Your Shot: Setting Sail on a Gorgeous, Epic Journey of Home Improvement with BETC
Decorating a home can be messy business, in both a physical and mental sense. The ups and downs of grappling with alien DIY techniques and the chaotic tedium of the process can often trigger emotional turbulence. But, let’s be honest, most DIY ads don’t usually acknowledge this fact. It’s all pearly white smiles to match pearly white paint strokes.
This ad for French DIY retailer Leroy Merlin from BETC Paris does away with all that. They’ve transformed the the textured-wallpapered lows and freshly-grouted highs of home renovation into this beautiful metaphor of a house sailing on the open seas. The final film is a true production feat captured by La PAC director Reynald Gresset and LA post production company Eight VFX.
LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with Olivier Apers, Executive Creative Director at BETC, and director Reynald to find out more.
LBB> Olivier, what inspired the house sailing on water metaphor? Why did it work as a way to show the ups and downs of renovating a home?
OLIVIER> We were looking for the best metaphor to illustrate the renovation project of a house. We are aware that when you start working on your house, it can take one month, three months or six months. It’s an adventure. You go through unexpected turns, happy moments, doubts, failures, hopes and achievements. We were looking for something both spectacular and poetic, so the image of a house sailing on water turned out to be an appealing idea right from the start. We chose the metaphor of a couple growing up together and building something together.
LBB> As well as being a fitting metaphor, it’s obviously impressive on the eyes too! Did you ever worry about its feasibility, given that it must have involved a pretty hefty production and post production process?
OLIVIER> We collaborated with solid production and post production companies. We worked with La PAC in Paris for the production of the film and Eight VFX in Los Angeles for the CGI parts.
There were some full 3D scenes and some mix between 3D and real life. But, we still agreed with the director, Reynald Gresset, and his DOP, Mattias Boucard, to make the most realistic film possible. That meant that we shot most of the scenes for real, in natural light and on location. The house that you see in the film is a real house. You can go to South Africa and see it. For the movie, we had to completely redecorate it and redesign its interior. We made a replica of some parts of the house and placed it on a barge in the middle of the sea where we shot the water scenes. The interior scenes were shot in studio. We had to rebuild every room exactly like the original. We wanted the film to be very real and very aesthetic, hence the maximum use of natural light.
LBB> Why was Reynald the right director to bring this to life?
OLIVIER> Reynald was a key player in the making of the film. We chose him because he was bringing the right kind of cinematography, his treatment was spot-on, he had the right ambition, he had the talent… and mostly he had the guts to do it. He is a great director and even though he talks a lot, he is extremely talented and very invested in all that he does. He gave it all for this film. We couldn’t have done it without him, his production company and the DOP. We are really proud of what we achieved in the film. It turned out exactly as we envisioned it: beautiful, emotional, cinematic, spectacular and real.
LBB> And Reynald, what were your thoughts when this script came in and why did it appeal to you?
REYNALD> My first thought was pretty simple… I must make this film. Everything I love was in this script: storytelling, a cinematic narrative and a great creative idea. I do this job for those very reasons.
LBB> What kind of research did you have to undertake?
REYNALD> First I had to figure out how to create a credible, human narrative within a metaphorical world – how to make it believable that our house is floating on the ocean while still believing in our ‘couple’.
LBB> The whole film is a pretty huge feat! How did you, as director, pull it off?
REYNALD> I must say that it was a very demanding and time-consuming experience. My producer Louis, a very tall, handsome and smart guy, and I along with our service production in Cape Town went through a plethora of engineering and logistical options. Each option seemed to be the right one until it was displaced by another…
We basically had to build a house starting from scratch while keeping in mind that we needed it to move and rock as if it were floating. We started with floor plans, discussed it with our production designer and went from there into creating each and every set in which a scene took place – number of windows, doors, shooting angles, etc.
LBB> You had to shoot each scene three times - first on dry land, another time on a moving set and then finally on water. Why was that?
REYNALD> There could not be any doubt concerning the veracity of the story. We had to tell the tale of a couple floating through the ocean, wind and ocean current dependent, as an allegory of our lives. To make it credible we had to mix studio and on-water shots – in the ocean. We also had to tell the story of the evolution of the work done on the house inside and out. Therefore it was important that we be able to switch from indoor to outdoor scenes to describe this progression and the time passing. Again the exterior scenes, to add veracity, needed to be shot on the ocean.
LBB> What kind of issues did this three-step process bring up?
REYNALD> We had to create, with as much ‘realness’ and artistic exigency as possible, each set – patina, texture and details. From the choice of old wallpaper to each single prop, the sets had to evolve along with our couple. The difficulty was in keeping the ‘soul’ of each set intact, as we had to move from one set to another in adjacent studios.
OLIVIER> The most difficult part was the building of the sets. Each scene brought us technical difficulties. Obviously, the scenes that were shot in water were quite challenging to execute.
