A new spec ad from director Eugen Merher tells the dramatic story of a 12 year old boy as he transforms into a vampire, but with a clever twist at the end.
Eugen is still a student at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg but if his name sounds familiar that’s because he’s made breathtaking spec ads before in the form of Adidas ‘Break Free’ and Calvin Klein ‘Love’.
Told in the style of an epic film trailer, it tells the story of Lamar, who needs to become a tough vampire like Dracula and take his fate into his own hands to get what he needs in order to survive. ‘Dark Red’ tells the story of a boy tragically becoming a vampire, despite his good heart, only to realise that the true reason for his transformation is his powerlessness – the same powerlessness you feel as a blood cancer patient waiting for a stem cell donation.
Eugen worked with the same core team as last time, with Philip Chrobot as producer and Mortimer Hochberg as cinematographer. This time they collaborated on the script and shot everything in London and Liverpool.
At the end of the spot the viewer is redirected to a microsite that the students are hosting themselves: fightbloodcancer.net
LBB’s Alex Reeves asked Eugen for a bit more detail on this cinematic epic of a spec ad.
LBB> What was the initial idea for the film?
Eugen> Since Dark Red was a film school project, we didn’t have a brief – we have to come up with our own ideas and briefs, so to speak. We set ourselves the goal to shoot a social film that immerses the audience from start to finish in a cinematic world, almost like an epic movie trailer. With this strategy in mind, we wanted people to watch it until the very end, because we felt like we’re too used to cheesy social spots and once we smell them in the beginning, we tend to click away.
LBB> How did the idea evolve?
Eugen> The original idea to use a vampire story for a blood cancer advert has been in my mind for a while. But I thought it was too obvious so I dismissed it at first. But when we had a deadline in film school and needed to come up with an idea for a project, I told my producer Philip Chrobot and my cinematographer Mortimer Hochberg about it. We picked up the concept again and added some grit and authenticity to it. This is how the documentary-style approach with the boy recording his transformation into a vampire on a tape recorder was born.
LBB> What was the biggest challenge of the shoot?
Eugen> I wanted the film to almost feel like a documentary about a boy who is truly turning into a vampire. This is what made the whole idea interesting to me. This is also why we said we need everything to be as authentic as possible. We wanted a boy from the Black British community as our main cast, so we had to shoot the piece in the U.K. Given that we’re based in southern Germany and had a very restricted budget, this seemed almost impossible - and it nearly was, to be honest. We learned the hard way that you barely get anything for free, let alone for a discounted rate in the U.K., even if you insist on the fact that you’re shooting a student project. So naturally everyone had to do several jobs at once, it wouldn’t have worked otherwise. Our producer Philip Chrobot, with help from local producer Tatenda Jamera from the NFTS school in London, managed the whole shoot in spite of our limited resources – huge kudos for that.
LBB> What is your strongest memory of the production?
Eugen> Aside from the tough shooting conditions due to our restricted budget, the strongest memory I have is actually from preproduction. As we were researching blood cancer, I visited a boy with leukaemia in a children’s hospital. It was an almost surreal experience, because he was only 11 years old, yet he talked to me like he was a grown up. He was emanating a very calming and strong aura - something I have never seen in a kid before. This inspired us to focus more on the vampire boy's storyline of becoming a strong adult who leaves his childhood behind.
Director: Eugen Merher
Producer: Philip Chrobot, Gerrit Klein
Production Company: Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg GmbH
Cinematographer: Mortimer Hochberg
Production Design: Maike Kiefer