L I S R PE
TREATMENT BY JAMIE CHILDS
INTRODUCTION This film is all about kids expressing themselves and creating something genuinely amazing. Dirt is good has been a revolutionary way of thinking about laundry products, and this is an exciting chance to take that idea to a new place. It’s full of attitude, authentic, raw and cool. None of your safe, gentle laundry ads here. This film is going to grab the viewer by the scruff of the neck. I want to stay away from anything predictable or cutesy. The band and their performance should be truly surprising and inspiring. The lengths they’ve gone to in creating this incredible sonic experience. The sound they make. The mess they make. I love the fact that you want the audience to be surprised by who this ad is for. Of course we have to make sure that when we do see the Dirt Is Good line, it all makes perfect sense, but I definitely want people to watch the garage door come down and think ‘Wow. That was for Persil?!?!’
MY APPROACH For me the film needs to play out like a genuine rock promo. The styling, atmosphere and cinematic language will be exactly like we’re shooting a Foo Fighters video. Quick cuts, dynamic movement, inventive use of compositions and film speeds. It needs to have that electric energy that makes you sit up and take note. So these kids are a genuinely authentic rock band, not some childish imitation. They may only be young, but they’ve got proper skills. Imagine the drummer’s head moshing up and down in time to the beat - could be good if this is a girl to get loads of movement in her long hair (plus girl drummers are just cool). On that note, these are cool kids. They can’t be cheesy looking or dressed up by Mum. They’ve got real attitude and style. My reference point would be - what was Dave Grohl like as a 10 year old?
We also need to get an incredible performance out of them. They have to feel relaxed, confident and absolutely lost in the moment. This could actually be a dream part for a kid - playing a rock star - if we handle them in the right way. One thing I always like to do is to shoot second camera myself on the day using a spare body. This will not only allow us to capture the huge variety of footage we’ll need to create that high octane promo aesthetic, but it puts me in the mixer, with the kids. I can be there on their level, directing and talking to them as we shoot. It’s something I’ve done with kids before, and I think it always creates a better vibe than being this austere figure behind a monitor pointing and shouting. Their rapport with me is really important if we’re going to get the most out of them. I want to get it to the point where it just feels like us all hanging out together having a great time. They almost forget we have cameras.
TONE Being in a band is all about relying on your mates and working together to achieve something amazing. It means teamwork, togetherness and determination to succeed. I want it to feel like these kids have been refining and practicing the performance to the point where it’s perfect. The way they’ve used certain implements to construct the song should be ingenious and playful. An old oil drum as a bass drum is a great example. Maybe paint pots for high hats. The level of dirt and grime on their clothes is a testament to the long hours they’ve put in turning out every corner of this garage in search of exactly the right piece of kit for a particular note. I want to keep the tone very authentic, so although we’re capturing it in a beautiful and heightened way, the performance feels real. This is how promo performance works. You have to feel like the band are really playing or you lose the magic. This will be really important as we plan out how to tie the sound layers for the track into our production design.
If we can make the audience feel this is really happening, that these kids have really come together to create such an inventive and creative spectacle, thatâ€™s when weâ€™ll get a genuinely inspirational spot. The second thing about the tone is that it needs to have an edge to it. These kids take their music seriously. They are Nirvana in miniature. The drummer is powerful and totally into the beat. The singer owns the microphone - eyes screwed shut, feeling every lyric. Of course there are fun and cheeky moments, maybe the drummer mischievously throwing their sticks away at the end of the last note, but the overall mood is serious. The inside of the garage is a dark, dramatic, grungy environment. For this sixty seconds, it could be the Brixton academy.
STORY The story is beautifully simple. I don’t want it to be too linear - it should have the more eclectic, dynamic structure of a pop promo. However I do like the idea of this quiet moment at the start where they’re setting up.
We open on a darkly lit garage. At this point we don’t even know what it is. Just a grungy space. The kids are moving around, shifting things, arranging. Plugging in lamps nicked or borrowed from somewhere. Tweaking the arrangement of the drum kit. Wiring up an amp. There’s a mood of careful anticipation. Something’s about to kick off.
When they’re finally all in position one of the walls of the room starts to rise up, and we realise we’re in a garage. Light floods in from outside. I like the idea that this is streetlighting and that we set the film at night. This would give us good control over lighting to create dramatic images, silhouettes, lens flares, backlighting and sculptural shapes. Most importantly it’s what you would do if it were a promo. The opening would be motivated by moonlight through the garage’s only window.
An alternative look we could go for in terms of lighting style and mood is one lit by rays of golden hour sunlight. We could start with little spears of light beaming through gaps in the curtains, enhanced by dust particles floating through the air, as the band are setting up. Then as the garage door starts to roll up we can bounce a soft fill inside giving us a gentle, even illumination throughout the garage. One of the band members could then open the curtains along one wall to allow our bright directional key light (the fake sun) to shine into the room. This key light shining through the side windows could be enhanced with cracked oil haze to create some beautiful shafts of light that the band will split and break up as they perform around the garage. These beams will also give us excellent backlight and shadows, and will create some spectacular lens flare. This could look equally epic.
Then when the door opens the drummer starts the count. One, two, one two three four. The lights inside the garage kick in. These could be festoons, old lamps - feeling like a rag bag collection of whatever they could find. Perhaps we see one of them stamp on a floor pedal to light it all up.
