Director Ben Strebel reflects on a production that played fast and loose with the physics
The latest campaign for Jägermeister is a slick film that captures the nightlife-focused soul of the drink brand.
Created by ENGINE and directed by Ben Strebel, the spot visualises the journey that an energetic music track takes through an urban environment as it changes the world around it and even causes a full-sized bus to levitate above a woman’s head. It’s quite a visual feast, befitting the brand of the herbal German favourite.
We caught up with Ben (who signed to Biscuit Filmworks since he directed the film through Skunk and Radioaktive) about how exactly he made all of that happen.
Q> What was the script like when you came to it and how did you instantly react to it?
Ben> The brief was super open. As far as I can remember the top line went something like: two electronic music producers in a studio laying down a track and as it evolves the world around them is affected and transforms. This allowed so much creative freedom to conjure ideas and build on what was there, so I came up with the approach that the camera is the POV of the music and as we travel through the world it affects everything around it. That’s why we're propelled out of the speaker at the very start. Born. I love how sound isn’t physical and therefore defies all rules of gravity and physics. Essentially the camera could travel through anything. It's a great creative provocation.
Q> What were your visual references on how it would look?
Ben> Because it’s all about imagination, I guess, I had the freedom to go wherever was possible with this to embrace the surreal. We wanted it to be set at night because of the nature of the associations with the brand and therefore bathed in that neon glow. Gaspar Noe’s ‘Enter The Void’ was definitely a starting point for creating a fluid POV-style camera movement that’s seamless, while Fincher’s opening scene of ‘Panic Room’ inspired me to find ways to move through the impossible. One of my favourite paintings is Magritte’s ‘Day And Night’, which gave me the idea at the start of the film when we fly out of the window and day turns to night in one seamless move and the two times of day co-exist. Some sonic connection to the visuals was the only restriction really.
Q> How did you get that bus to look like it's suspended in the air?
Ben> We actually hung it! All 15 tons of it off two giant cranes. It was a heart-in-the-mouth moment, and the local team’s enthusiasm to defy what was impossible drove our ambition. We were never going to achieve the same effect if it had just been created in CG. The result brings home the awe that I wanted in that moment, it needed to feel real to draw that out of the viewer as well as the actress.
Q> What were the most memorable parts of the production for you?
Ben> Apart from the bus… achieving twice the identical shot of the the camera flying out of the window and travelling down into the sunroof of a moving car both in the day and once at night. We didn’t have a 50-foot motion control rig to shoot it with (I don’t think that exists), so it was all done by hand and eye, trial and error, to try and match the two shots perfectly. The grips were incredible, the differences in the two takes are miniscule, seriously superhuman behaviour, and it lends that opening the punch we need to immerse the viewer straight in the action and establish a supernatural motion.