The latest spots for the BMW 7 series presented significant production challenges, with three very distinct, 60-second films needing to be shot across just four consecutive 20-hour days. For director David Gentile, it would be a job of firsts – the first time to work in China and the first time to direct full minute commercial films. SHP+ caught up with the young Italian director to hear how the ambitious job was executed.
The brief from BMW and agency Front Network was for three films that would each demonstrate a different function of the 7 series – the auto parking control, controllable from outside the car; the “autobeam adaptive headlights”; and the hand gesture controlled sound system.
Each spot needed to be a stand-alone piece. Gentile emphasised the various directions in his treatment, “I underlined that we were talking about three different films, three different looks. One was more comedy, one classic and the third more technical, darker, playing with light effects.”
For the director, working in China for the first time presented challenges, namely conducting preproduction meetings via Skype, and in Chinese. Gentile was thankful to production company MiC EP Lee Cheng for acting as an effective bridge with the client, “Lee was really helpful, he knew how to balance their needs and requests with my own.”
BMW sought to create eye-catching films that could go viral. As such they invited Gentile to come up with ideas for spicing up the spots. The director relished the opportunity to assert more creative influence, “I was really involved in the creative process, more than usual where you receive the storyboard from the agency and you just decide the cast, the fitting and then its done. I really enjoyed that.” As such, Gentile suggested using a parkour runner and a girl walking on her hands for the sports film. The idea was well-received, but challenged MiC to source a parkour professional with film experience and the right look in a limited timeframe.
The notorious 20-hour China shoot days were made more challenging by the sweltering Shanghai climate. Gentile and his team battled through with a combination of coffee, energy pills, wet towels draped on the head and power naps during the inter-location transfers. Most crucially, the production team was always on hand to offer support. Gentile explained, “the production was really well-prepared. They really understood our needs. Cathy and Polly were constantly asking if we needed anything. We felt well looked after.”
Far from being overcome by the long hours, Gentile reveled in the increased shoot time, “I’d love to shoot 20 hour days in Italy – it means more shots, more time to do what you think. Maybe 16 hours would be a good compromise.”
The language barrier emerged again on set, particularly for the headlight spot where the lead actor spoke no English. For Gentile it was a new way of working, “I’m not used to having this kind of relationship with actors. I prefer to speak to them directly, one to one, for maybe 20 minutes before the shoot. It’s especially difficult if you want to talk about a subtle feeling. Even with translation the meaning can be lost.”
Gentile relied heavily on first AD Yupang Chang to communicate his direction, paying tribute to him as “the best first AD I have ever worked with”, particularly for his ability to manage up to 70 extras at a time.
Gentile also enjoyed support on set from DoP, Luca Esposito, with whom he had worked twice before, and editor Francesco Laffredo. Esposito’s personal passion for cars and Laffredo’s advice were a crucial complement to Gentile’s direction. Moreover, the ability to speak Italian with two of his closest colleagues brought efficiency to the process. Gentile admired their work ethic under pressure, “they didn’t complain, they aren’t prima donnas – they were warriors”.
The tight schedule necessitated shooting scenes of each film across the course of the same day and night. The constant transition meant Gentile and crew constantly needed to ‘reset’ their minds.
The music in particular presented another cultural hurdle. In Europe, once the client approves reference music, composition begins allowing the final score to be made ready in time for the edit. In China however, the edit is made to reference music, with original composition beginning only once the edit is complete. Though Gentile got used to the different mental process, he is not a convert to this way of working, “I still prefer the European way, because the editor has the tempo and the cuts of the final music. In the China way, it’s using another song and the feeling is different. Plus people become attached to the music in the offline edit. When you change it they must reset their mind. That can be dangerous.”
In postproduction also, he experienced a difference in working practice, with the client exerting more influence in the color grade suite. Differing audience tastes in China led BMW to favour more saturated colours for the final film.
Nonetheless, Gentile is happy with the outcome, particularly with the sport and opera spots. With three slick spots created under trying circumstances, he has every right to be pleased with his China debut.
对导演来说，第一次在中国工作意味着很多挑战，比如通过Skype同中文开前期会议。Gentile非常感谢制作公司MiC的EP Lee Cheng， 在他和客户之间起到的桥梁作用。“Lee的帮助非常大，他知道如何平衡客户需求和我自己的要求。”
DoP的Luca Esposito和编辑Francesco Laffredo也对Gentile鼎力相助。Esposito个人对汽车充满了热情，Gentile曾与之合作过两次。而Laffredo则提供了很多有用的意见，二者都对拍摄起到了关键的作用。此外，可以与两位最亲密的同事讲意大利语，这也为整个拍摄过程提供了便利。Gentile十分欣赏他们能在压力之下依旧遵循职业伦理。“他们并没有抱怨。他们不是皇帝——他们是勇士！”
- Client : BMW (China)
- Agency : Front Network (China)
- Creative Director : Kurt Li ; Zhao Yu
- Account Director : Kan Tong
- Production company : MiC (Made In China Films)
- Director : Davide Gentile
- Producer : Lee Cheng
- Dop : Luca Esposito
- Editor : Francesco Loffredo
- 1st AD : Yupang Chang
- Post supervisor : Juice Wang
- Post producer : Sunny Xu
- Post company : Film Valley (Shanghai)
- Music / Sound Design : Daniele Carmosino (Danca)
- 客户： BMW （中国）
- 代理商：Front Network（中国）
- 创意总监：Kurt Li ; Zhao Yu
- 客户总监 ： Kan Tong
- 制作公司： MiC （Made In China Films）
- 导演：Davide Gentile
- 制作人：Lee Cheng
- Dop ： Luca Esposito
- 编辑： Francesco Loffredo
- 1st AD ：Yupang Chang
- 后期主管 ： Juice Wang
- 后期制作：Sunny Xu
- 后期制作公司： Film Valley （上海）
- 音乐/声音设计： Daniele Carmosino (Danca)