On the final night of the Cannes Advertising Festival 2015, a heartwarming film starring singing chickens pining for flight won a Bronze Lion for Film - it's the latest honour in a string of wins for McCann Melbourne when engaging AIRBAG, with this film crafted by director Raphael Elisha
Says Adrian Mills (left), managing director of McCann Melbourne: "In many ways the AIRBAG Team are a part of our team. We have a very consultative relationship rather than a typical agency/supplier one. In all, we've collaborated to achieve over 50 awards in the last three years. The relationship has been creatively fruitful."
A strong vision and unique offering have helped AIRBAG quickly carve out a niche for themselves, creating work for agencies and clients in Australia, Asia and the UK. Says director/co-founder Adrian Bosich: "We set up AIRBAG as a nimble shop with a broad offering because we sensed a shift in the industry. The way audiences were being engaged was changing. We continue to make great filmed content, but our studio is also a creative hub where we incorporate technology, experiential and visual effects passionately into our work."
AIRBAG do all of their own VFX in-house using their awarded Visual Effects team. This benefits AIRBAG and their clients greatly. Indeed, pulling off a spot like 'Chickens' on time and on budget, would be impossible without such a resource. Says director Raphael Elisha: "The amazing thing about AIRBAG is the VFX team are there right with you the whole time. Because it's in-house, I can walk over and discuss anything with them at any time and vice versa, they can call me over if they need me to check something immediately. It also allows for very free-flowing discussions about the work, so that we can realise the best approach to a job without wasting any time back and forth."
Arguably, some of the spot's most memorable moments are thanks to the skills of the VFX team. As Adrian Mills points out - "Every single dust particle was placed by the VFX team as was the jet. The tear made me cry. People probably don't realise that a chicken's beak doesn't actually move when they cluck, or 'sing'."
However, there was one moment that the spot's star chicken can take full credit for, continues Mills "in the very first take the chicken walked straight across the barn and pecked the play button, and that gave us real confidence."
A script like 'Chickens' is a gift for any director, but Raphael Elisha, who according to AIRBAG's executive producer, Robert Stock, is "adept at walking the line between the ridiculous and the sublime" knew that there were still inherent challenges that would need to be overcome. As Raphael explains: "I couldn't depend on a chicken to deliver an award winning performance. Instead, I knew that the action, framing and in particular the music, would build up the emotional connection... on face value, this does seem more like a comic piece. When you read it on the page, it strikes you as straight, ridiculous comedy. But what we found, particularly when we matched the vision to the deep, weathered tones of the singer, was that the piece took on an extra layer of pathos. All of a sudden, you did feel for the chicken. You understood its plight, you believed in its struggle. And while one part of your brain appreciated the ridiculousness of the situation, you couldn't help but feel the drama of it all. It was quite extraordinary!"
Indeed, when you think about it, airlines and their Frequent Flyer programs are selling a dream and giving their members hope - just like the hope in the misty eyes of AIRBAG's starring chicken, and of AIRBAG themselves. As Robert Stock (formerly of Boffswana and Sputnik - pictured left) puts it "Previously, AIRBAG has been an insider secret because the creative artists who work there are essentially humble people who (luckily) have certainly not had an overinflated sense of their skills... But now, the profile of the business is rising both in Australia and internationally, the talents are more self assured and our Directors and clients are winning more awards... Solving problems for our clients is the most fun part of what we do - all you need is a client with some time and money - once you have that anything is possible."
And is director Raphael Elisha surprised at the Lion win? "Look, you always hope that your work will be well-received but I learnt early on not to get too carried away with award predictions and grandiose hopes. Having said that, based on the genius of the script alone, I did think it would garner some international interest. I was thrilled to be included in the Film and Film Craft finalists, and blown away by the win in Film. If you think of the number of TV commercials produced every year around the world and to think that ours was selected along with 40 others as the best of the bunch, then went on to win a gong, well, that is very humbling."
And finally, does Raphael have any advice for those aspiring to work with avian actors in the future? "The main dish served on the shoot at lunch was roast chicken. I couldn't actually bring myself to eat it. It didn't seem to bother our first A.D. We were running behind at the time and he used lunch as a warning to the rest of the underperforming chickens who were slowing us down."
For a full reel of AIRBAG's work contact Robert Stock on 0417 619 449.