Final Fantasy XV’s Wild Adventure in the Romanian Forest with Omelet and Square Enix
Gamers have been waiting for the latest edition of the Final Fantasy franchise, ‘Final Fantasy XV’, for years. The last main game in the series came out in 2010 and fans are impatient. And the wait is nearly up. To coincide with the launch of the game, developer Square Enix tasked agency Omelet with the creation of a live-action spot. The 90-second film, directed by Kasra Farahani, is a beauty of a story centred around a group of young friends stranded in a forest, fighting famed Final Fantasy character Iron Giant.
LBB’s Addison Capper spoke with Omelet copywriter Ernesto Campabadal and art director Tiffany Lam, and Square Enix’s senior product marketing manager Mathew Kishimoto to find out more.
LBB> Final Fantasy is a pretty big deal! What kind of pressure were you feeling when developing this campaign?
Ernesto> Huge deal! We knew Final Fantasy XV had been in the making for years, and the anticipation was reaching its climax right when we were approached to work on the live-action trailer. On top of that, Square Enix was releasing two unprecedented marketing pieces: a feature movie and an anime series – all to promote the game. You could say the bar was pretty high from the get-go.
Tiffany> There’s a lot of pressure when the characters are very well loved. We didn’t want to lose our audience by showing too much of the characters in a live-action portrayal. Another point towards FFXV being 10 years in the making: fans have been getting a lot of information about this game for 10 years, we needed to take a fresh and unique approach while still staying true to the game.
LBB> What was your starting point?
Ernesto> The central theme of the game is brotherhood: a tight-knit group of friends going on an adventure together, relying on each other to accomplish their mission. There’s something very interesting about a game that’s so vast and open, yet there’s a very intimate story unfolding at the heart of it. We started thinking around ideas that explored friendship and what it meant to stick together no matter how tough the situation got.
LBB> What would you say are the biggest underlying themes of this campaign? Why?
Ernesto> Brotherhood is the biggest, since it’s the central theme of the game. But there’s a subtler one, one that old fans – and soon new fans – will be able to identify with: the adventure of a lifetime. The Final Fantasy series is almost 30-years-old, which means that a lot of fans were just kids when they first began playing Final Fantasy. Ever since, these fans have been following along, game after game, with the same excitement as when it first came out. We like to think that FFXV has the same effect on a new generation of FFXV fans.
LBB> What were your biggest inspirations for the overall aesthetic / vibe of the spot?
Ernesto> Both The Goonies and Stand by Me (the movies) are about as old as the Final Fantasy series, and they both have adventure and brotherhood at the very heart of it. Add to that the fact that we knew we were going to use Stand by Me for the commercial, and very quickly we knew the vibe we were going for.
Tiffany> It’s a great coincidence that it’s the 30th anniversary of both Final Fantasy and Stand By Me (the movie). Florence and The Machine’s beautiful rendition of Stand By Me was specifically commissioned for FFXV, so we wanted to create a spot that lived up to the emotional tone of SBM and FFXV.
LBB> So Mathew, tell us about the Florence & The Machine track! Why is it a good embodiment of the brand and campaign?
Mathew> Haha, great question. Without being too verbose, Stand By Me is the theme song for FINAL FANTASY XV. This is because it fits so perfectly with all of the themes in the game – unbreakable bonds between friends, unity, good and bad times, going on journeys with lifelong friends….and so on!
We wanted to collaborate with Florence + the Machine to produce this piece as we felt her vocals could really bring something magical to the table, as well, to bring this song to a new and fresh audience. We started this process at the end of 2015 and we’re excited of how not only this song – but two other original songs she created as well!
LBB> The kids are pretty vulnerable… why is that?
Ernesto> To the viewer, the kids seem vulnerable. But to the kids, there’s nothing that can stop them and nothing they can’t accomplish. All along the story, they believe in their cause and they believe in each other. That’s pretty remarkable, given the circumstances. We don’t know how these guys ended up in this situation, fighting an Iron Giant in the woods, but I’d say that if they’re one of the few survivors, and they’re fighting instead of fleeing, they might not be as vulnerable as they seem.
