Ringan Ledwidge reveals the tricky shoot behind the effortlessly romantic spot
John Lewis commercials have become something of an institution in the UK. Nostalgic without being twee, emotional without being emetic, in recent years the commercials have helped magnify public fondness for the employee-owned company. The recent commercial, which plays with the heritage of the store’s ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ motto, is no exception. A split screen spot that portrays a romance that seems to cross the decades, the ad was created by adam&eveDDB and Rattling Stick director Ringan Ledwidge. We caught up with Ledwidge to find out more.
LBB> What was the brief like from the agency and what were your immediate thoughts on the script?
RL> Laurent and Aidan came to me with a very clear and strong idea. Then it was a case of us working together to bring it to life and importantly not let technique get in the way of the story.
LBB> What was the pre-production process like - how did you go about developing the aesthetic of the spot? Were there any particular inspirations?
RL> With regard to the aesthetic of the spot, my main intention was to let the actors and the story drive whatever decisions I made. I wanted to stay pure to the idea of putting two separate pieces of film together to create one story. Executing it was complex in regards to making the frames work together but I didn't want to be a slave to it.
LBB> You have worked with John Lewis and the adam&eve crew before - what is it about John Lewis as a brand that you enjoy working on it?
RL> I have indeed worked with them before. adam&eve are great, a really good bunch of people and very supportive and trusting of creative people and the ideas they bring to the table. John Lewis also put a lot of trust in you so you feel obliged to try and make something great for them. There are differences of opinion at times, but it's always about how to make something better. That's no bad thing and it's good to be able to have frank creative conversations with the client.
LBB> What was the shoot like - where did it take place, how long did it take?
RL> How was the shoot? Brutal if I'm honest. We were reaching far beyond the budget and the four days we had to shoot it. We had a lot of location moves, studio builds and technical difficulties to deal with. The success of the film is down to Sally (my producer), Unit Sofa (the service company in Prague, where we shot) and the whole crew, particularly the art department, who went above and beyond.
LBB> As with most of John Lewis's recent work, this spot is billed as an 'emotional epic' - how did you work with the actors to get their performances just right? And how difficult is it to achieve that balance of being emotive without being slushy and sentimental?
RL> The key to any good piece of film is the cast. You can do everything else right but if the cast isn't good you'll lose people. I work with a great casting agency in Paris called 'Joule'. Over the years Juliette and I have done a lot together. She has her finger on the pulse and always brings in wonderful talent. This time it was Alice and Thomas, two wonderful French actors.
LBB> It looks like telecine and post play a big part in achieving the difference in 'look' between the warm, vintage element and the cool contemporary half of the screen. Who did you work with on that, and what did that bring to the spot?
RL> Telecine and post obviously play a part in the final result but maybe not as much as it seems. The looks of each era were pre-determined, shot on the same focal lengths but with different quality lenses and stocks. All we really had to do in TK was bring out their inherent qualities a little more. Post-wise, the majority was done in camera and the splits are two different pieces of film put together. Of course there is finessing which the guys at the Mill did wonderfully, but hopefully I didn't make it too tricky for them.
Agency: Adam & Eve
Client: John Lewis
Creative: Ben Priest, Ben Tollett, Emer Stamp, Aiden McClure, Laurent Simon, Frank Ginger, Shay Reading