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Shilo Breaks Out in Guinness “Spoken Word”

The filmmakers from creative production company Shilo directed and produced a spot for ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi London and their clients at Guinness. Working in collaboration with agency creative director Tim Hearn and creative team Dave Govier and Levi Slavin, Shilo—widely known for creating visually poetic content—chose to produce the agency’s powerful “Spoken Word” script in a stunning location, where their live-action filmmaking talents could amplify the spot’s message. The spot began airing throughout the Caribbean earlier this month.

From “Spoken Word”
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“What we found most exciting about Shilo was their ability to bring a real magic to every aspect of the film—live-action, design and VFX,” say Govier and Slavin. “They’re an unbelievable talent.”

Set in an empty, darkened warehouse, a man—international musician and spoken-word artist Ainsley Burrows—appears, and begins a spellbinding, poetic performance, most of it addressed directly into the camera. “I’m on a journey,” he begins. “It started 28 years, 12 weeks, 3 days, 6 hours, 36 minutes, and 14, 15, 16 seconds ago. And in this time I’ve come too far; too far to listen to critics; too far to consider defeat; too far to be less than great … 25, 26, 27, 28. The knocks on my journey mapped out by my scars; they’re both story and proof of how I reached for the stars. My hands in the air, my feet on the floor … 41, 42, 43, 44. I’m on a journey, and it won’t stop until I do … 49.” The words “Reach for Greatness” then appear on-screen, before revealing a bottle of Guinness.

On the New Jersey warehouse set
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“For calling on us to fulfill this script’s very tall order, we were honored, and we embraced the challenge with everything we had,” says Shilo co-founder, creative director and director André Stringer. “Directing for us is so much about bringing a broad, holistic vision to the table. Shooting the live action and directing the performance, as well as seamlessly integrating our poetic design and animated elements, all took on equal importance. Nothing was an afterthought.”

The agency’s script specifically called for a man of Caribbean origins, and the strength of the dialogue led Shilo to search for someone who actually personified the character and his story. “As we began conceiving the production process, a lot of ideas came to the surface,” Stringer explains. “For our on-camera talent, we wanted his actions to come across not as a performance but as more of a ‘letting of his soul.’ When you watch the spot, that’s exactly what Ainsley brought to this.”

Behind the scenes
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Another striking component of the finished spot is the setting. With the script originally calling for the actor to appear in a pitch-black setting, Stringer and his colleagues suggested shooting on location in a large, empty space with some character. “We felt pretty strongly that featuring Ainsley in this type of space would bring in some important texture, personality and grit—and also that it provided an interesting visual metaphor for the theater of his mind,” Stringer adds. “Levi and Dave totally got behind the idea, and the location we all agreed upon was The Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor in Bayonne, New Jersey.”

To capture the live-action footage on location, Stringer and Director of Photography Martin Ahlgren used an ARRIFLEX 435 Xtreme 35mm motion picture camera, an ARRICAM ST for handheld shots and ARRI lighting. Their choice of film stock was Kodak Vision2 200T 5217 color negative film.

Martin Ahlgren, director of photography, on the set

for Guinness “Spoken Word”
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“We embraced the black and beige palette of the Guinness branding as the main elements of our look,” explains Stringer. “The milky shadows and striking beams of light mix with the flow of our graphic elements—everything was an attempt to bring the beer to life in a metaphorical fashion.”

As noted earlier, the creative called for Shilo to create original animated content, which appears around Burrows as he speaks, to illustrate his words and thoughts. At first appearing as a flowing atmospheric trail following the artist, shapes organically materialize, symbolizing many different images of time, travel, growth, freedom and more.

For this aspect of the production, Shilo’s associate creative director/designer Evan Dennis, 3D lead Tamir Sapir, Stringer and their fellow artists used Adobe Creative Suite 3 (CS3) for design, Autodesk Maya for animation and 3D, Adobe Photoshop for texturing, Adobe After Effects for compositing and Apple Final Cut Pro for editing. FumeFX was used for the creation of particles, and Maya nCloth handled cloth simulation.

The campaign’s original music and sound design are courtesy of Human.

“Guinness represents greatness, and for this short film powerfully representing a person’s journey toward greatness, we had a goal of making sure that every frame, every nuance, felt authentic and on-brand,” Stringer concludes. “Looking at the finished result, we’re extremely proud, and again, we express our deep appreciation to the creatives at Saatchi & Saatchi, and their clients at Guinness, for putting their faith in us.”