The band explodes into life. All of a sudden weâ€™re in rock promo world. Itâ€™s beautifully lit, dramatic and super cool.
From here on it’s montage and jump cuts, a mixture of fast and slow motion. Little moments of detail and texture add life to it - oil jumping off surface of a metal hub cab (cymbal), the kids wiping filthy hands down their white t-shirts.
One skids on his knees with his guitar through a slick pile of floor grease. The singer melodramatically runs his hand through his hair, slicking it back with dark oily muck. They’re fearless and full on.
When the track finishes, the door is starting to close. The kids thrash out the last notes of the song, backlit as the door comes down in front of them. We still hear a guitar chord ringing out as the door reaches the floor, and we see a simple, graphic and beautifully lit exterior of the garage. On the door, illuminated by an exterior house light, is the Persil graphic and the line. Title: No Stain No Gain.
We cut to a packshot, again beautifully lit but this time inside the garage as we see a washing machine pushed up against the wall. Maybe itâ€™s in a kind of haphazard position, as if it was moved there by the kids to make way for the performance. On top is a bottle of Persil. We see the Persil logo and super: Super: Persil. Dirt is good.
LOOK To feel like an authentic rock promo, the film needs to have a raw and grungy edge. I’d create this through heavy backlighting, supplemented with a subtle smoke effect - nothing too theatrical, just something to create texture and bite in the air. We’ll shoot on long lenses, creating a sweaty, claustrophobic energy and a visceral pace to the camera movement. Hand held camera will bring a rawness and add to the energy. Compositions will be fresh and fluid. Dutch angles, intense close ups, focus pulls, dynamic transitions. The backlighting will give us opportunities for lens flare and silhouettes. I’d also like to explore the idea of some super slow motion Phantom shots to intersperse the film with moments of heightened beauty. Imagine oil flying up from the drums at 1000 frames or even faster. This would raise the coolness level and production value significantly.
The main body of the film will be shot with Alexa on anamorphic lenses, which will bring a cinematic quality and generate horizontal blue streak flares. This would look epic. If we feel that anamorphic isn’t the way to go, I’d opt for Superspeed or Ultraprimes to give us plenty of latitude and beautiful low light capability. As discussed above we would run two cameras with myself operating the second camera - this would give us twice the coverage in the same time as a standard shoot. Lighting will be a combination of motivated backlighting and practicals strewn around the garage as if lit by the kids. This will give us the right balance between authenticity and drama. It’ll look stunning.
CAST & STYLING We need to find a fun, dynamic group of kids with personality, individuality and just enough attitude. I’m looking for kids that have a ‘I don’t give a crap what you think’ vibe. I imagine there’s 5 of them (2 girls, 3 boys) aged 8 to 10, with a variety of ethnicities and looks. It should feel like a representative cross section of modern society. In terms of the styling, there are two routes we can take. One is the very casual, understyled less is more look. Like they’ve just thrown some clothes on from their messy bedroom floors. There’s a kind of coolness to this - an early 90s grunge rock aesthetic. The other idea is that we style them slightly softer, late 80s goonies era. Ripped jeans. Think MacCauley Culkin in the Black or White video or the cast of Super 8. This look is very now and could be something a bit more defined and memorable.
THE TRACK Of course the track we choose is going to be a huge part of the film’s appeal and attitude. It needs to be something universal enough to have a broad appeal, but it can’t be too cheesy or poppy. It also needs to be recognisable even with the improvised instrumentation. On that note, it’s easy to see straight away that percussion is going to be a really fruitful area for us in terms of recreating the track with leftover garage junk. So we should pick a track that’s percussive and even add some more layers of percussion in so we give the kid characters even more licence for creativity. In amongst the improvised instruments I think for sound purposes only we’ll get away with having some real instrumentation in there. When we record the track we’ll use top session musicians, and of course it doesn’t need to necessarily be the same kid singing that we see as the frontman, but I really want to stress that we should be casting the band from properly talented child musicians, and get them to the point where they can actually play the track together as a band, for real. It may not be their playing we hear on the soundtrack, but this is super important to get authenticity in the performances.
Some songs especially lend themselves to full on, barnstorming performance. Here’s a few first thoughts. Please bear in mind I haven’t vetted the lyrics yet to be Persil friendly, I’m just thinking musical direction: Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit Rolling Stones - Paint It Black (good resonance between the lyrics and the idea) Queen - Under Pressure (there’s a great performance of this in the film ‘It’s Kind Of A Funny Story’, with slightly older kids but the song is properly anthemic) Michael Jackson - Beat It (works well with the kids pounding the drums) Jimi Hendrix - Purple Haze / All Along The Watchtower The Jam - Going Underground Madness - One Step Beyond Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart (rocked up version)
FINALLY There’s potential here to make a film that’s disruptive in the best way. It won’t be like anything we’ve seen from Persil before, but when you think about it it’s a totally natural fit. It takes the Dirt Is Good idea to a fresh and interesting place. My attitude to it is no guts, no glory. We need to have the confidence to create something that can really sit alongside a full on rock promo in terms of its spirit, the performances and the level of visual flair. The twist is that we’re doing it with kids, so of course we need to respect that way of working. I can say from experience that if we’re prepared to put the time and effort in to getting them in the zone, the results will be really special. It’s a brave, cool, relevant project and I’d love to talk to you about it further.
Jamies‘ guide to becoming a guitar hero