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Soho Soho talks to Archer’s Mark director James Lawes about filming MS Society

27 October 2019

What attracted you to this script?

I loved that the script's intention was to use real MS sufferers instead of actors and focus on activities relevant to them. It gave us an opportunity to present them in a way that felt authentic, but also not as victims. The scenarios feel relatable and that is what I saw would get our audience on side. We set out to create a connection rather than perhaps the more typical advertising "us and them" approach we are used to seeing.

How tricky was it casting real MS sufferers?

There is always the fear when casting "real people" that they won't deliver on the day or become too self conscious in front of the cameras. In this case there was an even greater ask of our contributors as they had to sing. We spent a long time finding the right people that were both representative of all aspects of MS but also felt comfortable to perform. We also had to be really conscious of these individuals wellbeing with regards to their limitations, to ensure the experience was a positive one for them.

You were asking real people non actors to sing along too - how did you manage the performances here?

We wanted the vocals to be stripped back and honest, not auto tune them into an overly polished state, so you can imagine how vulnerable one may feel if they are not confident with their singing abilities. I spent the time rehearsing with our contributors as well as giving them an earpiece to hear the music to sing along to. We also kept crew size behind the camera down to ensure a more intimate, comfortable environment. As we rehearsed, our contributors confidence grew and gradually we dialled up their performances to a place we were all happy with.

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What did you feel you brought to this script to make it your own?

I wanted to shoot hand-held to add a visceral immediacy to the piece, but while we wanted a documentary feel, I also wanted it to feel cinematic and considered whilst remaining naturalistic. I liked the idea of each of our scenarios feeling either tungsten lit or somewhat in darkness/coolness, but in the background beyond our contributors there is a sense of either positive warmth or daylight, the idea being that there is hope in the distance; "we aren't there yet but, something good could be around the corner." I also wanted the singing to feel somewhat within the thoughts of our individuals, so kept the depth of field very shallow, as if we are within their worlds.

Your previous work has been predominantly technique driven, what attracted you to this script?

While a lot of my work is technique driven, there is always a rational behind the technique. It is there to reinforce the message or enhance the experience in a relevant way. While there is more of a simplicity to this visual approach, the singing was our device so I never felt we needed to overshadow this with a camera technique that may distract.

What kind of script are you looking for next?

I'm always on the lookout for emotive and thought provoking scripts. While I tend to get asked to direct tonally darker subject matter, I am very much interested in lighter work and am prepping currently on a commercial that I feel will showcase my lighter side, an area I hope to expand on, this shoots this week, so watch this space!

What skills do you think the agency were looking for in you as a director?

I imagine the agency were looking for someone who has experience of working with real people as well as being comfortable dealing with tough subject matters. It's such a fine balance when creating a charity commercial as you need to strike the right tone emotionally; make a film that's too soft and it goes unnoticed, push people too hard and they disengage, uncomfortable with being forced to face a reality that is too harsh for them to want to comprehend. These sort of projects require a lightness of touch to be successful. I hope I have managed to strike that tone here.

View here:
https://archersmark.co.uk/project/mssocietydontstop/

Contact Nicky Flemming for more information nicky@archersmark.co.uk

Credits:
Title: DON’T STOP THINKING ABOUT TOMORROW
Client: THE MS SOCIETY
Production Company: ARCHER’S MARK, LONDON, UK
Director: JAMES LAWES
Agency: PUBLICIS HEALTH, UK
Agency Creatives: ANDREW SPURGEON, ANDREW MORLEY, KEVIN MORRISON, GUY BRICIO
Account Manager: ELLIE WYITHE
Client Solutions Director: GRAHAM ROBINSON
Agency Producer: CLAIRE MARTIN
Producer: KIRSTY LANE
Director of Photography MALTE ROSENFELD
Head of Production: FIONA BAMFORD-PHILLIPS
Editor: ALEX WILLIAMS
Colourist: JACK MCGINITY, CHEAT

Executive Producer

Contact Name
Nicky Flemming
Email
nicky@archersmark.co.uk
Phone
+44 (0) 207 426 5160