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When people were compiling their bets as to who was going to put out the biggest festive spot of the year, I doubt many would have chanced their arm on a bunch of Burberry-clad dancers avoiding excessive hail.

That is, of course, until they noticed that MEGAFORCE were behind it...

The French directing collective, repped by Riff Raff, are probably best known for their all-conquering Nike Nothing Beats A Londoner spot, although one glance at their eclectic body of work shows a team that like to take on challenges. Hence the Burberry ice-avoiders.

We caught up with them to talk about how the spot came together, this implementation of special effects in such freeform-appearing takes and how shooting in a pandemic had an effect.

Burberry – Festive

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How did you get involved with the project? You guys came up with the concept as well as shooting it, right?

Each year, Burberry makes a film for Christmas, they contacted us to make the new one, I think mainly because they liked the vibe of the Nothing beats a Londoner Nike commercial we did a couple years ago. 

They explained us the history of their brand, what they wanted to convey, and we had to come up with an idea.

Where did you come up with the concept of a dance through mega-hail? How did that thought evolve?

Originally, Thomas Burberry creates innovative weatherproof apparels used to push the boundaries of earth exploration. We wanted to translate this idea into an urban and actual environment. 

The iconic scene of Gene Kelly tap dancing under the rain was the kind of fearless attitude we wanted to express. 

Rain wasn’t quite right to represent the sh** storm we’ve been through this year, so we went for a more violent metaphorical direction.

Rain wasn’t quite right to represent the sh** storm we’ve been through this year, so we went for a more violent metaphorical direction where an apocalyptic hail storm would hit London’s streets where a group of friends seamlessly carry on their journey with a friendly and optimistic attitude. 

At what point did you bring in (LA) HORDE? Were you aware of them already?

We talked to several choreographers during the prep, but when we saw their video Room with a View, we felt they were the right casting for this job.

What was the most important thing to get right before the shoot took place? What took the most organisation?

The big challenge was to create a choreography all determined by something that wouldn’t be on set for real. We had to picture in our minds those blocks all the time. It was pretty challenging for the dancers to act like they’re interacting with them naturally. The way they dodge them or push them away was crucial for the integration in post. 

The big challenge was to create a choreography all determined by something that wouldn’t be on set for real.

During the first rehearsals, we threw them balls and garbage bags, so their body physically gets the kind of move they needed to do and the way their eye-line should move. 

How was the shoot? We're guessing it wasn't during an actual hailstorm... but was it during lockdown?

No mega-hail storm where expected in the UK during August so we had to do without it!  

It was after the first lockdown, but still not quite like the pre-covid shooting conditions. We had to deal with loads of new rules like French people being quarantined for 15 days when entering the UK. 

But we made it through. 

We love shooting in London for the architectural mix that you can find there.

Now that we’re lockdown again, we were agreeing with (LA) HORDE that it feels like some good old summer holidays memories.

Were there any tricky circumstances to overcome on the shooting days? How did you do this?

The weather was the most tricky part as we needed an overcast sky without rain. So we often had to wait either for the sun to leave, either for the rain to stop. 

Also, in order to get the best performance on the best camera move, we asked the talents to hold their horses during the first takes to save their energy for when we were 100% sure the camera move was perfectly set.

Click image to enlarge

The film is pretty effects-heavy, despite the realistic look. How did you achieve the look and what did you have to consider in order to make it easier for the post house?

The post house did an impressive job because we couldn’t have any real ice blocks falling on set. We just had few real ice crumbles on the floor in some parts, and we shots some real elements of ice falling on location against a black background. This way, we had a realistic reference, shot in the right conditions, then MPC guys did the magic.

The film brought you back to the streets of LDN - were you at all worried you wouldn't be able to live up to the phenomenon that was your Nike work?

Burberry had this Nike commercial in mind but we knew this new film will be quite far from Nothing beats a Londoner

the ending at the sea was a surprising twist to take you somewhere else.

We love shooting in London for the architectural mix that you can find there. Of course the main street is clearly identified as london, but the ending at the sea was a surprising twist to take you somewhere else and talk about something bigger, outside of the UK capital.

What's up next for you?

Same as you, another lockdown! 

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