No matter how careful we are, accidents still happen. A simple mistake, an honest oversight, and the best laid plans can burn up like paper in fire. For a stunningly original web spot for Bulwark, the world’s largest manufacturer of flame-resistant apparel, ad agency Fitzgerald+CO (Fitzco) tapped the talents of design and live-action production company Superfad/NY and the intricate 3D paper sculpture of artist Jeff Nishinaka to focus on the fragility of human life.
Opening with a view of a startlingly white view of an industrial worksite, complete with oil derricks, exhaust manifolds, electrical switches and wires, and elaborate piping systems, the compelling 155-second film, “451o,” begins as a pristine oasis in the middle of a deserted area. As the camera travels through the site, three paper workers are revealed as workers. In one isolated corner, a flame begins to lick at the paper workscape before quickly spreading into an inferno. As the carefully constructed paper edifice is reduced to ashes, the scene changes to a mélange of paper letters. A right-to-left camera moves artfully arranges the letters into the phrase “Because People Aren’t Fireproof.”
“The inspiration for ‘451o’ came from Fitzco,” explains Geraint Owen, Executive Producer at Superfad/NY. “Bulwark specializes in fire-retardant clothing for electrical, industrial, and rig workers, and Fitzco wanted to focus on how delicate the relationship of human beings is with these often dangerous environments. During our research, we came across the remarkable work of Jeff Nishinaka, an amazing artist who does incredible things with precisely folded and bent paper. From that initial idea, the project really took off.”
Over a period of several months, Nishinaka created an incredible industrial model solely out of paper. Measuring ten feet across and over 12 feet tall, Nishinaka’s piece emerges as a remarkably soulful blend of high art and heavy industry. The sheer beauty of the structure is made all the more incredible by the fact that, from the start, it was meant to be consumed by flames.
“As Jeff was working on the piece, we were planning a carefully choreographed incineration,” says Owen. “We worked closely with an effects supervisor and pyrotechnics expert to ensure that the burning proceeded just the way we wanted. The entire process was a complex collaboration. We built smaller versions of the model to time out the shot, and also created a digital 3D model and animatic to completely pre-visualize the burning. We carefully scouted locations that would be sufficiently barren, while also protecting the piece from the wind and other natural elements. We employed eight different cameras to ensure a compelling take on the entire burn. It was a fascinating process, taking a piece of fine art through the production process to transform it into what is essentially a piece of highly controlled performance art.”
To further solidify the ominous and visceral tone of the piece, Superfad worked closely with Massive Music to determine the appropriate soundtrack for the film.
“Superfad is very excited about this project, because it drew on all the components of what we love to do,” says Owen. “After careful choreography of how the fire starts, how it burns, and how it travels, we did all the color correction and graphic enhancement to get just the right look and feel. It was such an amazing process that we filmed every minute of Jeff’s conception and creation of his art, which we turned into a time-lapse video. For the burn itself, we knew we would only get one shot at it: we used eight different cameras, including a RED, an Alexa, and several SLRs, together with an elevated rig to view the entire structure from the top.”
The spot went live online on June 4, 2012.
Director - Brian Drucker
Director of Photography - Colin Watkinson
Producer - Scott Ludden
Editor - Greg Slagle
Senior Compositor - Adrian Winter
Senior Producer - Emily Sussman
Executive Producer - Geraint Owen
Music: Massive Music