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Behind the Work: Vodafone Ireland’s Christmas Tale of Love

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Academy Film’s directing duo, US - Christopher Barrett and Luke Taylor - talk about avoiding ‘tourist heaven’ and authentically capturing Ireland, writes LBB’s Nisna Mahtani

Behind the Work: Vodafone Ireland’s Christmas Tale of Love


Long-distance relationships are tough, especially when you have the added obstacle of an unreliable internet connection. This Christmas, Vodafone Ireland, Grey and Academy Films share a story set over several Christmases, ending with a happy reunion which is supported by the ability to ‘believe in stronger connections’.

The story takes us to rural Ireland, where a young farmer and career-driven woman begin their relationship. With the lack of connectivity and desire to pursue her career, the young couple part ways, only to see each other every year at Christmas. As the young farmer’s rural setting gains the benefit of improved connectivity, the couple speaks more often and eventually, the young woman returns to set up shop in the, now reliably connected, town. 
 
Working hard to avoid cliches and capture an authentic story, local farmers, jewellers and the local Wren Society all aided in keeping the crew away from the nearby ‘tourist heaven’ spots, instead winding up at Irish pubs, local farms and telling a story that so many expats can connect with as they return home for the holidays.
 
The directing pair, US, consisting of Christopher Barrett and Luke Taylor, speak to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani as they explain how the crew kept them on track for local success, the arduous editing process and the pub singalong that left everyone a little dishevelled. 
 
 

 
 

LBB> A local farmer, jeweller and the Wren Society were all involved in the creation of this campaign. Why was it important to tell such an authentically Irish story?

 
Chris / Luke> Well I think from day one, the heart of this idea was all about authenticity. Grey had written moments into the original script that tried to reflect a real Ireland. Then working with Big Fish, the local production team, we continued to push this idea when it came to locations and cast. It also played a vital role in creating a contrast between being home and moving away to pursue a dream. It also helps having an Irish EP, thanks Medb.
 
 
 

LBB> Where did the initial idea to tell the story like this come from and how involved were Vodafone in the process?

 
Chris / Luke> It was there from day one, the creative directors Roberto Kilciauskas and Pedro Rosa are both from Brazil and so they know first hand that idea and feeling of living away from home. Everyone was super excited about the story and the characters, I think it’s a universal feeling that so many of us have to face. The big challenge was trying to tell this epic story in such a short amount of time. But hats off to Vodafone because they really trusted us and understood that we had to be open and let the story naturally come to life on set and in the edit. 
 
 
 

LBB> With the advice from locals, can you tell us about the adaptations (within the script and/or direction) you made to create the final campaign?

 
Chris / Luke> Sure. I mean a lot of it happened on our location recce. Over the years we’ve learned that what may excite you about a new city or country, to local people, is not real or authentic. It’s always about balancing an interesting and exciting visual with an eye on authenticity. I remember we were in one small town and I asked if we could move further down the street, as it looked intriguing. The Irish crew stopped me in my tracks and said that’s ‘tourist heaven’ and the locals wouldn't go there. 
 
Also when we visited the farms it was a great opportunity to get first hand research: ‘Do you wear this? How do you do that?’ 
 
But I think the only major adaptation was the pub location. We had one pub which was honestly one of the most cinematic locations I’ve ever visited, and then we also had a really authentic local pub that, to be honest, was quite normal, visually. It was really hard to step away from something you know will be beautiful because it's not realistic to the characters' story. Again this was where the local crew and production came in. They reassured me that the one we chose felt much more like a place everyone knows, across the country, and would go to at Christmas. 
 

 
 

LBB> The ad encourages viewers to ‘believe in stronger connections’. Why was this an important message to convey?

 
Chris / Luke> I think more than ever we are all feeling like we need stronger connections to our family and friends. Especially at Christmas this year. I know over the years I’d have been lost without being able to pick up my phone and video call loved ones. I think it’s something we take for granted these days but it’s quite incredible when you stop to think about it. 
 
 
 

LBB> From start to finish, how long did it take to create the campaign?

 
Chris / Luke> We received the script from Grey in the middle of September. It then came out at the end of November. 
 
 
 

LBB> During the editing process, you had to combine all the different Christmas scenes to create a cohesive story. Did you face any challenges with this and can you elaborate on them?

 
Chris / Luke> Without a doubt the hardest part of this process was the edit. We shot three days of footage and had quite a tight deadline to show a first cut. Stephen Dunne at Ten Three did a fantastic job at trying out every possible option and really focused on our lead characters' story. We tried not to worry about all the other things. We knew that if we could capture their emotion and make the audience connect with them, then all that other stuff would fade into the background. I’d say the biggest challenge was the balance between the two characters. We could watch one cut and you’d feel way too sorry for Joe or in another, you wouldn’t feel enough. The other challenge was trying to make their narrative unexpected. Life, as we all know, isn’t A to B. There are always bumps in the road and it was trying to add that into such a short passage of time. 
 

 
 

LBB> The story is set across several Christmases with fleeting moments of meeting, but we want to know, were there any scenes that you shot but didn’t make it into the final piece? If so, what can you tell us about them?

 
Chris / Luke> Every scene we shot is featured in the final film. There were obviously specific shots and moments with the scenes we all LOVED, but had to drop due to time. 
 
 
 

LBB> We love hearing about funny or surprising behind the scenes moments. Can you share any with us?

 
Chris / Luke> The extras we had were fantastic! At one stage, they got so carried away singing Fairytale of New York we had to cut and calm down, as everyone looked like they’d been in the pub all night! There was such great camaraderie between them, the Irish are so naturally open and friendly. The moments were hard to stop filming, and it was honestly really difficult to not try to capture every character there! Molly, our DOP was also fantastic at finding special moments between everyone. 
 
 
 

LBB> Are there any other thoughts you’d like to share?

 
Chris / Luke> The only other thing is to just say a huge thank you to the local cast and crew. It was so much fun and they worked so hard. Then also to Grey and Vodafone. It was such a great collaboration. 



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Genres: Storytelling

Academy Films, Mon, 20 Dec 2021 17:32:00 GMT