German director discusses working with supercars and a cast of kids for new spot
Kids tend to dream in superlatives; the biggest, best and shiniest things. The footballer that scores the most goals, the astronauts that venture deepest into space, the fastest cars. And Volkswagen is happy to admit that in its latest ad, in which it puts cars from an array of other manufacturers front and centre. The spot was created by Grabarz & Partner and directed by Anorak’s Sebastian Strasser, with an aim of highlighting an innovative new feature on the Volkswagen Golf.
LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with director Sebastian to find out more about the challenges of the project, working with kids and why working on this job has turned him into a bit of a car nut.
LBB> What was the initial script like and why was it something you wanted to get involved in?
SS> The script had this unique ‘touchdown’ in the end… stating that kids rarely dream of a Volkswagen… and it had obvious potential from the start, both in terms of message as well as emotion. It was clearly standing out from the scripts you get to read on the global market.
LBB> It takes a brave client to fill their spot with competitors’ products - how were they to work with?
SS> The clients at VW are self-confident. They know the great qualities of their cars and simply wanted to underline the empathic nature of the safety packages they offer – which are not built only for the people that buy and drive a Volkswagen. It actually was harder to get the agreement from other brands within the time frame… then agree with Volkswagen on which car to shoot. In the end it was also helpful that some of the luxury cars we wanted to show, like Porsche or Bugatti, were part of the Volkswagen family and therefore we could get the agreements in time.
LBB> The spot really relies on getting into the minds and imaginations of the children - how was it for you to work like this? And how did you achieve it?
SS> Kids are wonderers and dreamers and they easily relate to things bigger than life. If approached playful and warm hearted, they all love shooting. It’s pretending. It’s a fantasy and a natural part of their world.
LBB> What kind of conversations were you having the kids while on set?
SS> I have shot many commercials with kids and there is one thing I can say for sure: there is no formula in working with kids. The great ones have this unfiltered energy and charisma…. but it’s not easy to get that shining naturally in front of a camera. It might not happen today but maybe tomorrow. Or again in five minutes. Kids need to be directed / tricked / danced / playfully guided or just recorded in so many different ways. Some ways are just spontaneously made up on the spot and tailored just for a particular child or situation. You generally have to have an instinct for them… and then you find yourself sometimes talking to them like you talk to professional actors. Other times you sing with them, act with them or crawl on your four limbs.
LBB> The final kid’s face as he ogles the Bugatti is excellent - how did you coax that out of him?
SS> He was an extremely sweet and smart kid. Sensitive and almost introverted during the castings and wardrobe calls…. but on the spot and very reactive during the shoot. He had to lean in there… it was early morning, quite cold and he had to do many takes: the choreography with the breaking car, the looks, the timing. He dealt with all the challenges like a pro and delivered a series of good takes.
LBB> It’s quite a big cast of children - what kind of challenges does this present?
SS> A children’s casting tends to get big even when casting just for one role. In this case it was bigger than big… but actually quite fast in bringing good results! If I think of that older Volkswagen spot that we did – with the two kids on steps humming – that one was a bigger struggle, though we needed just two kids. Maybe we got lucky this time… but the casting in London and Berlin was full of great options.
LBB> What was your decision process behind choosing the cars to feature? I love that you’ve got the DeLorean in there…
SS> We were aiming for the right mix of sport cars, old cars, cool cars, luxury cars… the many versions of what a ‘dream car’ could be. I am happy that we managed to get a good mix… from the vintage racing car in the opening to the 3 million Euro latest Bugatti Cheyron at the end. Some people at the agency and at our production company were drowning in pdfs, lists of cars, emails and calls. The cars were the biggest challenge, not the kids.
LBB> Are you a car nut yourself? I know the spot is for VW but how was it for you to work with all these vehicles?
SS> I normally care more about the stories and the people within the commercials than the actual cars. But then, when you sit in a Bugatti or a Porsche Spider 918… you feel the love, creativity and amazing technology put into these pieces of high tech. Some of them even pieces of art. And it gets you a bit. I am surely more of a car nut after this commercial than I was before.