Organising Chaos

July 27, 2012 / Signed/Unsigned

By Alex Reeves

While London gets a bit clogged up, Tourism Ireland suggest you escape eastward for a couple of pints of the black stuff.

London life this summer is going to be dramatic at best and a sweaty, crowded nightmare at worst. Responding to this, and without mentioning the fearful O word, Tourism Ireland have launched a cheeky viral film, directed by Pat Holden of Crossroads Films, to tempt you across the Irish Sea. We asked some of the people behind the film about how their guerrilla-shot ad was born.

Product: Tourism Ireland
Title: The Race
Production Company: Crossroads Films UK
Director: Pat Holden
Production Producer: Michelle Stapleton
Ad Agency: Publicis London
Creative Directors: Ed Robinson, Dave Sullivan
Art Director (online): Julia Earthowl
Copywriter (online): Polo Chakraborty
Agency Producer: Lorraine Geoghegan
Editing Company: Cut+Run
Editor: Nathan Perry-Greene
Post Production House: Framestore

Where did the idea come from?

Creative Director Ed Sullivan: We had a brief from Tourism Ireland to do a couple of press ads and I just thought we’d quite like to do something cheap as a little viral thing. So we just had the one-line idea, which is: it might be easier to get to Ireland than it is to get to the office [during the Olympics].

The notion of this kind of race is quite a familiar idea. How did you play upon that?

Ed: We did look at a few Top Gear things and also that Visa ad with Usain Bolt – the very expensive one. I think where this differs is that, although Office Boy is frantic and desperate, the other guy doesn’t seem to be racing. He might start off thinking “I’ve got to win this” but as soon as he realises it’s going to be a doddle he relaxes and gets into the Irish way of being, or a more chilled version of a London person.

Did you have to be really careful with stereotypes?

Ed: I think the people that mostly worry about the stereotyping of Irish people are not Irish. We’re far more PC about how we think Ireland should be portrayed than people that actually live and breathe and work in Ireland because what they think is “well, you do get sheep on the road,” for example.

What we’re suggesting is that someone goes over there for the weekend, so that is some oysters, a bit of Guinness, a bit of a knees-up, a bit of staring out to sea and being hungover on mountains. The caution was that we didn’t want to suggest he’s going to go over there and get absolutely hammered.

Tourism advertising is a bit difficult not to concentrate on the things we already know about countries. If you do an advert about France you do it about food, culture and wine. What happens with all tourism advertising, in my experience, is that you kind of aggregate down to things that people already know, but hopefully try and present them in a new way.

How did Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, The IT Crowd) get involved?

Ed: Tourism Ireland follows Chris O’Dowd on Twitter and Chris put up: [“I'm sorry, but doesn't everyone else think it's ridiculous that I'm not the voice on the Tourism Ireland ads? WTF?”]

Mark Henry, the client, tweeted him back and said: [“As I'm the Marketing Director for Tourism Ireland - drop me a DM and let's chat about what you can do for your country!”]

Chris came in and said he’d do it for nothing. He came to a couple of meetings, never brought his agent with him, didn’t have an entourage. For a bloke who’s in proper Hollywood movies that make a lot of money he’s incredibly down-to-earth.

Creative Director Dave Robinson: It was very generous of him, actually. He gave us a lot of time when we were still on the shoot. He didn’t have long so we sort of cracked through it.

The way we approached it is we had a few ideas – scripted lines for him and we adapted those to picture. Really, we asked him to do it as a commentary and I guess a commentator does say things as they see them, so he brought that nice energy to it.

What did you see of his comedic talents?

Producer Michelle Stapleton: Well he’s obviously a very good actor and when he was doing his lines he was coming up with a lot of his own versions, all of which were very good and we could have used had we had the time in the edit. He certainly knows his craft.

Ed: A lot of stuff he did for the voiceover he came up with on the fly. Things like “Guinny-guinny-blum-blums” came out of his strange, slightly tortured head.

Presumably shooting it wasn’t quite as easy…

Michelle: It was a challenge. We had a very limited budget. It was shot for two days in London and in Ireland just for one day at both sides of an airport. It was very full on. But the fact that you can shoot on these smaller cameras means that you can have a smaller crew and you can move much faster. We managed to shoot in three days what would have taken a week to do with a full crew.

Dave: The only people we cast were [Chris and the two main actors]. All the other people were street cast at the time. It’s incredible how many people want to be helpful. With a small crew like that it feels almost like a student project and you can get a great response from the public.

Ed: That style of work is quite exciting. It’s so different to a “proper shoot” where you get 20 setups and each time you set up you look at it through the lens and you look at a playback and endlessly discuss the intonation of someone’s delivery. It was much more fun in a way. It was enthusiastic, young filmmaking. It was just knackering, that was all.

How did that affect the film?

Ed: I think mainly what it did was it stopped us pondering too much what each scene might mean. A lot of it was caught on the train and the plane and you have to get on with it. You can’t make a train go back.

Michelle: I think there’s a good energy there. I don’t think you look at that and think that we had a limited budget. The guys didn’t stop. They shot everywhere and anywhere for me. They didn’t moan or question anything. They just got on, hardly even stopping to eat anything. I had a great crew with me and the creatives were brilliant to work with and that energy comes across when you watch the film.

Did you treat yourself to many pints of Guinness in the process?

Dave: We had a couple. We wanted to get that authentic ring around the glass [laughs]. It took a few goes that did.

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