All the scenes when you see the house on water were really shot with a replica of the house that we put on a floating barge in the middle of the sea. All the interior scenes were shot in studio twice. First we shot the scenes from the beginning of the film when everything is stable. Then we moved everything into another studio. Over there, the different rooms were placed on a mobile set to shoot the scenes when the couple is at sea and the house is rolling according to the sea movements.
La PAC was a close partner in this endeavour. Everything went really well but we had to follow a tight schedule to do all that was planned in the seven days of the shoot.
LBB> Who are you targeting with the ad? It seems quite focused towards young, maybe first-time buyers?
OLIVIER> Our film is aimed at the makers and the doers, those who have enough courage to renovate their house and make their projects go further. That’s why we thought it was better to show first-time buyers in the ad, because they are going through this unique feeling for the first time. But anyone can see themselves in them, whether you are young, old, single or in a relationship. Home buying is a universal dream.
LBB> It’s interesting because it really captures the emotional turbulence that can (often) come during decorating, rather than pretending the process is easy - which it rarely is! Instead, there’s the emotional pay off at the end. Why was this approach more powerful?
OLIVIER> We didn’t want to make a classic home improvement advert. We wanted to avoid showing the ideal life scenes that can be seen in our competitors’ films. From the beginning, our goal was to show the reality of a project, to be honest with the audience in order to move them. Leroy Merlin is a brand that shows humility and that is what we tried to bring to life with this film.
LBB> Why did you decide on this rendition of ‘Sailing’? (Despite the obvious link!)
OLIVIER> We were looking for a classic record as powerful as the adventure that we were trying to make. Again, we decided to rearrange the song, the same way that we rearranged the house in the film, in order to make it our own and turn it into something unique and original. The same process when renovating a house.
LBB> Reynald, where did you look for inspiration for the overall aesthetic? Obviously, it looks quite fantastical given that the house is sailing on water, but at the same time I guess it was important to look real and relatable to all homeowners?
REYNALD> We did a lot or initial research on interior and exterior looks and textures. Our production designer in Cape Town along with her crew also continuously proposed options to make the texturing and its evolution more believable and ‘filmable'.
LBB> How long were you working on this job?
REYNALD> If we start with the bidding and writing the treatment, the project started in April 2016 and finished in March 2017… But the 'hands on’ part started in October with the prep and shoot. So we can say about four to five months. This project was worth every second dedicated to it. It was all shot in Cape Town and surrounding areas with Gate House Films.
LBB> What are your most memorable moments?
REYNALD> There are so many memorable moments that it’s impossible to rate them. What I can say is that this shoot was one of the most intense in terms of human relationships that I have had. The mood was always serene. This was due to a very fruitful collaboration with our friends at BETC Olivier Apers, David Green, our clients from Leroy Merlin and our local production Gate House.
Each shot was almost a prototype. Each set a new experiment. We had eliminated throughout prep what we thought were the least interesting or feasible ways of fabricating this film, but we weren’t sure, despite my line producer’s certainty, that we had found the right one. The moment when we dragged the house off the rocks and into the water was a technically memorable moment. Though I had every bit of confidence in our FROG crew, I needed to see it to believe it.
But mostly, I have to thank our talent who were incredible throughout this very gruelling (for them) and intense shoot. Their performance was always ‘right on’ and the generosity in their performance unparalleled. Frankie and Jeff are the real stars!
OLIVIER> Our most memorable moment was definitely the first day of the shoot. We had to be on set at three o’clock in the morning. That’s when we saw the house (in the flesh) for the first time. It sent shivers down our spine, and not just because it was cold. It was as if we were given the keys to our very first home. As we shot the first scenes with the couple, we saw the magic operate. We were like viewers of the film that was unfolding in front of our eyes.
LBB> What were the trickiest components during the creation of this campaign and how did you overcome them?
REYNALD> Getting the right performance from our actors was, I thought, going to be very tricky. Our sets, whether in studio or on the water, were in perpetual motion and swaying from side to side continuously to recreate the feeling of being ocean bound. This part, thanks to our talent, was easier than anticipated and no one got sea sick. Though they did get ‘land-sick’…
I wanted all textures to be perfect because beyond the aesthetic demands we had to be absolutely credible, our house needed to be ‘undoubtedly’ a real house. The mechanics of making it so was greatly helped by our DOP Matias Boucard who, with his experience, greatly helped in making this film seamless.
Lastly, finding and choosing the house was a complex process. Though we were lucky in finding the ‘perfect’ house we did have to transform it a little through post production and radically changing its exterior texture and patinated aspect. With the help of our post house Eight VFX and our production design team in Cape Town this was made possible.
OLIVIER> The most difficult part wasn’t to come up with idea. It felt really obvious as soon as we heard it. We realised that it had a great potential. The goal wasn’t to execute a classic DIY film, full of product shots. We tried to be epic, spectacular, poetic and emotional. We believe that we managed to deliver a film that feels real and humane. We are telling a beautiful and big story.
Category: Decorating , Home appliances
Genre: Scenic , Storytelling