If Massif’s Marc Sidelsky’s latest spot is anything to go by then words such as ‘unprecedented’, ‘new normal’ and ‘pandemic’ will be joined by another that we’ve been hearing a lot over the past few months: weird. The latest Nike x Stüssy collaboration spot for Shelflife sneakers centres around the word while showing off a new style of fashion film that is as understated as it is charming.
The clip is a conversation between friends about a weird dream one had but is beautifully written with the products so subtly showcased throughout each scene that it’s easy to forget you’re witnessing a brand campaign. Of course filming this during lockdown in South Africa presented its challenges but the end result is an engaging spot toying with what it is to be ‘weird’.
LBB’s Natasha Patel caught up with Marc to find out what inspired the campaign and if he’ll ever hear the word weird in the same way again.
LBB> What was the initial brief for this campaign?
Marc> I’m a big sneakerhead and lover of streetwear. With this scene in mind, Shelflife has made big waves in South Africa, in a short space of time. Late last year I reached out to Nick Herbert, Shelflife founder, via a mutual friend. I expressed my passion for the brand and told him I’d love to collaborate should the right project come along. We kept in touch.
Earlier this year, I went to Cape Town on holiday, where Nick is based. We met up in person and he revealed some interesting projects they had in the pipeline. Shortly after I returned to Johannesburg, he mentioned the forthcoming Stussy x Nike collaboration, he sent me some confidential images of the line…. I was psyched that it was an opportunity to shape a piece for a rounded collection, not just sneakers. I told him I’d get back to him with a pitch.
LBB> How did the brief end up as ‘Weird’ and when it came to writing the script, what inspired the conversation?
Marc> In the last couple years I’d worked on a few campaigns for local fashion retailers. I’d begun to ponder the tone of most fashion advertising. Why couldn’t it be concept-based? Why couldn’t it be funny? How about an engaging, stylish, darkly amusing tale where the clothes were integrated seamlessly…being key to the plot? No one needs to see more ads of people posing against a graffiti wall, holding flares or staring humourlessly into camera. So that was my headspace.
Somehow, this back and forth of someone describing a dream to his friend occurred to me. People love talking about their dreams, juiced on how ‘weird’ they are. I liked the idea of someone describing a dream, convinced it’s ‘weird’, his friend confirming it’s ‘weird’, but part of the joke being…it’s not that ‘weird’. Then when we reveal ‘reality’…it’s mind meltingly ‘weird’. I thought this would be a great framework for this bold collection. I wrote the script – laid it out visually and sent it to Nick. He got back to me quickly saying he loved it.
LBB> How was shooting during lockdown in South Africa?
Marc> South Africa is currently in a version of Level three lockdown; masks are compulsory. The shoot was completed over two days earlier in July. Social distancing was practiced, temperatures were taken twice a day, locations were fogged before and after shooting.
The film was produced by Ying-Poi De Lacy of Little League Films, the content division affiliated with Massif. She is highly creative, methodical and caring for her cast and crew. These trying times require production that is efficient and thoughtful – thanks to Ying, we had that.
LBB> From a production perspective what were the biggest challenges?
Marc> Casting was stressful. I knew the film’s success would rest on the performances. Although I wrote it to be delivered in a deadpan manner. If it’s TOO flat, it doesn’t work. There still needed to be hills and valleys, light and shade, but within a narrow band. I sent the script out to a few actors I’d worked with previously. I had shot a very successful KFC campaign with Sechaba Ramphele, just prior to lockdown, and after I saw his self-tape, I couldn’t see anyone else in the role. He really nailed it. I had previously shot a Castle Beer ad with Matthew Berry. He was also fantastic.
There was a worry about the clothing, the sneakers in particular, arriving in time. Because of the pandemic, firm dates on shipment arrivals were not easy… the wardrobe call was continuously up in the air. I was ecstatic once I knew we had all the merchandise.
LBB> I love that the clothing is subtly placed and doesn’t detract from the campaign as a whole. How did you go about creating something of substance that was still able to keep viewers interested?
Marc> The film is a complex balancing act. I wanted to create something that was aesthetically striking, funny – in a smart, offbeat way,. hypnotic and dreamy. I mentioned earlier that I have serious fatigue with regards to the clichés of modern fashion advertising, like lame posturing. I’m also tired of rapid cutting, flash frames, shifting formats. I wanted to make something slower, elegant, crisp, rhythmic and mesmerizing.
I always wanted the clothing to be vital to the storytelling; key to the humour, key to the idea – but in a playful way, it's very meta. The clothing completes the jokes, threads the narrative together. It was a challenge to make it all feel seamless and singular. I’m overjoyed that it seems to have clicked with people.
LBB> How much inspiration did you take from being isolated and doing activities such as running at night?
Marc> I’ve never thought of the film reflecting my ‘isolated-lockdown’ headspace…but maybe it does! There are definitely many autobiographical aspects. My dog’s name is Teddy, I do give him the milk out of my cereal bowl, my youngest brother is a dentist (that is him, at his practice). And I’m NOT a hat guy. However, you definitely can’t go running at night in South Africa!
LBB> Will the word ‘weird’ ever be the same again for you?
Marc> Don’t think so, I’ve realised now that I do use the word a lot. But now I’m becoming self-conscious about it.