Another Film Company director Declan Lowney explains how he had to rise to the challenge and earn his crust working with Peter Kaye on this massive production
Ever since they harnessed the power of Sly Stallone for their 2015 action romp of a commercial, star power has been well and truly baked into Warburton’s marketing recipe. Their follow up with The Muppets and their Giant Crumpet Show proved their enthusiasm for big brand extravaganzas. But wheat, there’s more to this campaign. The latest spot, ‘Pride and Breadjudice’ takes the bakery back to its Bolton routes with comedian Peter Kaye.
Building on the success of the first two spots, WCRS’s script is brought to life once more by Another Film Company director Declan Lowney, who has a reputation of working with comedians dating back to the 17 episodes of Father Ted he directed. Roll over Colin Firth. Given Peter’s comedy chops, getting a good performance was the yeast of his worries, but with so many extras, costumes and a beloved British story to reference, there could be no loafing around on this shoot!
LBB’s Alex Reeves asked Declan about the ambitious shoot that’s continuing Warburton’s rise.
LBB> You’ve got a trilogy now. The first two were so successful, so expectations were high for this one.
DL> Absolutely, and we had to figure out how to top Stallone and the Muppets. I thought that was very exciting. But in fact you don’t have to top those by going to Hollywood at all. You top them by staying at home and getting the guy that was literally from down the street from the bakery, who right now is, in some ways, a bigger star than either of those. It was a nice way of bringing it back home.
LBB> It’s quite unusual for a big UK-wide brand like Warburton’s to have such a strong regional identity. It’s proud of its North-West English heritage, it seems.
DL> Yeah. And I think this campaign has been all about pushing into the South East [of the UK]. Spending money on that sort of talent has worked very well for them. I mean, they couldn’t make enough giant crumpets to satisfy the demand!
They are a really fun brand to work for and with. They understand about the creative process. It’s always exciting that they just completely trust us. It’s a great relationship.
LBB> How did it compare as an experience this time round? This one was certainly a big production.
DL> It had a lot of development and production values. It was a four day shoot. They’ve all had their own challenges, but this was my first period drama. I was intrigued as it was the first time I’d gone into that world. It was a well-oiled machine. We had a great crew, a great 1st AD and we moved very quickly. Just getting it all done was the challenge. We achieved our shot list. We got everything we wanted and more at times. We had spectacularly good weather for the things we were doing.
This thing just gets bigger and bigger. The Muppets was bigger than Stallone and this is bigger than the Muppets again. God knows what they’ll do next! But the fact is we now know what we’re doing. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time. So that confidence allows us to tear on and know what’s right and what doesn’t work.
LBB> It’s also the third time you’ve worked with Jonathan Warburton himself. It’s quite an unusual thing these days, to have someone actually at the head of the company be in the commercials. What’s he like? Is he getting good in front of the camera?
DL> He’s more temperamental than some of the actors. He wouldn’t come out of his trailer at all on day one. Not really - he’s great! He puts in a very good performance and he doesn’t mind having the piss taken out of him. And believe me, if anyone was going to take the piss, Peter would, and did. Jonathan responded so well to that. He and Peter kicked off each other very well. But he can pull it off - he can do it. He’s got an agent now in LA and everything. William Morris are looking after him [laughs].
LBB> And you’ve got more traditional star talent here too, with Peter Kaye. You’ve worked with tons of comedians in the past but had you worked with him before?
DL> No, I’d never worked with him. We met a couple of times in the run-up to the shoot. He’s a superb comedian but also a brilliant observer of people. He has a way of taking the piss out of me but also making a point a lot of the time. He was challenging, in a way, because he doesn’t just turn up and do what’s suggested. He has a lot of his own ideas and a lot of energy. And he’s a smart cookie.
LBB> Was there a lot of improvisation and batting around of ideas, then?
DL> There was a lot of batting ideas around beforehand and we settled on a template that he was happy with, but there was more stuff on the day. And you’ve got to be ready for it and get it. And you’d be crazy not to go with it sometimes. We shot two cameras on pretty much everything so there was always lots of coverage. He and Jonathan were riffing and we cross shot that on two cameras so whatever either of them did, we had it. They didn’t have to repeat it because we shot both angles at once.
Peter is stunning in the piece and he was amazing to work with. I think he’s quite impressed with the way it’s turned out. For an ad, I think he thinks it’s pretty cool. He’s probably never had that much money to spend on something funny, to do things properly. Budget per second is very good. And he looks fantastic in it.
LBB> I wanted to talk about the aesthetic actually. Did you pay a lot of attention to the various adaptations of Pride and Prejudice?
DL> We did. And it’s more than lip service. We actually shot the scene at Lyme Park, where Pride and Prejudice was shot, where Colin Firth came out of the lake - that’s the lake we shot Peter refusing to get into. And the costume as much as possible was true to the period. But there were times when the comedy demanded something different. So there is a sight gag about different hats, getting taller and taller across the ad - little things bending the rules for comedy. We were reasonably true to the period detail and accuracy.
LBB> It must be fun to do that big, grand sort of production. You don’t get those so much in comedy.
DL> Very much so. And also this is meant to be his imagination at the end of the day as well. He’s pitching something. As Stallone imagines a very slick and stylish looking action movie trailer, Peter is imagining a trailer for a very lush romantic costume drama, so you have to be true to what’s in his imagination. He’s imagining it as a high production-value item.
LBB> It must have been an intense four days. Any moments that will stick with you?
DL> We’d set up to shoot the wedding by the lake and we were waiting for Peter to come back from lunch. And he arrived with his make-up person and wardrobe and AD showing him onto set and and I think some umbrellas as the sun was beating and we didn’t want him to get burnt. So there was a mini entourage - not of his making, of our making. He was carrying a boombox and playing some fantastic tunes and you could hear the music before you saw Peter. So I have this great memory of seeing him through the trees with this entourage of umbrellas and music playing, almost like the emperor had arrived on this set. It was very funny. And Peter was great value because we had extras so he had a bit of a crowd. He was almost doing a bit of a routine to keep everyone amused between takes. It was great fun.
LBB> What sort of music was he playing?
DL> [Laughs] I think I can’t talk about that because it’s not for print. He might have been rehearsing part of a routine for a future show. It was a string of slightly inappropriate songs with innuendos in. Everyone would react to the song and he’d switch to another one and then after a few moments you’d realise what the connection to that one was. It was very clever.