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The Making of a Better ‘Morning After’



Curly director Laura Marciano on her collaboration with contraceptive brand Julie and how she destigmatised morning after pills for US audiences, writes LBB’s Zoe Antonov

The Making of a Better ‘Morning After’

Curly’s director Laura Marciano debuted her commercial directing skills with contraceptive brand Julie, looking to give US customers ‘A Better Morning After’. Laura directed a three minute short film, addressing the stigma around buying and using morning after contraception and infused the brand with her own unique sense of pace, colour and editing. 

For Laura, being involved in the project and standing behind Julie’s brand pillars of accessible contraception for everyone, was ‘close to her heart’ and crucial in a moment of unrest in the States around the subject. Her film exhibits three different characters with polarising lifepaths - a mother of two, a couple, and a girl dating numerous partners - who all end up needing the help of Julie. “The need in terms of contraception stays the same,” says Laura. “The love act is the same in the morning as well.”

Fast-changing scenes tied together by city landscapes, fluid camera movements, and a very retro vibe that goes between the ‘00s and the ‘50s, the short film is an exercise in colour, shape, sound and texture.

LBB’s Zoe Antonov spoke to Laura about her experience shooting in LA, what it was like speaking to a US audience about a sensitive subject and how her style shines through the film.

LBB> Tell us about the brief for this and what initial ideas you came up with!

Laura> The client wanted to highlight just how a 'better morning' might look thanks to the contraceptive Julie. We decided to share the story of three women with very different backgrounds, ages and love lives, right from the working mom to the single younger woman. Contraception is a need for all of us but rarely discussed.

Another initial idea I had was that I thought it was necessary to focus on one male character in the narrative. In this instance, the boyfriend is going to the supermarket to buy 'a morning after pill' with some juice and other groceries, as what would normally happen in real life.  Men need to be part of the narrative as well, they are involved just as much as we are - especially in the United States where the morning after pill has a certain cost. 

LBB> You have quite a strong personal style in your filmmaking, how do you make that shine in this film?

Laura> It is hard for me to judge but I like adding spicy voices with a certain pace in the edit as well. Maybe because I come from fashion (I was a stylist back in the day). I can be pretty picky regarding art direction, styling, set design, glam. I like how the camera lingers on smaller details as well as those moments that serve the whole energy of the film and give a lot of credit to the characters as well.

LBB> Tell us about the importance of sound in the film - both the music and the vivid sound effects, like the egg cracking for example!

Laura> Music and sound design are a huge deal for me, it provides a great bass and rhythm for all the shots. 

The storyline awakens through the music we put around it. To be honest, for Julie, we tried six different composers and producers until we finally found the best combination that suited the film.

In the short film version that is over three minutes, my main goal was to keep the viewer’s attention engaged throughout. I wanted to inject as much energy as possible; the city street noises, the kids laughing, the supermarket atmosphere… It needed to be a sonorous experience as much as a visual journey. A perfect example of that journey and its importance is the angel chorus we hear when the character finally swallows the pill. 

LBB> Why did you decide to go with the retro aesthetic and how does that resonate with the market that Julie is for? 

Laura> In my imagination, the cashier cutie needed to be iconic, out of reality and super extroverted. I was thinking it would take off some of the weight that the whole stigma about contraception carries in the US. 

Working closely with the client and getting to know them, I am totally aligned with Julie's philosophy and brand vision. We thought it through to make that experience as easy and pleasurable as possible. I really cared about the portrayal of the message in the film narrative and I think we achieved that. 

The direction was to stay super authentic to each of the families’ set up and to appeal to anyone in the US. I wanted all women to be able to relate to the situation presented. But as soon as we entered the store, we went into an alternative world. Suddenly, bright white light takes over, quirky music jingles, like a feeling of relief, and we are finally entering this long-awaited heavenly world. The cashier’s giggly, OTT character was crucial for me to spice things up, but her character also helped make buying contraception a light and non-committed experience. 

As a French girl, growing up with a lot of US movies and MTV, I might be a little bit obsessed with parts of American culture, and perhaps that shines through my approach here.

LBB> What considerations did you have in mind, knowing the political climate in the States when making a film about a contraceptive pill?

Laura> This context was the main reason why I wanted to make it fun to watch and give it an easy-going tone. 

The family values set up in the beginning don’t remove the fact that the product is still needed. That is just part of the fake and false ideology that some politicians are trying to imply. I think the whole brand of Julie is all about that - talking to anyone, any religion, social background, family situation and age. It fits and is needed everywhere.

Julie is a modern contraceptive, easy to find, no prescription and cheaper than others. All of these factors are a real liberation for all of us. It was important to launch the product by describing Julie in the friendly, approachable way that we did, so it would appeal to younger consumers as well. 

I really took to heart the chance that we have here and the battle that other women still have to face.

LBB> How did you decide on the different women you'd depict in the film, and how did you construct their characters and separate stories?

Laura> Whether it’s changing partners every week or being married, everyone is the same in terms of contraception. To me, it is important to show that. I wanted to build different characters; a settled woman, a wilder, carefree one and a young couple going through that experience together. Because the need in terms of contraception stays the same. The love act is the same in the morning as well.

LBB> And how did you pick the locations?

Laura> With a lot of research! The US market is such a vast one, we wanted to feel like it could be anywhere in the USA. A city flat, a house, some trailers, sunrise landscapes and the iconic American mall we all went to once or saw in a movie.

LBB> What was the most challenging part of the production process and what was equally the most fun?

Laura> I think Los Angeles! Although I've shot quite a lot in Los Angeles, it’s still challenging to prep and scout in a city you don't know by heart. Saying that though, at the same time it's the city I prefer shooting in the most - the light is unbeatable. It was also quite challenging for me to find a way to mention all of Julie's medical instructions and the purchasing conditions without becoming heavy-handed.

LBB> Any final thoughts?

Laura> I just loved it! My first TV commercial! I couldn't be happier that it was for such a great cause and with an incredible team. What a great project! More of the same please! 

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Curly, Wed, 15 Mar 2023 17:48:56 GMT