The latest work to come from direct-to-brand production company HighlyUnlikely’s collaboration with The LEGO Agency sees the LEGO Technic range hacked, with the famous bricks making up some of the brand’s most popular motorised sets, retailored to form incredible machines that turn the most mundane of morning activities into something fantastic.
The HighlyUnlikely production team, led by director Michael Middelkoop, worked with inventor and YouTuber Joseph Herscher from Joseph’s Machines (with over 1.5mil. followers) to transform LEGO pieces into working Rube Goldberg machines you’d be able to recreate at home, using only the featured LEGO Technic pieces. From throwing that irksome morning alarm clock out the window, to blending your breakfast smoothies and delivering you your eggs on toast, ‘Hack the Pullback’ encourages inventors both young and old to find the creative potential in ordinary objects.
A creative commitment was made from the start that all the machines would work and be captured ‘in camera’ without trickery or reliance on post. As HighlyUnlikely EP Alex Davis explains: “It meant that Middelkoop and Herscher’s understanding of the others’ role was paramount - with the director’s creative choices never disregarding the technicality of the machines and likewise the inventor always taking into account that this was a piece of advertising with a product to promote and a director’s narrative to communicate.”
Joseph was given three weeks to perfect his chain reaction machines, with the intentional design of performing simple tasks in an indirect and overly complicated manner being what gives his creations much of their comedic and narrative power. With the support of two assistants Joseph spent one week on design, one on intense building and then the final week focused on testing and perfecting his creations.
The trials and tribulations of perfecting his machines were second nature to Joseph compared to then having to take them into a space where they needed to not only perform properly but also be built in a way that meant one-take shots could be captured;
“My biggest concern was the amount of time we would have to shoot. Normally my machines take 40 to 100 takes to get a perfect run through. That wasn’t an option for us on set, so we had to make the machines be more reliable than normal whilst still being cool. The camera choreography was challenging, but Carl (Burke, DoP) was very talented, and it all paid off!”
For the team put together by HighlyUnlikely to create ‘Hack the Pullback’, part of the joy of the project came from the surprising possibilities that arose from leaning into each other’s areas of expertise and allowing for that amalgamation of knowledgeable voices to create something together. This was the case from very early on in the creative process with The LEGO Agency and ran right through till the shoot wrapped.
As director Michael Middelkoop explains: “We took more time than usually reserved for writing a treatment, because the writing came with a lot of research and development. It was a very new and refreshing approach: as we were coming up with ideas and situations, Joseph and his team could make rudimentary tests to check the feasibility and we then adjusted the script accordingly. A lot of the tests led to surprising possibilities that we never would have come up with otherwise so having the freedom from the client to take the toys apart, rebuild and remix them became an incredible brainstorming tool. It definitely freed up our creativity in a way that just sticking to the script wouldn’t have offered us.”
‘Hack the Pullback’ is now live around the world, accompanied by a BTS video on how Joseph from Joseph’s Machines created his machines for the spot, plus extra content that helps guide you as you build some of the inventions Joseph came up with for LEGO.