The Sweet Shop’s Mark Albiston on Getting Emotional for Three Ireland’s ‘Marathon Man’
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Director recently finished a series of films through agency Boys and Girls
Three Ireland has really been pulling on the heartstrings with its latest campaign. Launched by agency Boys and Girls to promote the network’s ‘all you can eat data’ plan, the central point of the campaign is a heartwarming film, directed by The Sweet Shop’s Mark Albiston, about a son and father that run a marathon together. Shorter, supportive films have also launched, each one highlighting how all of that fruitful data can enrich poignant moments of family life.
Director Mark discusses how he brought them to life.
Q> It’s very hard to watch ‘Marathon Man’ without getting a lump in your throat. Tell us about the starting point of the campaign. What kind of brief did you receive and what were you thinking when you saw it?
A> The original script was really nice and simple. A man running, he seems fit so why is he last? Then we reveal it’s his father that he’s been running alongside the whole race. I really liked the idea, I read it to my wife and she got a bit teary, so I was like, if we can get the right performances it could be nice.
Q> And did each script resonate with you on an emotional level?
A> Each of the scripts had a simple yarn to tell. The ‘Face Time Fail’ script made me laugh when I read it because we’ve all got relatives like the dad in this film. And who doesn’t want to see a baby puking rainbows…?
Q> What was the casting process like?
A> Casting was a lot of fun with these films. I have to take my hat off to Boys and Girls, as they let me cast my first choices even when they didn’t quite see what I did. Ian Rickets, who plays the father in the marathon scene, was absolutely amazing. He’s a dance and movement tutor. He fell over the line for eight takes straight. The man’s as fit as a fiddle and falling was a big part of his stretching practice. He had me mesmerised in his casting. To Ian everything in the world is interesting. I had him running for every take even when he was out of shot. I did it so he’d use up his energy and ‘feel' the race. I didn’t get him the least bit tired at 81. It was pretty remarkable.
For ‘Facetime Fail’ the performance was just as important as any of the other spots, despite only ever seeing dad once upside down on the phone. The night before the shoot I had the actors go out for dinner and lead each other blind folded around the hotel. It really worked for the scene. There was real frustration and love there! We played the scene live so there was a real FaceTime call rolling the whole time. It worked nicely I think.
Ian loved telling remarkable stories with a tonne of enthusiasm. To get the laughter and exhaustion across the finish line, I had him tell the stories to his screen son Seamus who would crack up every time.
Seamus loved the process and Ian’s energy sparked some great moments.
Q> What were you trying to evoke with the art direction, aesthetics and cinematic feel of the spots?
A> I was aiming for each spot to feel very real, but with a magical energy. I shot the ‘Marathon Man’ in magic hour/early evening over three consecutive days. It needed to feel as though they’d been running for the whole day and the light was being taken away from them. Long shadows and the flashing lights of the cavalcade, the chicken suit and the girls going out on a hen night were good fun and played against our exhausted hero nicely.
With the other scripts, early soft light into the daughter’s flat in ‘FaceTime Fail’ was a dream – the flat we chose didn’t need any lighting at all, it was all natural. I love that – it feels effortless and authentic.
Q> What were the trickiest components during the creation of this campaign and how did you overcome them?
A> We shot the commercials in Cluj and travelled most of the cast from Ireland and the UK. Working around a busy city is a challenge, ‘Marathon Man’ required shooting in last light, but the city was a lot easier to work in in the morning. So that’s what we did - up at 3am in the morning.
Other than that, the process was a lot of fun and the Boys and Girls team wrote some nice scripts and backed my process, even when they weren’t sure at times. That makes life easy.