The age-old conflict between man and boiler inspires this entertaining Das Handwerk commercial. Armed with work boots and a wrench, one engineer goes where homeowners and priests fear to tread. Director Tore Frandsen takes us through the making of this Western-genre inspired film.
What first struck you about this script when you first read it?
Well a few things really. Before seeing the script I saw that it came from Heimat. I admire their work, but I’ve never had the chance to direct for them. The brief was really simple; basically, it was a picture of a cowboy riding into the sunset. And a few lines about the satisfaction you get as a craftsman compared to a paper-pusher when the day is over… So I guess you could call it an open brief!
How much creative freedom were you given?
When you get an open brief, the treatment can go in so many different directions, so there is always the risk that the agency or client imagines something entirely different. Luckily the agency and client liked and trusted my vision. From the finished treatment to the finished film a lot of thinking changed, of course. I like to keep the production process open so that the script can adapt to location, casting, development with the production designer and cinematography.
How did you create such a unique look and western feel?
I always love to tap into all cinematic universes. I’ve loved westerns since I was a kid, but I’ve never made one myself, so this project was instantly exciting for me. I did a lot of research into the genre and very early on found that there is something quite boring about the classic dusty-road-horse-and-tumbleweed-world. It’s been seen so many times before, so the of risk of falling into a cliché was high. We decided to make a modern rendition and take it more into take it into a more contemporary world. The production designer; Steve Summersgill worked day and night to bring our vision alive.
And the tone?
A lot of my work carries this underplayed humor, which is really hard to read in a script. In our Pre Production Meeting the client asked, “Will this film have humor?” I wanted to say. “Of course! It’s a Tore Frandsen film”, but it’s so hard to understand until you are on set. You rarely get this kind of trust and freedom from clients, so I’m very grateful for that!
How did you approach casting the characters for the film? What type of people were you looking for and who did you find?
Obviously, the lead was the most important, we casted in London and I was happy to find Mark in the first round of casting. Mark has that thing about him; girls think he’s hot and guys think he’s cool. Mark was very physical and had a great sense of comedic timing. Since we where creating a universe of its own, I didn’t want anyone to look too normal. We were looking for characters with strong expressive faces, almost like a cartoon, that could help shape the world we were creating. I knew that I could find all the extras locally in Bulgaria or Romania, but typecasting like this very often comes with a cost. The level of acting talent is a challenge. So, I had to prepare the direction and script so that we could pull this off with great faces with little or no camera experience.
How did you choose the location for the shoot?
We looked at many different locations and talked a lot about the weather. There was some concern that the cold weather would be weird if you saw the film in the summer. I like the cold because it was the most dramatic setting for a film where a heating boiler is the villain. And we were hopefully creating a world that was so immersive to the viewer, that no one would notice whether it was hot or cold.
Since we wanted to control the environment so heavily with production design and closed roads; we chose a studio backlot that had been built for a Bollywood action movie. The color palette and art direction changed completely. We cheated the city street together with a row of houses in the same studio backlot. This was also convenient since we could be close to the interior studio where the basement and instrument shop was built.
The music really helps to tell the story. How did you choose this track?
Usually I find the perfect music track in the edit room, but in this case, I wanted to intergrade a banjo player who would play the score. I knew that I would need to find the track before the shoot, otherwise the banjo finger movement would be very hard to match. I did a wide search and eventually found this classic Spanish melody that I fell in love with. The only problem was after playing it on set, we had to find a banjo player who could play in this extremely high tempo. After a few failed attempts, the composer (Thomas Berlin) found a quiet Finnish man. He walked in, sat down and knocked it out of the ball park.
What challenges did you meet along the way while shooting?
The biggest challenge was the film closed on a sunset in Southern Spain, even though the rest of the film was shot in Bulgaria. We had endless discussions on how we could make the transition work from one country to the other. We didn’t have time to transport the hero car from Bulgaria toSpain, so we had to find matching cars in both countries… this was surprisingly time-consuming. But it was also nice to go to Spain after long -12 degree days in Bulgaria.
What do you think you learnt/took away from this job that you’ll use on future projects?
The shoot was very ambitious. So we needed to be fast, but we also wanted the film to feel very crafted, and wanted to avoid a handheld camera, which could speed up the shoot. Instead, we worked with a crane that had a remote head. That worked really well. It was very fast to adjust the camera frame and try different camera movements. I’ll do that again. Apart from that, I met some very talented crew members that I will definitely try to book on other jobs!
The offline presentation is always exciting; but the great things you hope you have created can still be taken apart. We started the film and saw it three times. Then there was complete silence. After a 20-minute discussion the client said, “We really like it, thank you”. Then they all stood up at the same time and walked out. That was an efficient and successful presentation.
Agency: Heimat, Berlin
Creative Direction: Guido Heffels (CCO), Stephen Quell
Copy/Script : Stephen Quell
Art Direction: Ursel Barwinski, Johanna Schmidt
Account Direction: Matthias von Bechtolsheim (CEO), Roman Jud
Agency Producer: Meike Kornrumpf
Director: Tore Frandsen
DoP: Kaspar Wind
Production: BIGFISH, Berlin
Executive Producer: Frank Siegl
Producer: Jakob Rühle
Postproduction Producer: Kristin Geyer
Co-Production: the sweetshop
Executive Producer: Spencer Dodd
Production Design: Steve Summersgill
Editor: Anders Jon Peterson
Grading/ Artist: Bacon X / Hannibal Lang
Postproduction/Flame Artist: Candy Mountain GmbH/ Neil Reynolds
Music Production: 48K
Banjo player: Arto Mäkelä
Sound Design: Kevin Koch
Mix: Hesse Studios
Client: Zentralverband des Deutschen Handwerks
Executive Campaign Manager: Stefan Koenen