Valentine’s Day is the perfect time for marketers to hit consumers with big, deep, emotive stories of companionship and everlasting love. Vehicle rental service Sixt opted for that approach this year… almost. This gorgeous three-minute film by thjnk Munich and tempomedia’s Laurent Chanez tells the story of Laura as she embarks on an intrepid journey to find a lost love. We won’t reveal much more as we don’t want to give away the surprising twist at the end - you can find that out for yourself by watching below.
LBB’s Addison Capper spoke with thjnk Munich Managing Director Francisca Maass and director Laurent Chanez to find out more.
LBB> Francisca, what was the initial brief like from Sixt? When did the kind of anti-Valentine’s comedic approach come into play?
FM> The brief was just to do an international emotional commercial that is different. The comedic approach came into the play because the brand is well known for its special humour. So it was clear: if we wanted to strengthen the brand and be on strategy it had to be funny at the end.
LBB> Where did you look for inspiration for the overarching love story?
FM> In our lives.
LBB> Why was Laurent the right director to handle this film?
FM> Because he has a very special way to tell stories. There are a lot of emotional commercials out there – and we wanted to be different. We wanted to make a short film not a classical commercial. He told Laura’s story in a very touching and special way.
LBB> Laurent, what was it about the script that made you want to get involved?
LC> Well, there are different levels. First of all, it is a story, a journey, a personal adventure. The idea of the story was immediately important to me. A woman who takes on a personal challenge. She is ready to face her present and embrace her immediate future. But I liked this emotional journey with the possibility to radically transform the story at the end. At the moment, many spots are (or try to be) emotional (for Mother's Day, Christmas, etc.) and finally this had a creative twist for an unexpected end! It was in the minds of creative artists Florian Weber and Francisca Maass of thjnk, and it was a fantastic idea. I wanted to make this film.
LBB> The spot is quite long, which I think is necessary for the twist at the end to have the desired effect. How did you ensure people stayed tuned in for the whole thing?
LC> You never know if people will stay tuned. But I believe in the whole thing. Good pictures, a story, music, etc. I think there's an audience for that. More than we think.
LBB> As Laura’s journey begins to become for troublesome, it almost feels as though the editing and camerawork gets more erratic to mirror it - would you agree with that? Is it something that you kept in mind?
LC> I wanted the edit and structure to shape the story in such a way that it reflects her personality through memories. Memories of the past, but also of the present. Fragments of her journey. We never fully remember the past as it was, or articulate the present as a completely clean linear form. There are different fragments, composed like a collage, which brings the story alive. I worked closely with Richard Mettler (editor) for many years. Richard is a feature film editor and, like in a movie, he worked with layers to develop the story and Laura's character.
LBB> How did you pull off the final scene?
LC> The last scene was very challenging due to the location and time of day and I wanted it to take place at dawn. We could only shoot it early in the morning and started shooting at 4:30am. It was extremely difficult to shoot such a complex scene because the time window for this moment, just before sunrise, is only 20 minutes long in summer! So we went there twice to take all the shots. We did all the important takes first, the main action, the final meeting between Laura and Tom, and then a few more – like the driving sequence and the arrival – the day after.
We were really well prepared. I rehearsed a lot with the actors before the scene. They played all emotions, all kinds of versions. We rehearsed everything, including the Steadycam moves on location, a few days before to be ready and to not waste any time during the shoot day. It was a very precise choreography.
The combination of extreme preparation, but at the same time only having two or three chances of capturing the film, was interesting in a way. You have to be extremely focused and believe in yourself.
LBB> There are some big, striking locations in the film - where did you shoot and why?
LC> We shot in Uruguay and did a lot of scouting to find the right places. Sometimes it is only the framing that makes a location or the light at the right moment.
LBB> What were you looking for with the overall look and aesthetic?
LC> For me, the most important thing was to get as close as possible to Laura's personality and emotions. That's why I decided to shoot with wide-angle lenses to get close to her feelings. And it became part of the general aesthetic. Benoit Soler (DOP) agreed with this idea. We wanted to use minimum light, not only for practical reasons, but to bring a naturalistic aesthetic and a real honesty to the film. We wanted this film to be truthful and honest on different levels.
LBB> So much of the spot lies on the lady playing Laura - there’s her big, emotional journey and then a quick change of feelings at the end. What was the casting process like and what was it about this actress that was right for the role?
LC> Like I said, we did a lot of rehearsals. But first of all, it was all on Avenda Burnell Walsh. She is an actress with a unique aura. I went to London to make the final recall for the casting, and that’s when I first met Avenda. I already liked her on the casting tape and I was hoping she would be the one. When I personally saw her, I immediately knew that she was impersonating Laura. One can immediately read everything out of her eyes. She can perform with her eyes. Avenda had to convey complex emotions simultaneously and without almost no words – only through her body language – and it is a difficult thing to do. Her sincere corporeality and spirituality on this journey are translated absolutely on screen. She was indispensable for the film.
LBB> Francisca, what kind of reaction have you seen to the campaign?
FM> Everyone was surprised by the ending. Nobody saw it coming. So that’s quite good. The campaign is working internationally in Sixt countries like Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, France, UK, USA, Netherlands, Italy and Spain and that’s a huge commitment Sixt achieved.
LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them?
LC> Well... everything was! This spot was shot in a special way. We travelled a lot. The distance between the locations, the different times of day at which we wanted to shoot the scenes, the location restrictions, etc. As usual! But I had a lot of fun shooting this spot for Sixt, with a fantastic collaboration with Florian Weber (Executive Creative Director) – a collaboration which is rare at this level. Everyone agreed. We almost made it like a short film. It was a great experience.
FM> The casting. It was pretty clear that the film would depend on it. And the length. I mean, almost every client tries to do shorter versions. So, thanks to a great and very brave client.