Cutting through the noise with Confessions

At Explore Impossible, we like to think that we’re pretty good at selling ideas to our clients and getting them onboard with the weird & wonderful creatives we come up with. But when Crystal Ski Holidays signed off on a long-form TVC centring around an Alcoholics Anonymous-style meeting, we knew we’d levelled up. 

‘The Skiaholics’

‘The Skiaholics’

Our relationship with Crystal began over 5 years ago when then-freelance DOP Josh Monie reached out to them with a homemade holiday video of him & his family. Crystal invited him in for a meeting and the rest, as they say, is history.

Since then, we’ve had the pleasure of producing 8 moving image campaigns for Crystal, shooting the length & breadth of the Alps in the process. Needless to say, continuing to come up with new and interesting concepts has been a challenge, especially when the subject matter - ski holidays - is seemingly so cut & dry. People like skiing, so show them skiing, right? 

In summer 2018, Crystal challenged us to come up with something different. They needed some engaging content to roll out around the notoriously busy Christmas period and cut through the noise of the typical seasonal marketing strategy used by other brands. Not ones to shy away from a challenge, we accepted. 

The resulting script was ‘Confessions’. Don’t ask us how we got there, we can’t remember. All we knew is that it had the potential to be funny and relatable for Crystal’s customers and that remained the key focus throughout the project.

Early script run throughs: Ads & Josh worked on the script in a church hall in Nottingham for a few days.

Early script run throughs: Ads & Josh worked on the script in a church hall in Nottingham for a few days.

One of the stipulations of EI being awarded the work by Crystal was that we were to handle production entirely in-house, end to end. This included scripting, storyboards, casting, locations, crew, equipment hire, catering and more, as well as the production itself. 

We tackled locations & casting first, knowing that these were the two most important elements that would have a bearing on the end product. Director Adam used casting call tool Mandy to reach acting talent whilst the production team began hunting for locations online. Within a couple of weeks, we had both a cast & locations shortlist for review.

Wing Village Hall recce: Adam clearly very busy.

Wing Village Hall recce: Adam clearly very busy.

Gaffer Dave Bird & Josh work out a lighting plan.

Gaffer Dave Bird & Josh work out a lighting plan.

On the crewing front, we have been lucky to work with some extremely talented people in the industry over the years and these were the next calls we made. Notably joining the crew were 1st Assistant Director Dom Asbridge, Gaffer Dave Bird & Key Grip Tom Stansfield. 

When the shoot day finally came around after weeks of preparation and discussion, it almost felt like a relief. Crew arrived at Wing Village Hall around 7am for load in. With 6 pages of dialogue to shoot in one day, time was of the essence, and there was plenty of set up required before the cameras could start rolling. 

A dolly, dolly track, overhead soft box, stands, cameras, lenses, props, costume, catering, sound equipment, batteries, battery chargers, screens… all of it and more had to be set up in less than 2 hours to stay on schedule. 

James de Taranto (Soundnode) and Josh in between takes.

James de Taranto (Soundnode) and Josh in between takes.

Adam steps in to give the cast some notes.

Adam steps in to give the cast some notes.

All too soon, the cast began arriving, as PA Sophie bounced between the village hall and the train station, attempting to make chirpy small talk with bleary-eyed actors, all of whom went straight into rehearsals in a separate room with Adam.  The Crystal marketing team were not far behind, and we were sure to make them comfortable in a specially-constructed ‘client area’, where they could view the wireless feed from both set ups that day. We even had an unplanned visit from hall caretaker Sheila who, after finding out the fuse box had been left locked, ran down the high street in her dressing gown to assist.

Gemma Rook & Tim Parker, playing Rebecca & Graham.

Gemma Rook & Tim Parker, playing Rebecca & Graham.

Filming began only slightly behind schedule, starting on the wide masters before moving in for mediums and close-ups on individual cast. The process had to be methodical owing to the script and the sheer amount of characters - this was a challenge for us at EI who are usually used to moving at a much quicker pace. Nonetheless, we adapted & enjoyed the experience, especially as it gave us time to think and reflect that we wouldn’t ordinarily have on other shoots. 

Whilst all of this was happening in the main hall, something else was happening in the room next door. Crystal had also tasked us with capturing some additional content with each of the characters for their social media channels. With no budget for an additional day’s filming, we had to think outside the box to make this happen. 

Simon Michael-Morgan on the 2nd Unit setup

Simon Michael-Morgan on the 2nd Unit setup

Kate Alderton

Kate Alderton

The resulting arrangement was a combination of extremely meticulous scheduling, lots of soundproofing and a cool head from 1AD Dom. Long-time collaborator and camera operator Jimmy Bricknell was positioned in the room adjacent to the main unit, complete with his own smaller setup. Jim was shooting mockumentary-style interviews in portrait against a brand colours backdrop. To hamper noise leakage between the set ups during takes, we constructed a sound proof wall the length of the room. We then relied on PA Sophie & Runner Amy Warren to hurry the cast between rooms when needed. 

The shoot finally wrapped at about 6pm, but it wasn’t over just yet. We had a ‘hard out’ at 7pm - the monthly village quiz was taking place and our entire team had to disappear as if we had never been there; no small feat for 30 people and 10 tons of equipment. Nevertheless, at 7pm, the Wing Village Quiz began without a hitch and Explore Impossible disappeared into the night.

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