Around november last year a researcher got in touch with me to talk about how I use my smartphone. It turned out there were looking for individuals to feature in micro documentary commercials for Carphone Warehouse. Because I rarely say no to an opportunity I agreed to do it. Rather strangely in the same week another reseracher also got in touch asking if I would be interesed in a commercial for SKINS.
After a couple months of speaking to SKINS it fell through. I am still not to sure why, I don’t know if the campaign was cancelled or they went with someone else. However as the SKINS commercial fell through Carphone Warehouse got back in touch. I was still very interested in doing the commercial as my smartphone really has enabled me to do great things. In total it took around 6 months from initial talks to actual filming.
So where do these opportunities come from?
It all began with a single blog post. I began talking about what I do with smartphones and running. For the past couple of years I have continued to talk about my loss of vision, technology, running and my general life. This has meant I am ranked quite high on google for a lot of search terms. So when researchers are given a task to find an individual that meets a certain criteria I am ranked quite highly. This has the effect of me being featured on news sites and other blogs. In turn increasing the ranking on google and other serach engines. So essentially it just boils down to me talking about what I do and saying yes to every opportunity that comes along.
In order to make the commercial have a nicer “look” it was decided to shoot at multiple locations. So instead of focussing on the route I use near my house we travelled around the local area and a little beyond to feature more locations.
The shoot began at my house in Doncaster. We had previously chatted about what apps I use on my phone to allow me to achieve daily tasks. The idea was to feature these apps in use at home. Using ColorID and the weather app we shot a few scenes of me identifying the colour of my clothes and accessing the weather forecast. While this may only take up a few seconds in the commercial this took around 4 hours.
Before heading out to film some running shots we popped into the local village for a quick bite to eat. I still had the Galaxy S4 in my running short pocket. To stop it slipping out and breaking on the floor I placed it on the table. This turned out to be a bad idea as a crew member spilt a cup of tea on the phone. So now our pre release phone had a dodgy speaker. The speaker is essential to my use of a phone, but thanks to the powers of post production all the audio could now be added later!
We then headed out to the familiar stomping ground of where I learnt to run: the closed road. We shot a number of scenes here including a time lapse of me running up and down. The idea was to show the transition of me going from the closed road to learning to run on the open road. This however presented a health and safety problem. Despite the fact I do it all the time we were not allowed to film this scene, just incase I was hit by a car.
So instead the plan was to wait for the road to be clear and use a crew vehicle to simulate traffic. This wasn’t as easy as it might sound. As the road I run on is a dual carriageway, so it was a long wait until the road was clear enough to shoot. Then finally an opportunity! so I ran down the road, the crew car passed me by and we had the shot. Except we didn’t, the crew were visible in the background. So again we waited for a break in the traffic, it took 3-4 takes to finally get the shot. That concluded the shooting for the day and the shooting in Doncaster.
Today included shooting at the university library and Western Park (the park I walk through to get to the Psychology department). I arrived at the library in the morning and waited for the crew. No one turned up. I rang the producer and asked where everybody was, “we are at the library”, really? Whereabouts?, “just outside”, I am just outside can you see me?, “No?”. This went on for a while. We were at different libraries!
After we all ended up at the same library, the idea was to shoot the interview portion of the commercial that would provide all the audio. This took a couple of hours of sitting around and asking questions. Then we did a few walking shots in the park demonstrating me using accessibility features of the phone.
Time for lunch and a change of venue. We dropped Ascot off back at home and headed up to Whitby and the surrounding villages. We began by doing a quick shot of me running down a bridal path with a guide runner. This didn’t take too long and we moved on pretty quickly.
Heading to the beach we planned to do a few shots on the sand and also show how I get down stairs using touch. This was a great chance to run on the beach. I was running up and down the beach solo as there isn’t much to run into. I didn’t realise how energy sapping running on loose sand can be. It really sucks your feet in and depletes energy quite quickly. We spent an hour doing various bits on the beach then called it a day.
Day 3 was the real fun day of filming. This was the day we were using the helicam. The helicam was an octocopter with a HD camera attached. We headed to the Yorkshire Dales and closed a road for me to run on. I spent a short while learning to run up and down the road alone. The road was heavily cambered so it was relatively easy to run down the middle. Or at least click on when you weren’t running down the middle!
The helicam only has a short flight time so we needed to do each scene quickly. So instead of the usual stop start of filming I ran continuously up and down the road as the helicam chased me. The helicam was a little disconcerting as I couldn’t see it but I could hear it, it sounded like a swarm of bees chasing me. The operator was able to get it close enough for the rotors to move my clothes, so it really was a little scary.
Everyone was incredibly impressed with the helicam so we headed to another road to shoot some more. Again I spent a little while learning the road before running solo. This time I had to repeatedly run up and down a steep hill. So it was a great chance to get some hill training in!
We then headed to a forest to shoot some impressive flybys. The helicam would be at one side of the tree with me at the others, and track me as I ran through the woods. At least that was the plan. We couldn’t get clearance to film. So unable to turn the cameras on we headed to a small village for lunch.
After lunch we headed to some fields and shot a few scenes of me running up a little hill. This was relatively easy to learn as there was a defined dip in the field where people had been walking. After this we headed back to the village and did a few quick runs up and down the main street of the village. With the day drawing to a close there was time for one more shot.
We found a little fjord and the director asked if I would run through it. This was a bit tough for me as I would lose all idea of where I was while running through the fjord as there wasn’t really anything underfoot for me to follow. So we decided to break it into two shots. One of me running towards the fjord, breaking, then lining me up to run through the fjord. Again the wonders of post production tidies all that up!
The fjord scene was the final shot and the commercial was wrapped.
Opportunities like this offer me an opportunity to have a retrospective and introspective look at what got me to where I am. Its something I wouldnt really sit down and do otherwise. I didn’t appreciate at the time where the decisions I was making would lead me to. Its only when I sit back and think do I realise how big an effect small decisions have had on my life. I am very thankful for these opportunities and appreciate how they have helped me examine what I have achieved.
I have attached the finished commercial below!
As part of the commercial people are able to win prizes. If you head over to Smarter World and submit your story of how you used a smartphone you can win lots of prizes! So head over there now and claim your prize