Exit Films director on big hearts, diversity and a try-anything attitude in Colenso BBDO’s ‘Go Strong’ campaign
When EXIT’s rising star director Kiku Ohe joined forces with Colenso BBDO on their ‘Go Strong’ campaign for Anchor, he found himself digging deeply into the identity of the modern New Zealander. And that’s the thing, there is no ‘one’ New Zealand identity, it’s a rich and diverse country. One common thread, though, was big heartedness and a try-anything attitude that pulled together everyone from a traditional Maori navigator to Charlize Theron’s stunt double. LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with him to find out more.
LBB> What was it about the initial brief that appealed to you?
KO> I loved the simplicity of the concept Go Strong and the possibility of how different characters could speak to that idea in powerful and emotional ways.
LBB> There’s a steely look to the campaign that feels quite unusual for a brand like Anchor – why was this way the right way to go?
KO> I wanted to bring a different feeling, something bolder in a cinematic sense that you might not expect from a dairy ad. Authenticity and realism was key, so the characters helped define the tone.
LBB> Part of the campaign’s goal is to show ‘a more honest representation’ of what it means to be a New Zealander today – what does that sentiment mean to you and how did you go about weaving that thought into the campaign?
KO> Kiwis today really are a diverse bunch, it’s a very proud country with a powerful landscape and a rich cultural history. We didn’t want to shy away from representing the diversity, so we needed to be a little unusual and brave in the casting process. Kiwis are wonderful people, with big hearts, they are very switched on and can handle things that are slightly more challenging.
LBB> The campaign features a cast of really fascinating and determined people – what was it like working with them? And what were the memorable moments watching them do their thing?
KO> I love people and working with non-actors so it was a real pleasure and honour to enter their worlds and photograph them. They all brought their own unique energy to the film. Dayna, the stunt woman, is Charlize Theron’s stunt double who just had come from Mad Max Fury Road. Watching her hang off the speeding car and being set alight like it was just another day in the office was great fun. Sean and Sam, the trampolinists, were such cool guys and it was incredible and hypnotic to just watch their routines. Jack, the traditional celestial Maori navigator who opens the film, was such a strong presence and rich subject he could be a documentary himself.
LBB> What was the shoot like? What were the key challenges that you faced and how did you overcome them?
KO> It was a great shoot with the usual challenges of organising chaos but we had a great team and didn’t lose our humour!
LBB> The whole campaign is really diverse, both in terms of its cast but also in the moods, locations and challenges of the shot (from the rugged surfing shots, to the amazing car-surfing action to the very still moments…), which must have kept you on your toes! How did you go about capturing all of these different people and activities and vibes whilst ensuring that there was a sense of consistency?
KO> It certainly did. The diversity was key to the campaign, but we kept the visual language consistent by continually bringing it back to the idea of strength.
LBB> The camera work across the campaign is really mesmerising – lots of tilting, getting in amongst the action, strapped to the gymnasts… What do you think this brings to the films? And how did you work with DOP Jeremy Rouse on the camera work?
KO> It was great to work with Jeremy, we talked a lot about how to respond to the cast and he just came in hot. We had a lot of fun. We had both just wrapped our first feature films too so we talked a lot about our experiences and challenges there, and varying camera movements. We wanted to discover different approaches for each of our various characters.
LBB> The music and sound design really drive the films forward and create an almost aggressive drama – what were the influences and inspirations behind it? What sort of conversations were you having with Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper on the music and Jon Cooper on the sound?
KO> We really wanted to amplify the emotional intensity to the drama, like a film trailer. We also discussed how we could use breath as a musical device within action sequences and unify our characters.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
KO> Just to thank Colenso BDBO Auckland for their support and the whole Go Strong team.