Director Greg Bray on channelling Jon Heder as Napoleon Dynamite, ad-libbing on set and a “dream” script
We can’t help but love this goofy ad for Jägermeister. Created by La Red in Berlin and directed by Greg Bray through It’s Us, the spot sees a nerdy supermarket cashier caught red-faced by two attractive ladies’ suspiciously large order of whipped cream and Jäger.
Yes, there may be more than a hint of the male gaze at play here. But maybe that’s not an issue for Jägermeister and their marketing strategy. Its simplicity in execution is what makes this one a winner for us and, to add to its re-watchability, we’re getting serious Napoleon Dynamite vibes from the whole thing. And if you have an issue with that, we need to talk.
LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with director Greg to find out more.
LBB> What was the initial script like and why was it something you were keen to get involved in?
GB> The agency script was simple and straightforward, and that’s what I really liked. I could see an opportunity to push the humour with casting and performance.
LBB> Jägermeister isn’t a brand I’d commonly associate with comedy - how was it for you to bring this new vibe to the brand?
GB> Yeah, that’s right. The brand communicates differently in the US or the UK for example, where it’s more focussed on a ‘cool clubbing vibe’. In Germany they do communicate with comedy, and in this instance it was about pushing that comedic aspect a little harder. With a story as simple as this it’s all about entertaining as well as communicating. And when I first read the script I could see that it offered so many opportunities to get funny - it’s a comedy director’s dream. For me it was all about casting and performance. The agency and client were both behind me all the way, and on set it was relaxed and there was a lot of laughter.
LBB> As you mentioned, the casting is pivotal to this spot - who is the guy and how did you find him? Why was he right for the job?
GB> Absolutely. For me, casting is always very important. For this project we had to find a balance - this character had to be nerdy but in a cool way. It would have been too obvious to go for a real nerdy geek - but we needed to find someone who had a bit of coolness to him. We cast in London and in Berlin - in the end I went with Jonas from Berlin. He’s an amazingly talented actor. We met a couple of days prior to the shoot to discuss his character and the story line and he just got it instantly.
LBB> What kind of conversations were you having with him on set?
GB> On set I was basically talking him through the action as the camera was rolling. It was a great process, to ad-lib as we did - I was throwing him all sorts of spontaneous ideas as we went along and he just stayed focused and in character and nailed them all. It’s not an easy thing for an actor to do, but Jonas is very professional and just played it through - he didn’t waver until I cut.
LBB> I’m getting some serious Napoleon Dynamite vibes - would you agree with that? Where did you look for inspiration?
GB> Indeed, I’m a big fan of Jon Heder and that was definitely a reference that went through my mind. I love the awkwardness of his character in Napoleon Dynamite, and I really felt that this checkout cashier character would be faced with that same awkwardness in this situation - in front of these two hot girls. I asked Jonas to lower his seat on set, and to sit unusually low - something that really outlined his character’s frame of mind and perspective.
LBB> The lighting and grade is quite intriguing - especially for a supermarket setting. What were your aims here?
GB> We wanted to embrace that late night in a supermarket feeling. I really wanted a darkish image - nothing too bright and overly lit. I worked with a great friend and cinematographer from Berlin, Christian Datum. I told him I wanted to work with coloured light and fluorescent tubes, and together we decided that green would look great in that setting. We painted the walls of the supermarket a dark grey, which really made the green light pop. And overall we pushed it in the grading.
LBB> Final question… just what were those ladies up to that evening?
GB> My guess is that they were baking or making pancakes - I can’t imagine any other use that these two ladies would have for 15 cans of whipped cream. And I’m pretty sure the bottle of Jägermeister was “for a friend”.