Shadow puppets, flossing and a fumbled wedding day faux pas are among the antics featured in a new TV advertising campaign for the Ibis Styles Hotel brand. Two of the ads were filmed in London, along with a photoshoot for print, and it was here that River Film had the pleasure of helping out as film fixers for their production.
“Ombres” and “Stylish, Not Stylish” are the titles of the ads shot in London and there was a mountain of work that needed to be done, including casting the most adorable kids to star in the ads!. But, what else was on our “to do” list?
Lighting, sound, art department, support crew, location scouting/booking and accommodation for the crew – ALL IN THREE WEEKS? NO PROBLEM!
In Search of the Perfect Cast
Casting was a lot of fun and took place at the River Film offices. We invited children to interact with potential mothers for the Ombres commercial, pairing them together for auditions. The super-fast turnaround meant getting child licenses for all the shortlisted children, just in case we didn’t get client confirmation until very close to the shoot date.
Working with children can have its challenges, but there are things which can be done to minimise any potential problems. Some of the cast lived quite far away, so we brought them to the hotel a day early for rehearsals and provided overnight accommodation. This ensured the kids were well rested and comfortable. It also meant that while waiting for filming to begin, the children were relaxed with their parents and their own room.
We set up a play area in a green room where they could be entertained, fed and watered between scenes. The rehearsals were a chance for the kids to get to know the Director and practice the actions in advance. This preparation meant that we spent time shooting takes with adjustments mainly to the technical execution, rather than ironing out performance issues.
Bollywood Productions, the French production company producing the commercials, are based in Paris, as is the client Accor Hotels with the plan being to bring a contingent of 15 cast, crew and client representatives over from France. We handled all accommodation and transport needs while in London and also coordinated a crew thank you dinner the producers wanted to hold at a nice restaurant.
As a film fixer it’s important to ensure everyone is well looked after, as we are a reflection of the main production company to their client and agency. With a large contingent of French crew, cast, client and agency representatives attending the shoot, it was crucial that nothing was lost in translation.
During the shoot we ensured a production assistant, fluent in French, was stationed within the Client/Agency monitoring room to provide anything they required, including keeping the craft services, coffee and tea, fully stocked. Our 3rd AD, who looked after our French cast, was also fluent in French. Small considerations make a huge difference to the atmosphere during and after production – they make our clients feel valued.
iPhones and Hotel Rooms
Each commercial was filmed inside a standard, single bed hotel room. This meant we could only fit the cast and some key crew beyond the camera man inside the room. As the commercials were “Selfie” style, it had been decided to film simultaneously on two iPhones, one landscape and one portrait orientation, with separate audio from wireless microphones and also an in-room boom mic.
A custom hand held rig allowed simultaneous recording on the two iPhones, which then had two Thunderbolt to UHF wireless transmitters for a video feed for monitoring. These transmitters were small and range limited, so we placed the Director’s Room directly next to the hotel room we were filming in, with the receivers going into small 7” external recorders with multiple outputs.
From here we plugged in the mixed wireless audio feed from the sound recordist, which also gave us an audio synced feed from the room and put out an HDMI line to the two Director’s monitors for audio and video playback. We then daisy chained an SDI signal to the 2nd set of client monitors in another room down the hallway.
As SDI wouldn’t carry audio, and HDMI isn’t good over distance, we split a standard audio line from one of the external recorders, which ran the 20m down the hallway to the Client Room and into a stand-alone speaker to provide both audio from playback, but also a live feed from inside the filming room for the client to listen in on.
We also had to be mobile to film on multiple levels of the hotel, so the system had to be easily transferable. This took quite a bit of creative engineering to provide seamless monitoring in a cramped area!
Pass Me a Sledgehammer
On paper, the Art Department requirements seemed fairly straight forward, but to allow maximum flexibility our team had the tools and know-how to respond on demand to anything which hadn’t been foreseen in pre-production.
Adjustments to the filming locations and requirements for the support rooms ended up being quite the logistical challenge, all within an open and operating commercial hotel with paying customers to consider.
A responsive, respectful, working relationship with the location’s management and maintenance team meant we were able to remove and hide fittings, swap the placement of mirrors, remove large pieces of furniture and even drill holes into the concrete in order to provide what the Director needed to tell the story as best as possible.
This meant building a good relationship with the location’s management, establishing clear lines of communication and responsibility and taking the time to understand the concerns and needs of the location’s staff.
The entire shoot went very smoothly and was completed slightly ahead of schedule, which was a great relief to the French team, given there was a group dinner scheduled at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant nearby after wrap!
We really enjoyed working with Bollywood Productions, the agency BETC and client Accor Hotels on this production and appreciate all the hard work our local crew and cast put in – great job!