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Making the Snowman-Saving Christmas Ad Shot on iPhone


The TBWA\Media Arts Lab team take LBB’s Ben Conway behind the scenes of their Apple Holiday Film ‘Saving Simon’, shot on the iPhone 13 Pro

Making the Snowman-Saving Christmas Ad Shot on iPhone

The ‘Shot on iPhone’ series is a simple but ingenious concept that produces some shockingly good spots time and time again, despite not being filmed with professional camera equipment.

Tasked with creating Apple’s latest holiday spot, the crew at TBWA\Media Arts Lab used this impressive platform once again, alongside Oscar-nominated, father and son directing duo Jason & Ivan Reitman, and created a heart-warming little film that’s full nostalgia, laughs and clever ways of using an iPhone to film an ad. Although you wouldn’t know if you weren’t told, all of the scenes were shot on the iPhone 13 Pro, using the latest features, consumer-grade apps and lenses, practical effects and a few DIY camera rigs.

The spot sees a little girl rescue a snowman called Simon from a destructive older sibling on a snowman-smashing spree - storing him in a freezer and preventing him from melting during holidays, power cuts and clumsily-left-open freezer doors for an entire year. Luckily, Simon survives… kind of? You can witness the twist for yourself - but it gives the girl a festive family bonding moment that will melt the icicles from the coldest of hearts.

The team at TBWA\Media Arts Lab find working on holiday campaigns a ‘really liberating’ experience, always searching for new and unique way of telling a Christmas story. According to them, the ‘Shot on iPhone’ platform provides the perfect opportunity to tell an intimate story about a family being together over the holidays, as well as allowing Apple’s technological developments to be shown off: “It’s an elevated product demo, so it gives us the freedom to beautifully tell the story while demonstrating the new capabilities of iPhone 13 Pro.”

Like many others creating ads at this time of year, they were wary of falling into the cliched pitfalls of holiday advertising - especially when working with the tried and tested themes of family and togetherness over the festive season. “We realised this holiday is one that a lot of us have been waiting a whole year, if not years, to see friends and family. From there, it was just about finding the right story that captures that feeling of perseverance.”

The idea of having a child save a snowman from a snowman-destroying older sibling - a familiar memory for many - came from the team’s experience of the last year and Christmas 2020, not to mention their own childhood memories: “We’re a team that’s split pretty evenly between the snowman-saviours and the snowman-destroyers… But the idea itself came from the shared reality of the past year. A lot of us couldn’t spend the holidays with our families over the last year, so the idea of keeping some small part of the holiday alive was really appealing.”

The production took place in New Jersey over four days and was a large undertaking, despite using the much smaller than usual camera equipment. Some of the TBWA\Media Arts Lab and other production crew staff were on-set, whilst others attended the shoot remotely. To capture all the footage, the team had three iPhone 13 Pros recording at all times, one operated by the DP, one operated by a second unit, and another operated by Jason Reitman.

To play into the strengths of the iPhone, the team decided to film with a handheld feel and scrambled together some rather rudimentary equipment to create some interesting camera placements for the shoots: “The Reitmans got creative with placing the camera, using nothing more than gaffer tape, Gorilla Pods, or the end of a hockey stick. There’s an overhead shot of the little girl opening the freezer that was achieved by simply taping the phone to the kitchen ceiling. That’s also how we achieved a lot of the freezer shots—just taping the iPhone to the freezer wall, pressing record, and reviewing after the fact.”

They also utilised the new features that the iPhone 13 Pro comes equipped with, including shooting the title sequence in macro and using the cinematic mode for the majority of the filming. The TBWA\Media Arts Lab team says: “The Reitmans and our cinematographer really loved the depth of field and look that Cinematic mode gave the footage. We also took advantage of the low light capabilities of the device. Everyone on set was constantly taken aback by how well iPhone shot at night.” The Reitmans were heavily involved in the creative process as well as in production, and incorporated their own designs, humour and emotion to make the spot their own. The team also believes that the directing pair being a father-son team helped them communicate the feel-good sentiment of the ad: “Being a father and son team made the whole experience, on set and off, collaborative and familial. It really was a holiday story about a family, made by a family.”

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TBWA\ Media Arts Lab Los Angeles, Tue, 21 Dec 2021 15:52:47 GMT