Directing duo, Jungle, on working with legendary footballers, filming across five cities and depicting the true meaning of being a fan, writes LBB’s Zoe Antonov
Blink’s directing duo, Jungle, have partnered up with W+K Portland to bring EA’s FIFA 23 to life in their latest spot. The film brought together real-life fans and some iconic football names to celebrate the traditions of the game that defy geographical and cultural borders.
Jungle took inspiration from the preparations and rituals that take place around the world prior to a big football match and shot the film across five cities to show the ways in which fans stay connected through their favourite game.
From crowded streets and chanting under bridges to flags being waved out of car windows and fans climbing buildings on their hometown streets, the cinematic venture brought a human authenticity to what football means. The spot featured legends such as Zinedine Zidane, Sam Kerr, Kylian Mbappe, Virgil van Dijk, Chloe Kelly and Jack Grealish, to draw a parallel between the ways they prepare for a game while their fans gear up to support them.
By combining the two worlds through beautiful cinematography and a meticulous attention to detail, Jungle wrote an unforgettable ode to ‘being a fan’ but also the meaning and importance of being part of something bigger. Not only did the directors have to pay the highest of respects to the game and fans, but also, they had the challenge of creating the film knowing that this is the last year that the iconic video game series will be released under the ‘FIFA’ name. Next year, the football game is expected to be titled ‘EA Sports FC’, so the pressure was on, more than ever before, to create something that resonates with the brand.
LBB’s Zoe Antonov spoke to the directing duo to find out more about how they brought that sensorial experience to audiences, and the emotional rollercoaster the teams went through creating the spot.
LBB> What was the brief for this project and what were the initial ideas surrounding it?
Jungle> The briefing from W+K Portland creatives and EA was to create a soulful, emotive, passionate, and visceral ode to being a fan, by celebrating a videogame match as a real matchday. For us, the starting point was recognising that hundreds of football spots come out - especially in a World Cup year. Every football fan has seen them, and often they are quite the same. So we wanted to approach it differently to create something more real, raw, and immersive. The uniqueness of a live match is that it is a sensorial experience, it appeals to all your senses. So, the challenge was to make a film that smelled of a shortcut alleyway to the stadium; that echoed the sound of the singing from a pub streets away. What are those authentic details that will activate that emotional memory and transport the supporters that will see this film to a real matchday? That was the starting point. It had to feel 100% real.
LBB> Tell us about the nature of collaboration between yourselves and EA, how involved were they in the creative, and how did you go about the decision-making?
Jungle> Early in the process, EA and the creatives of W+K Portland noticed how much care we had for this story and the end result. They believed in our vision and were natural partners, supporting us and giving us the freedom to make the decisions that assured this vision would come to life.
We all had the feeling of teamwork and we meant it. It felt like one crew, one single move toward the same objective - a process of absolute pleasure that honours filmmaking. This is something we in advertising should strive for in every job. To find joy in creating something together. It’s amazing what we all accomplish in those jobs. The deadlines, number of simultaneous productions, planning and the number of human beings involved way before us. It should be celebrated more often as a collective experience.
We had several meetings with EA that gave us a lot of insights and we had the opportunity to work with its animation team to create the cinematic scenes from the gameplay. Thanks to that, we could incorporate some of our filmmaking in the gameplay scenes, planning the virtual shots that would cut seamlessly with what we shot in the real world. EA’s technology is amazing, the level of realism and the science involved in collecting the players’ movement data is mind blowing.
LBB> With projects at such a large scale, challenges are inevitable - what was the biggest one for you?
Jungle> Probably enduring making a film of such scale and magnitude in such a short time, especially with the amount of featured celebrities. As the client got excited by the film, they brought more and more footballers than originally planned - and with them, new scenes. We had to incorporate this on the spot whilst keeping the spirit and original vision straight. Footballers of this calibre have limited time and with all of them, we had to find a way of making them appear in scenes that were integrated with the narrative. It’s an endurance test. It helps when we look at it as a triathlon race or a boxing match; you have a plan, and then you start getting punched in the face. The tricky part is that you must keep heading in the planned direction. But there is adrenaline to it, a sense of adventure - and if you know the conditions beforehand, you can find some pleasure in the challenge.
LBB> How and why did you choose the locations?
Jungle> The creatives brought the project with a very well-defined perspective in which teams would face each other where the matches would need to happen. Liverpool vs Manchester, PSG vs Juventus, Real Madrid vs Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea vs Tottenham. Most of the filming took place in Liverpool and Madrid, followed by Paris, London and Manchester. The choices were the result of fitting the creativity along with this massive production challenge, crossing three different countries and five cities in less than a month.
We knew from the start that Liverpool would look great on camera, and we were looking for the more industrial areas - the outskirts and locations where the supporters look more authentic. The gamers' locations were related to the background story of each character: one teenager living in terraced house in Liverpool, another living in an apartment block in London and another living in a small loft in Paris. We were looking for raw locations that translated truth into this composition - old apartments, apartment complexes in the outskirts, underneath tunnel passages - anything to make the story feel as raw as possible.
That was the key for this film. Being a director is about picking your fights, knowing what to fight for and where to let go, and we were adamant about casting real fans. We were looking for the real season ticket holders, drummers, the passionate supporters, people with truthful feelings about their teams. We interviewed them and picked the most genuine fans from thousands and thousands. It was like finding needles in a haystack.
LBB> And what about the involvement of the professionals - what was like working with them and, most of all, seeing them collide with fans?
Jungle> It was such an amazing experience being involved with those exceptional personalities, and a big honour and a privilege to film each one - Zinedine Zidane, Kylian Mbappé, Vinicius Júnior, Chloe Kelly, Sam Kerr, Virgil Van Dijk and Jack Grealish.
It was fascinating to see the footballers’ personalities and how each of their approaches differed towards the film. For example, we can see how a defender is more grounded, low profile and attentive, while the strikers are more explosive and playful. Most of these players play FIFA themselves, so that is a big plus for their engagement with the film.
LBB> What did the campaign mean for the brand and how did the brand values shine through it?
Jungle> This is the last FIFA with the name we’ve always known. Next year the football game will be released as ‘EA Sports FC’, so both EA and W+K wanted to translate the concept into something huge and portray the journey of the fans as epically as possible. The motto was that FIFA 23 is not like football, it is football. By shining a light on the supporters' passion for their teams, that is what the love of soccer is made of. We’ve tried to incorporate this in all aspects from the cast and locations to the cinematography and edit.
LBB> What was the most rewarding part of the project?
Jungle> The feeling of camaraderie that was created by the end of the shoot. Those nine days brought W+K, EA, the Blink team and all the different departments from each country to a feeling of accomplishing something together. There is something about having 1,000 people putting their mind, bodies and energy into one common goal.