EPIC – an Action packed TV ad production

Blog, Video Production


The awesomeness of the TV ad I’ve been working on is officially live and you can view it in all its action movie juiciness right here: http://youtu.be/oaTJIRw3qYQ

I love action movies. I grew up on them and they play a big part in my wanting to be a movie director. Out of all the genres of film they’re the most cinematic (in my humble opinion). They use camera movement, blocking, sound and music all cranked up to 11 to deliver something that just can’t be done in any other format! So being able to dabble in it was a joy for me. A joy that penetrated my soul! My SOUL!

Now let’s get down to how it was made! The purpose of the ad was to get  volunteers to sign up to do charity work and fundraising initiatives so it might have seemed like a weird concept  to use action movie tropes; but actually the idea worked perfectly. In truth, volunteers are the backbone of any charity and the effort they give is epic. So making them out to be these heroes was a no brainer. 

Pitching the concept was easy too, I used movie trailers and scenes from some of my favourite action movies (Badboys, die hard, tons of superhero movie trailers) and the team loved the idea straight off. Having worked well with them before there was a level of trust so it was a great experience sharing ideas and communicating with them. 

Where a lot of time was spent was researching the camera moves and the overall style I wanted the ad to have. It was going to be a tongue-in-cheek homage to the movies I grew up with, but that didn’t mean we could get away with poorly executed shots. So thanks to the genius of Tony Szhou (@tonyszhou) and his ‘every frame a painting’ videos, figuring out how we needed to block actors and set up camera moves became really clear. I scoured locations and we did some test shots to make sure everything in my head was translating to the screen. This is where I mess up a lot of the time. I’m so eager to get to principal photography that I forget to test the concepts. Then in post I learn the hard way. Well, thanks to the discipline of my colleague and co director Quinn it was an essential part of the process. 

Actors were hired and with all the gear goodness a young filmmaker could ask for we were set for our shoot. 

It was a gruelling weekend but actually it was prep where most of our energy was sapped. Blocking and lighting each scene before actors stepped on set so that when we were ready to go it was actually a breeze. I’m not going to lie, though my dream is to be a director, the thought of being the big cheese on any project fills me with dread. Luckily I had my mentor and friend Quinn Pohl alongside and as things got underway I really eased into it. Like, I know what I want and how I can achieve that but I’m no public speaker. Once I got comfortable I worked closely with Quinn and the actors to make sure we were nailing each scene. Cast and crew were all great too which makes a huge difference to the production process. 

Can you spot the scenes and moments paying tribute to famous action movies and directors? The most obvious one is the Michael bay shot in the middle famous from Badboys. Whenever I tried explaining this to anyone they got it straight away when I’d say ‘that bit when will smith & Martin Lawrence stand up and say “this sh!t just got real!” 

Nailed this shot thanks to the research done on the Tony Szhou video (see ‘What is Bayhem?’). Essentially it’s a curved dolly track and you have your actors rise vertically whilst the camera moves laterally. The result is this epic sweeping move which can make even the humblest of charity workers look like heroes! Additional notes on this: ensure using a telephoto lens and that the background has enough detail and moves to create parallax. Voila. Instant action movie scene. 

Postproduction: music I got from premiumbeat.com and where some of the shots came alive was from a basic grade. It was just a case of pushing contrast and using the classic orange/cyan combination that gets used a lot in Hollywood. There are some whooshes and radio type sounds in there too to bring out the urgency of the action. I’m being super brief here as the edit was quite simple as it resembled the storyboard so closely. 

So that’s the ad. Really proud of it because it came out exactly how I saw it in my head. Plus it’s a chance to raise the production value of British Muslim media. Even bigger bonus is that it’s for a great charity like Muslim Aid (muslimaid.org). There’s no reason why the content being produced by Muslim production houses or organisations should be of a lower quality. In fact the ethos of the faith should inspire us to be the best!

So what did you think of the ad? Let me know and share it with your social media peoples. 

For more of this video geekery follow me on Twitter: @safiyyahsdad