Tiffany> The vulnerability amongst a group of kids versus a giant metal creature is very real, which makes their strength and bravery really apparent. It’s those tough, most terrifying moments when they’re willing to sacrifice everything for each other that truly makes them strong. Same goes with Noctis and his friends. FFXV is all about strength as a team through trailing times.
LBB> Why was Kasra Farahani the right director to bring this to life?
Ernesto> The first time we met with Kasra, his enthusiasm for the project was through the roof. The fact that he’s a very talented director with an incredible production design background bringing incredible worlds to life made him the perfect fit for this trailer. On top of that Kasra has a great understanding of the Final Fantasy series, so not only was he on board with the story we wanted to tell, he kept bringing ideas to the table to make it better.
But the real moment was during production itself. In the midst of all the production chaos, Kasra practically doubled as director and head of art department. In between scenes, he’d make sure every detail was taken care of on anything from weapons to wardrobe.
Tiffany> Kasra’s vision and attention to detail is what really brought this spot to life. His incredibly deep experience in production design really helped build that Final Fantasy world - mysterious, full of textures and layers. Kasra had a very strong vision of the look and feel of this spot, from the wardrobe of the heroes and kids, to the type of paint that goes on the weapons. He was also a wizard with the kids.
LBB> What are your biggest memories of the production process?
Ernesto> There was never a day where someone involved in the production wouldn't come to us to tell us that either themselves or their siblings or children or friends were big Final Fantasy fans. It was cool to think that by the end of the day these people would go back home or out with their friends to be welcomed as the heroes of the moment.
Tiffany> The kids that were cast didn’t know each other before the shoot. But they were pretty much inseparable at the end of production. A main theme in Stand Together is this tight friendship amongst the heroes and kids, so it’s great to see that off screen too.
LBB> And Mathew, as the client, what are your memories of the production process?
Mathew> The kick off process is always the most fun since you’re always thinking in such a big scope and not worrying about logistical or unnecessary details. The Omelet team is one of the most fun, collaborative, and passionate bunch of folks I’ve ever met, so the face to face meetings (they never felt like meetings) where we could laugh and really feel each others’ energy and creative juices flowing throughout were great experiences.
Two more moments for me really made the project feel like something else - one of them being the first day of shooting in the Padina forest in Romania, arriving in windy and cold weather at 6am, but seeing a massive army working to bring this project to life – that moment I stepped on the shoot site to see this team and being in a forest of trees that are several hundred feet in the air. All of that magic tied together was a ground breaking and surreal moment.
The second moment for me was the first delivery of the fire wrapping around Iron Giant and the smoke billowing off of him. That was the moment I said to myself, “yup, we got something special here” and I could visually see how we were able to blend together the worlds of fantasy and real life. I must’ve watched that three-four second clip on loop a few hundred times that day.
But aside from those moments, there were thousands more – but what I can say is there was never a moment I felt like we brought the wrong partners on board – Omelet was the perfect team to work with. It really was a partnership as one solid team, charging to the finish line of FINAL FANTASY XV. And the tagline of “Stand Together”, it felt true every single day of this project.
LBB> What were the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Ernesto> Our filming location was a big challenge. Not only was it hard to access, the weather would change every five minutes, which meant everything - from fog to light to cameras - had to be adjusted accordingly. Not much can be done when dealing with weather, but having an incredible director/DP team definitely helped make the most out of every minute of daylight.
Tiffany> Final Fantasy XV is a game that was 10 years in the making. That’s a decade of work that’s gone into character design, story and music. The task of making something that truly represents that level of detail in the world and characters (including the iron giant that’s been in almost every FF game) was definitely the most difficult, but most rewarding challenge.
LBB> And from your perspective, Mathew?
LBB> I don’t really remember any massive challenges that felt out of the ordinary of any big production. Whatever big challenges that the Omelet team faced, they were true professionals and were able to squelch any metaphorical fires without us having to worry about them.
If there was anything (which is still pretty minor in comparison to the larger project scope), maybe it was getting Noctis’ hair right? I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it done perfectly, but the Omelet team did an amazing job with who knows how many types of hair products.
Maybe I was the biggest challenge of stealing the Romanian cheese snacks on site?