The Box of Now
November 10, 2009 Kevin
Here’s an expanded account of the 24 hour ad challenge experience.
On the morning of the 7th November 2009, the team did not know what to expect. This was going to be one of biggest challenges they had ever faced: to make a 60-second advert on a unknown theme in just 24 hours…
The competition was organised by Johnnie Oddball, the loveable eclectic with his famous ten rules of guerrilla filmmaking. Four years since first conceived, the competition began: make an advert for the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) on the theme of “now”.
Pre-planning was paramount. They had arranged to use Johnnie’s Movieum as a base, but with no idea what for. Peter managed to get a permit to film at Canary Wharf, which Darren trumped by making arrangements for a helicopter. In the end, they never went to Canary Wharf, needed no helicopter and actually spent less than three hours at the Movieum.
As the briefing closed, there was an explosion of people onto Golden Square. Some went off immediately and others huddled into groups among the benches. Team 2 took a different approach and stayed in the building mulling. First they had to define now.
Peter and Kevin went to find a book called “Now”. Kenny, of the Philosophy department at Foyles took them on a journey through now and Peter texted it back. Matt, Ash and Josh went out to ask people ‘what is now’ and film them doing something spontaneous. Once the concept was finalised, not much time was left. Runners were dispatched to get a large white gift box. Having picked up red ribbon from a shop that Caroline knew, Peter retrieved the cardboard from a skip on a side street.
“60 seconds in 24 hours”
They moved on to the Movieum. Ed, Caroline, Steve and Nyall got to work on building the box, as the rest tried to borrow what they could from Johnnie. They had to work fast as it was already three and the November dusk was closing in. It was clear they needed a back-up.
Peter and Kevin were sent through the labyrinthine corridors lined with everything from storm troopers to giant spray cans to get some props for a mad professor sketch. Josh and Mark worked on getting the script together, and with the help of Johnnie and the resourceful Joanne they found a flip chart and collection of old-fashioned jackets which Peter tried on. But they were not needed, as the rest were ready to go.
They headed out towards the South Bank to find the right place for the box of now. It was positioned on the lively promenade and they waited to see what happened. Most people, wrapped up against the winter, rushed straight past. Those that even noticed were unaware of the man facing the other way, crouched behind a low wall, cradling a rather large TV camera. Ashley filmed the HD, Josh recorded sound samples and Ed did the time lapse. At one point he was standing on his own with the camera on the floor in front of him, yet strangely inconspicuous.
“The Present is Now”
Not everyone was oblivious to the huge white box on the quickly darkening streets. Once, Darren had to maintain a conversation with security so they could shoot what was needed. And he does not do small talk. Some touched it, some picked it up and some kicked it. Nyall had to call out to stop three women sitting on it and Ed had to stop a man taking it away altogether; it made the final cut.
As night fell, they needed to find light, but they found the perfect spot, against a dark background of feet. The box visited the entrance to Chinatown, a staircase, a lift, a busy street corner in Soho and a West End theatre, taking the tube to get there. Matt meticulously tweeted on its journey.
Back at base, it was time for post production. There seemed to be discussions going on in every room along the corridor all night as everyone got coffee’d up, punctuated by Josh’s time signal.
“Three hours to go!”
There were screens everywhere, for reviewing dailies, time lapse and music. Mark reviewed samples and took on Nyall’s suggestion to tweak one. As the night wore on and coffee turned into beer, two and half hours of stock became 60 seconds. Steve and Nyall worked with Ed on wording and Darren put it all together.
“Don’t Pass it By”
The morning after, they took the tube, now boxless, to the ICA to see all entries screened. In a room stuffed with insomnia, each entry was played in turn, with the Backyard present shown second. It was interesting to see how many different interpretations there were. One team was having technical problems, but there was consensus throughout the room that if it could be shown, it should be shown and it was.
When the judges went up on the stage to announce the short list there was bleary-eyed tension in the stalls. They read out the first number:
“Team 2. The Present”
They all breathed in and tension heightened. They had made it to the final five. Would it win? Could it win? As the judges mentioned it was something less conventional, a static image, they knew it wasn’t them and the tension released. The judges had unanimously decided on Team 13.
Their version showed a single shot of man staring into the city nightscape, the lights of passing cars subtly reflected on his face, before he breathed in and the logo was displayed. Everyone applauded, they explained their inspiration, and when it was all over, they went to home to bed.
By Kevin Harper