Your Shot… Bob Marley ‘Legend’ Album Re-release
NP> I had just finished the Rizzle Kicks commercial for their new album and Island records product manager, Olivia Nunn was really happy with what we had created for her. She told me that she had another project for Bob Marley’s ‘Legend’ album re-release and asked if I would pitch for it. They wanted something different, not the bog standard graphics album commercial spot, something that stood out and connected with the youth. Whilst on the phone with Olivia, I suddenly thought ‘Oh my God, why don’t you film a graffiti artist painting a huge, huge mural of Bob Marley. Locate it in a derelict warehouse, or some edgy, urban backdrop and just film the whole event. Film from beginning to end and condense it down into a 60’ commercial. She said, ‘I love it. Write it up’. And so I did. I wrote it up and then I thought, ‘shit, I’ve now got to find a graffiti artist that can do this on a tiny budget’. So, I started searching for the graffiti artist, thought it best to find the talent and make sure we could actually do this first before putting the team together.
I contacted several agents and gave them a very short brief, but didn’t disclose who the artist we wanted captured was. I wanted to see whether they were interested in the idea and, on the whole, they were. DFace was really keen. He really wanted to do it but he wanted to charge a large amount and that didn’t even include owning the piece at the end, it was solely to produce the piece with further costs for Universal (Island records is part of Universal Music) if they wanted to keep it. A few other graffiti artists contacted me, but their work was more graphic based stencils, they weren’t photo realistic. I started to get concerned. It’s quite a tall order to find a really talented artist that could pull this off on a very small budget. Luckily, my boyfriend knows Alex Young aka Odisy Young and he suggested him to me. Alex has been a graffiti artist since he was a kid and he used to spray trains, walls…you name it, he sprayed it He lives and breathes it. Day-to-day he works as a tattoo artist to earn money and he also does illustration but his great passion is graffiti. It took a while, but I eventually got hold of him and he was completely up for doing it. It was like a revelation for me, such a relief. He didn’t mind doing the work for the price, because he saw the merit in the work and having his name associated with the campaign. He was really excited about it - which was amazing.
So, now I had the artist and I had to find the setting. I went to about three or four locations but the one that I found and fell in love with was Godson’s Brewery in East London. Trouble was, it didn’t have any electricity, it was open to the heavens and as such, all the rain had come in. There were so many pigeons. They were everywhere and there was pigeon poo all over the floor. Literally - it was a dumping ground, but it had something really special about it and there was this fantastic framework for us to attach the huge canvas to. This meant that the artist could move up and down the stairs, around the canvas, and he’d be able to spray from the top. It was this adult climbing frame, an adventure playground. That was it for me, I had to have that space and so I beat them down on the price. We needed it for two days and then I suddenly thought, ‘shit, how do I build the canvas? I can’t build the canvas’. Luckily, Simon Wye (art department and camera), my partner in crime here at Spin said, ‘I’ll do it, I can build it’. He came down, measured up, produced drawings and devised the framework for the canvas to sit on. He spent a couple of days building the 8ft by 4ft sheets with the framework around them so that on the day he could construct the canvas. It was really impressive, worked perfectly and was amazing considering he’d constructed it all over a weekend in his back garden.
The technique we chose to use was time lapse photography, as it is a good way of documenting the whole process. We captured the creation of the canvas from 7am until 5pm; the piece took six hours to make. Cameras were set up at different angles to capture the work in progress. I was concerned that it can be quite boring watching paint dry, but the artist put me at ease… he was like ‘I’m going to use mops, I’m going to use paint brushes, I’m going to throw paint, I’m going to use my hands’. He was all over it and as such, it was more like a performance piece, he wanted to make it as engaging as possible. To capture those moments, I wanted to make it slow motion, so you focus in on this mop being thrown at Bob Marley’s hair… Imagine if it had hit his forehead or it landed in his eye? The guy is a genius. It’s thanks to Alex that the film looks this great. Without his talent, it wouldn’t be what it is.
The brief from the client was that they wanted to connect with ‘youth’. In my opinion, kids don’t respond to standard, straightforward commercials for albums - they need something different. I wanted them to see the piece being revealed; for them to feel a part of it, for them to have some connection with something that they are interested in or that will keep them hooked, inspire them to watch on, hold their attention; to connect a younger generation with Bob Marley, for them to see how he is relevant to them, even now, so many years after his death and the height of his fame. I spoke with Universal and they organised for some of their artists to come down and be there, interacting with the work that was being created – young artists whose work has been influenced by artists such as Bob Marley and so we got Rizzle Kicks to come down. They engaged with the work, spent time with us, talked about the work online; where they were, what they were doing, how they were involved, their love of Bob, the work, the artist and to get their followers, the kids, excited and tweeting about the piece as it was being created.
I would have liked, and I did suggest, that there should have been a competition to accompany the work. I wanted people to be able to win posters of the work, be able to download the image for their phone, stickers of the painting for their handhelds…So many ideas, but we were really restricted on funds, so we used what we could: Facebook and Twitter. It worked and that’s why Rizzle Kicks are in the commercial.
The painting was bought by Universal as a separate deal between them and the artist, which was unusual as Odisy Young usually destroys his work after it has been seen. But he and I both agree that we would like it to eventually be auctioned off for charity, something that was important to Bob Marley, something around freedom perhaps. It’s apt at the moment, not only is there the rerelease of ‘Legend’ and the film ‘Marley’ but this year marks the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence (http://bit.ly/r5SQHi
It was a lot of hard work, a whole month of organizing. I had to try to get everything on a tight budget which made it quite stressful, but luckily the people that I did have around me were really supporting me and that’s how we pulled it off. It was a great team. Who knows what will happen with the painting in the future. For now he sits in the window of Universal Music’s headquarters here in London. Maybe he’ll be auctioned off for charity, maybe they’ll keep him as the face of Island Records. Maybe he’ll stay as a permanent feature within their premises, but for now we can watch and revisit him in the commercial. It, in itself, is a great tribute to an amazing artist by another artist.