Beast Branded Content and director Lawrence Jacomelli teamed up with Saatchi & Saatchi to create the intense and emotionally charged 'Earthquake' for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, with VFX by The Mill.
Using a single shot POV sequence, the audience is taken on a journey through the perspective of a person suffering from MS, giving insight into just how frightening daily tasks can be. From insight into the concept to in-camera and visual effects, director Lawrence Jacomelli
takes us through the creation of 'Earthquake', a spot in deference to the experiences of MS sufferers.
MS patients endure almost unbearable suffering on an ongoing daily basis, and at any time there can be moments when what seems like another ‘Armageddon’ is about to strike. In this context, an earthquake seemed to be an ideal metaphor. An earthquake is a dramatic event. It creates devastation, lives get lost and homes are destroyed.
So often we use the earth as a metaphor for stability. We talk about being as solid as a rock and becoming grounded. So what happens when the ground you are walking on literally shakes and when something you took as a constant is not as fixed as you thought? Are the effects of an earthquake just physical or do they send shockwaves emotionally too? An earthquake is like Earth having a really bad day – which mirrors exactly the debilitating experiences of those who suffer from MS.
The treatment for this film was created to evoke a highly captivating and emotionally tense experience. Shot on location in Brighton, England by Beast, the viewer is invited to see the sometimes frightening realities of a man suffering from MS and his sensory and physical reaction to the everyday experience of the doorbell ringing at his home. During the time it takes him to reach the front door we are taken on a journey, which leaves the viewer emotionally and mentally charged. In a reflective moment, we realize that in just a few seconds we had briefly entered the world seen through the eyes of an MS sufferer – which is exactly what this collaboration between Saatchi & Saatchi
and Beast Branded Content
wanted to achieve.
To provide a sense of realism to this single shot POV sequence, we decided to shoot the spot on location. We chose to use a small terraced house on two floors, as this would give us a tight claustrophobic space with enough of a run to prolong his escape, and allow us to keep building the tension.
We thought about shooting this sequence in Brighton, UK, as the exterior street location provides a very abrupt and obvious contrast when we cut outside to reveal that in fact there was no earthquake after all. Brighton is situated by the sea and it is also set at the foot of the South Downs, so this raised setting offers the unique opportunity to combine an ordinary Victorian terraced lined street with a calm and picturesque horizon.
As for the in-camera effects, this was a ‘back to basics’ film making experience and involved plenty of fishing line, broken up plasterboard and talcum powder. There were in total five grips, each of whom were either hiding or running just ahead of camera, swinging picture frames, yanking books off shelves and shaking pot plants. Of course, the real impact of the sequence only came about when The Mill came on board and started to really smash the place up.
But the plan was always to have the walls crack, rather than tumbling down and collapsing. There’s something more suited to the psychological metaphor and feeling of displacement that you get from seeing walls around you starting to crack – the reference we had in mind for this approach to how the earthquake should affect the walls was the Polanski film ‘Repulsion
’, where Catherine Deneuve’s character has a downward spiraling mental breakdown which climaxes with her envisaging that the walls around her are cracking. There’s something deeply unsettling about it. And that’s what we wanted to achieve here.
The final step was the sound design. And like any horror film, when you turn the sound down, it just isn’t scary, so until this point the true impact and effectiveness couldn’t be gauged. Our aim was to make it fierce but realistic – and push forward the notion that actually, all of this chaos is insular. It was important to hear the man that we would never see – his raised anxiety expressed by panicked breathing, his footsteps faltering across wooden floors and stairs, the thrashing of his clothes as he runs and of course the audible palpitations of his accelerating heart rate. We truly hope this spot helps to raise a better awareness of MS and motivates people to contribute to help fight this debilitating disease.
Find out more about the Multiple Sclerosis Society at mssociety.org