60 Seconds with Mill Director Alfie Johnson on T-Mobile’s ‘The Impossible Tattoo’, shooting during a pandemic and humanising 5G technology

Thought November 16, 2020

What was the brief from T-Mobile and how did you go about bringing it to life?

T-Mobile wanted to demonstrate the power of their 5G network by humanising the technology and putting it in a space people could relate to. Tattooing is something everyone can understand, it is artistic, ritualistic, primal and permanent.

The most important thing to show was that we were doing this for real. I wanted the raw humanist art form to be key in the telling of this story and accentuate the permanence and potential danger of doing this. Since this was the first time this has been done, we didn’t know for sure if this was actually going to work, so we used this genuine suspense in the narrative to drive the viewer towards the final moment.

Wes, the tattoo artist controlling the remote rig, said “Tattooing is a connection between two people” and it was important to bring this to life. The relationship and bond between the tattoo artist and the tattooed is just as important as the tattoo itself, so I also wanted to highlight this relationship between Wes and Stijn in the film and showcase how it can be aided by technology. I believe this is more important now than ever.


How did the Covid- 19 lockdown impact this process in creating this piece of work and how was this subsequently overcome?

Covid-19 meant we had to think about the logistics of the job in a totally new way. Luckily the production team always had this on the forefront of their minds and we managed to execute the job with very little interference.

Stijn Frances prepares to be tattooed

What were the biggest challenges in creating this spot?

Whether or not it would work! We were doing something completely new, a first of its kind, so there was no way to know if it would actually work or not. What this meant was that I had to keep the narrative flexible and develop the story as it was happening. But on the other hand, this is what makes the job so unique and amazing. Sometimes the risk is needed to break new ground and create something unique.


Tell us about something that’s inspiring you right now?

I’m diving into a lot of comedy at the moment. I believe that levity is an important part of overcoming obstacles, and what is 2020 if not an obstacle! The work of Taiki Waititi and Armando Lannucci in particular, using a provocative narrative to drive home a simple message in a humorous and relatable way. I’m also exploring a lot more poetry. Most of my inspiration comes from music or prose, so I’m trying to immerse myself in this a bit more.

Read our T-Mobile’ ‘The Impossible Tattoo’ Case Study or check out more of Alfie’s work via his Creator Profile and Instagram.