HOW TO SHOOT A £1 MILLION CAR COMMERCIAL ON A ZERO BUDGET
Crewed entirely by award-winning women and with everyone volunteering their time, this is not your usual car commercial!
The Feminist Car Commercial, three interconnecting short films made to look like genuine car commercials, aims to highlight female film-making talent in the UK and to show advertisers how their marketing communications could be devised for women.
The film will get its premiere at the BFI Southbank in September 2013 before being available online. Below is an interview with the producer, Paul Atherton, taken at BFI on the 8th of August 2013.
Dana: What sparked the idea for a feminist car commercial?
Paul: There has been a proliferation of adverts that have treated women appallingly in the past twelve months, Audi’s Proms Kiss, BMW’s Greek Billboard Ad, Renault’s Dancing Girls. But it was the Broken Heel advert by Audi that really incensed me. Audi hadn’t used a woman in their commercials for twenty years and when they finally did they leave her lying on the street in the rain with her clothes torn and handbag broken as the car being advertised drives away and leaves her there. This is something that wouldn’t have been acceptable a few decades ago. Mumsnet’s reaction was universal: don’t buy Audis!
Dana: Was this a commissioned project or your own initiative?
Paul: This was completely my own initiative. Writer/Director Amanda Baker had originally come up with an idea to pitch a commercial for women to car companies, but when we did the research we saw a much bigger problem so I thought it would make far more sense to make a campaigning film. As a campaigning film it would have been difficult to find funds, especially quickly, we went from idea to finished film in under three months, far quicker than most funders take to make a decision. And who would commission a film that challenges the very industry that fuels it?
Dana: How does one pull off a “sting” of these proportions: shooting three sophisticated car commercials on a zero budget, something that advertising companies spend ludicrous sums of money on?
Paul: Film is always about collaboration and this was no different. Give people a great idea, surround them with talent and give them a message they can get behind and believe in, then you’ll find anything is possible. There are some amazingly generous people in our industry: Barry Basset at VMI, who supplied us over £1/2 million worth of camera equipment, has been supportive of me since I entered the industry; Barnaby Laws at Panalux had worked with our amazing DP Gabi Norland before and wanted to support her, as well as the campaign; Paul Merchant at make-up supplier Charles Fox has been our award winning make-up artist and Sara Menitra‘s supplier for years; and Daniel Pagan at post house Lipsync has been a fantastic support to me since our first introduction. The key, as always, is relationships. It’s the people you’ve helped and supported that come back and help and support you.
Dana: How many people got involved in this project?
Paul: We managed to persuade just under 100 people to volunteer their time and expertise. As well as a number of industry sponsors who supplied all our kit and services.The thing that made this so special is that we created an A-list of award winners and established experience to approach and we got nearly everyone on it.But as always, we were keen to support new talent too. So my entire production crew was made up of recent graduates and in addition we offered 11 runners their first job experience.
Dana: I understand you also had some very prominent public figures supporting the project and that with a few exceptions it was an all female cast and crew.
Paul: The project first came to life for me when Carly Simon agreed to let us have her Oscar-winning iconic 80s feminist anthem from the film Working Girl entitled Let The River Run free of charge. This was the equivalent of giving us between £50,000 to £100,000. Then BAFTA-nominated Natalie Holt agreed to do the original score. Sara Menitra, NY IMATS Makeup Winner 2012, Sara Chatterton, Celebrity Hairdresser, Editor Prano Bailey-Bond & Director of Photography Gabi Norland who were both previous Underwire winners came next. The rest of our crew had worked on features from Harry Potter to the Iron Lady. Steve Moore, former Chief Executive of The Big Society Network, had just launched Britain’s Personal Best and we were one of the first projects to pledge.
The idea of an all female cast & crew came from the notion that if we were going to make something for women it should have that perspective in every department. There had always been an absence of women in a variety of departments and the film industry as a whole. Organisations such as Birds Eye View, Women in Film & Television have made great inroads to redressing that but obviously more can be done.
Dana: Where is feminism at these days? Do you think we are witnessing a backlash?
Paul: I think the term feminism has many poor connotations. Usually associated with women who seemingly hate men. I see feminism as being pro-women and not anti-men. I don’t think there is a backlash against feminism. I just think audiences, marketeers and advertsiser have just got lazy and apathetic. We live in a society that is all concerned about spending. People always talk about doing jobs to pay the bills. That thinking leads to fear and to inertia.
Dana: What are you hoping to achieve with these films?
Paul: The whole point of the project is two-fold. First to highlight what amazing female film talent there is in the UK and that we need far more. And secondly to remind marketeers that women are customers, a large customer base in fact, and not objects. This is our version of what car advertisements should look like: creative, funny, quirky and making important points. The films are of course just the catalyst for the debate and fortuitously we have Olivia Read at DDA PR to ensure our message gets out there far and wide. We all realise without the press there can be no change in public perception and we appreciate all the support we can get in that regard, so thank you.
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