Gallery ... we look pretty smart amongst the others.
There were some serious high-fives and a canned pint of Kronenbourg 1664 was promptly opened and smashed once we saw it in the gallery - i'd spent too much on the commercial to afford sparkling wine at this point. I made a few posts on Facebook, Twitter and quickly sent out a couple of iMessages letting people know: this was actually happening.
For almost 30 straight days I'd poured myself into this little number and I needed a break, so Grace and I bought a couple more Kronenbourg 1664s, stuffed them in my pocket and headed to see Interstellar at the local Oden.
We returned 3 hours later, minds blown, and this is when I noticed something was awry ... the link provided by Doritos was no longer working.
I quickly whipped off an email to 'Team Doritos' only to receive this:
Correspondence between Moi and 'Team Doritos' ... deep down I bet they actually loved it..
Damn right we violate the rules and I took your tag seriously ... clearly a little too seriously.
Regardless, you have to love the fact that they 'apologised' (corrected to an 's' for my English readers) for the 'inconvenience' caused to us for breaking their rules ... that were clearly outlined in the T&Cs. Bless their cotton socks. Once again Grace reminded me that this most likely a generic email they send out to all banned adverts.
To be perfectly honest I wasn't surprised, angry or even remotely downtrodden about the fact that we got pulled after a glorious parade of 5 hours in their Gallery. You know why? Because of the whole experience - from the lowest lows to the highest highs it was a great lesson, a chance for me to exercise my pent-up skills - plus, I got to work alongside the people I love, doing what I love. If anything I owe to Doritos, The NFL and everyone else who submitted (see the Gallery) a big hug and a thanks. Sidebar: Some of the other entries aren't bad, but be warned that several of them are extremely demoralising to women, which in my mind is worse than implied inappropriate content - please don't let them win.
Anyway, it was a wild, toothless ride and I loved every minute of it ... my bank account says differently but f*ck it.
Enough about the 'experience' as it's time to moisten your eyes-balls and decide for yourself if the Firefighters were there to provide a little erotic asphyxiation or just fix a stuck lift.
Bet you watch it more then once.
The banned commercial living out its days on YouTube and Vimeo.
What's next? Probably another zany skit or ill-intentioned spec ad for the reel (ideas are already brewing), but if a sweet production company wants to sign me then I might be working on a ridiculous funny paid script (I need to start making some calls).
In the meantime I want you, the people of the Internet, to share this experience and more important the commercial to as many people as possible. I spent numerous hours, pounds ($) and people's goodwill to not let a few hundred thousand (cough) people enjoy the final product.
So, I implore you to share this post or more importantly the YouTube link (http://youtu.be/o5eeM7oYa14) in any way, shape or form. Say absolutely anything you want about it, hit the 'like' or 'dislike' button, leave a nasty comment or a compliment, but just say something. Hopefully, the fuss we generate will get Doritos to take notice that there's nothing wrong with a little sexual innuendo and reassure me that nobody's time was wasted on this pursuit of funny.
A big thanks to everyone (you know who you are) that helped make the final product possible, it would've never happened without your support, time and patience - I owe you one.
CREDITS (only you can make it scroll)
CAST Peter: David Brown Mr. Bill Stevens: Robert Carretta Firefighter One: Gerard Smith Firefighter Two: Paul Kerry
CREW Writer/Director: Jonas McQuiggin Producer: Mike Jones 1st AD: Greg Jordan Director of Photography: Gareth Ward Focus Puller: Chris Randak DIT/2nd AC: Ashley Hicks Gaffer: Barry Read Grip: James Davis Sound: Duncan Paterson Art Director: Michelle Sotheren Art Department Assistant: Chapman Kan Set Builder: Jaime Hind Wardrobe: Grace Cross Makeup: Chloe Gates Runner: Abigail Arthur BTS: Roger Lau Studio: Cloud + Horse Lighting: Panalux London Camera/Lenses: Brownian Motion