Seb Edwards is a commercials and film director, represented by Academy. His cinematic style of work has taken him around the world to produce a multitude of award-winning commercials. In this interview he tells us the secret stories behind some of his most epic spots – including adverts for Jagermeister and Barclays.
Jaegermeister - Journey to Surf
The shoot was very real. We did an actual road trip around the island, shooting along the way. The weather was intense and hampered the production to some degree but it forced us into positions where we got convincing stuff. It was minus 20 degrees and sometimes the camera froze up and stopped working.
We found out where the swell was going to be and travelled to meet it. We were at the mercy of the weather and the waves. We had no control, it was quite liberating really.
The cast were real surfers. They’re just a group of mates who’d known each other for years. It was like being on an extreme stag do. They couldn’t believe their luck. They were being paid to have a laugh with their mates, do something they loved.
One of the main issues was the surfers overheating, even though there were blocks of ice floating around them. The wetsuits were 6mm thick and the waves were so challenging they had to work really hard. They were piping hot when they came out of the water, and in the five-minute boat ride to bring them in and get them in a hot tub, they’d freeze. You could see icicles forming on their bodies and they’d start shivering uncontrollably.
All of the stuff in the water was shot by one guy with an underwater camera. We called him ‘Willie the Fish’. He was amazing. He’d shot a lot of surf films including ‘Dark Side of the Lens’. We expected him to have loads of kit... but he just turned up with flippers and goggles. Luckily he’s an experienced surfer so his judgment was pretty sound. Which is just as well as the safety boat couldn’t get close because the waves were so big.
Barclays – Long Distance Relationships
This was Barclays sending out a thank you to the fans in a very honest way. Originally it was a vignette-style script, but myself and the BBH team felt it would be more emotive if you followed only three characters. It was a way of making you connect more.
The main guy in the American story was a local dustman that we drove past in a blue-collar town. He looked like the kind of guy that would be a sports fan. And the Hong Kong girl was actually shot in Vancouver.
But the thing that I remember most was the African kid. The casting director found him in an orphanage in Kenya. He was amazing. We managed to work out a deal that meant his payment went towards private school fees. So it was nice that we were able to give him something that would have a significant impact on his life.
Luta - Real Strength
The most insane filming experience I’ve had was for Luta – a charity sports brand. The commercial is about a Brazilian boxing champion, Roberto Custodio, who was brought up in a dangerous favela in Rio (Complexo da Mare).
We were filming in his community, which is run by drug traffickers. There’s a military police station on the border, and they’re effectively at war with each other. Both groups allowed us to film but said "tell us where you’ll be at all times".
Of course there was some confusion. We were there at night, all wearing white t-shirts from the charity. We were unloading flight cases full of equipment. And from a distance we looked like police. A gang of traffickers armed with machine guns spotted us and thought they were about to get raided.
Then from the other direction an armoured police vehicle pulled up to see what we were doing. The traffickers opened fire, and we hit the deck. All hell broke loose. There was a 40-minute gun battle and we were stuck in the middle.
It’s the commercial I’m most proud of because I nearly died making it.
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