Thu, 25 Nov 2021 11:48:00 GMT
The festive season, it’s often said, is a time for magic. Perhaps that’s never been as true as it has been in the case of the aptly named production service unit Magic, based across Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, and Istanbul.
In recent months, the studio has been busy working on some of the most talked-about and well-produced ads anywhere in the world. Whether it be meticulously constructing a unique set for PENNY’s powerful Christmas ad, or channelling Blade Runner and Tron for Yamaha, it’s been a non-stop end to the year for Magic. At this point, however, such ambitious work should come as no surprise as 2021 coincided with a decade in the industry for the company.
To find out how a trio of Magic’s beautifully filmed 2021 projects came together, LBB spoke with Ema Cielyte…
PENNY: ‘The Wish’
LBB> From a production standpoint, everything about this ad is so seamless and smooth - what can you tell us about the set design for this spot and how did it contribute to that smooth execution?
Ema> Honestly, the set we built here was one of those which you never want to bring down. We built it around the story, and our production designer Tiiu-Ann Pello and her big local team from Vilnius did a masterful job making it best of all worlds.
The team put together a really comfortable working space which also helped make it all look effortless and real. A set of around 250 square meters included multiple moving parts and engineered structural elements - like a moving ceiling and walls - to allow camera movements like the impressive crane top-shot, and allowing steadicam to enter every room easily.
Above: A gallery of images taken of the set built by Tiiu-Ann Pello and her team.
LBB> How did you go about casting - and for scenes such as the party, were there pandemic restrictions which you had to work around?
Ema> Relatability was a strong goal for our casting on this spot, and on-set there was a really nice bond between mom and son, son and girlfriend, and finally his dad. In the beginning of the film there is a fight scene which, when we were filming, the whole German crew was tearing up as it all felt very real and some hurtful things were shouted, which weren’t even in the script. That is how real it felt to everyone involved.
As for the pandemic restrictions, we were actually shooting this in the heat of July when the restrictions were light, so it wasn’t a huge issue. As a result, it was actually a beautiful moment when the group of teenagers partied together. That is what this whole campaign is about. It was the first scene we did that day, and right after the party scene we wanted to let them go - but all of them practically begged us to stay longer. So we let them stay right up until the wrap party.
LBB> Some of the film is also very stylistic, for example the lighting for the scenes involving the main character’s breakup. How did you guys work with director Marcus Ibanez to bring that creative vision to life?
Ema> This is where our DP Paul Özgür stepped in, and together with Marcus Ibanez they masterfully brought the colours and light needed for the film to come to life.
The lighting transitions were not only needed to make the edit seamless, they also made the film look different. The prelight took two days, as Paul wanted to have control of and program every single light on set.
It’s important not to forget that it’s a Christmas film, even though in many ways it does not look like one. We tried to persuade Marcus to place a Christmas tree in the corner, but he did not want to take the focus away from the emotion. This commercial was 'less' in terms of Christmas decorations, but that helped bring forward many more real emotions.
LBB> And on a personal note - what kind of impact does this film’s message have on you guys personally? Is there something you missed out on during the pandemic that makes you want to make up for lost time?
Ema> We fell in love with the story from the very first version of the script we got back in June. It’s relevant to everyone across the world, really, and of course the pandemic messed with our jobs and our heads pretty badly. Last year was rough and bumpy, and projects like this - especially ones that receive international success - are really uplifting and we’re so happy to be able to welcome professionals and productions from all around the world back to Vilnius.
LBB> This ad’s opening shot - with the neon red and blue lights - looks like it could be straight out of Blade Runner or Tron. Did you guys take any inspirations like that when it came to setting up this shoot?
Ema> Yamaha's MT-10 campaign is obviously all about the dark side of Tokyo city, and we needed to bring that vision to life.
The spiral neon light at the very top of the frame is actually a piece by a local artist, which found its permanent home in this industrial location a few years ago. Once we got the artist’s permission for it, the spiral piece mixed with the Tokyo dream idea later on inspired the production design for this shot, and beautifully matched the overall color palette.
A very talented duo of directors, Diego Indraccolo and Alice Gatti, already have massive experience on jobs like this. They kept everything very smooth between all departments, while doing a great job for the client with this new direction.
LBB> The film appears to take place in an Asian city - you can even see that in the signage on the roads! Where was it actually filmed, and how did you guys create that modern & eastern feel?
Ema> It was actually our biggest challenge to create that feeling in Vilnius city, which, being a very old European capital, of course has very little to do with Tokyo. A lot of great work was done in post, but of course we put up neon signs here and there. We surprised ourselves after seeing the final result - it inspired us and reminded us that Vilnius is actually a perfect blank canvas onto which filmmakers can build anything!
LBB> And how much of a challenge was it to secure those clear roads we see throughout the spot?
Ema> It took a lot of preparation but we have to thank Vilnius municipality for always being very open to filming work. Although they are precise and detailed on the preparation, it really makes such shooting days safe and easy.
The speed - of both the russian arm and the motorcycle - were high, and we had rain during the nights, so the conditions were not the easiest. That is where it really helped that we could close some roads completely for the whole shooting period and keep ourselves and others safe, which is always our main priority.
Under Armour: The Only Way Is Through
LBB> You guys were working with real athletes to bring this ad to life. How did you find that process, and what steps did you take to ensure the end result came across as authentic as possible?
Ema> The authenticity here was actually naturally brought about by the athletes themselves. All three - Larissa Herden, Fleur de Jong and Laura Freigang - were so crazily inspirational and they never cut a single corner, even when it came to the ice bath shot. We of course brought in loads of fake ice cubes and prepared to make it warm and nice, but the athlete then said that she wasn’t going to fake it and insisted on a real ice bath.
However, funny story - we somehow forgot to tell the stand-in actress that it was going to be a real ice bath, only realising when we saw her teeth chattering after quite some time. Seems that fighter spirit is contagious!
LBB> The ad seems to change between lots of different locations quite rapidly. How many sets and locations were actually involved, and was there a logistical challenge in filming this spot?
Ema> The director, Amara Abbas, together with our DP Jacob Møller, magically made casual sports locations look and feel very cinematic. It was actually our first sportswear commercial and we’ve been dreaming of doing one ever since we started doing service production.
Our location guys managed to gather the most interesting, even underground, sports areas around Vilnius. Sports locations are usually quite busy with all kinds of classes and competitions throughout the day, but careful planning let us play around every location that the creative team wanted.
LBB> Finally, what was the biggest challenge in filming this ad and how did you guys overcome it?
Ema> We actually had less than a week to prepare for the first shooting day. But the production, Iconoclast Germany, was together with us every step of the way. Having such special partners makes you want to do every single thing in your power to make it work smoothly and finally leave you wanting more and more, no matter how tough the process sometimes might be. We are forever grateful for our long-time partners Iconoclast Germany for putting their trust in us and bringing such a nice production work for our service.