Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Behind The Scenes

Oh, you knew we would have to re-visit the greatest sheep video of all time. Just received an interview on how it was made and thought I'd share...mostly because it would give me a chance to watch it all again :-D.

Director James Rouse on the Baaa-Studs and "Extreme Shepherding"
Viral Spot for Samsung LED TVs Strikes All the Right Notes Online
By Bryant Frazer
April 30, 2009 Source: Film & Video Post your comments below

All hail the Baaa-Studs! This YouTube video showcasing the
animal-wrangling acumen of a group of Welsh shepherds had reached
seven-and-a-half million views at last count. Wearing LED vests at
night, and precisely herded to create animated shapes on a lush Welsh
hillside, the sheep (with some help from their whimsically monickered
handlers, the Baaa-Studs) created a video that feels like one of those
homemade, can-you-believe-it clips that becomes an online sensation.
This clip, however, was a soft sell conceived by The Viral Factory as
a way to promote Samsung LED television sets. F&V talked to director
James Rouse about the shoot, the shepherds, and keeping it real.

FILM & VIDEO: I’m a little ashamed that I have to ask the question —
but is this real?

James Rouse: It’s real. We were using real shepherds and real
sheepdogs, and a lot of it was achieved in camera. It was always our
ambition to achieve most of it in camera. We even had the Welsh
shepherding champion — in terms of shepherding, that’s one of the
biggest claims you can make. What he was able to pull off for us, his
control of his dogs, was phenomenal.

That said, we were helped enormously by our post company. But nothing
that you see isn’t a sheep.

Nothing was created in a computer out of whole cloth?

It’s all elements that we shot that got helped together [in post] to
form shapes. There is, categorically, no sheep in there that wasn’t
filmed in camera. I can put my hand on my heart and tell you that.
I’ll get my mother involved if necessary.

Where did the idea come from?

[Long pause.] Too many beers, probably. Where does an idea come from?
It’s very difficult to say. I didn’t, personally, write the idea. I
developed it a lot from a much vaguer concept. The Viral Factory were
the ones who came up with the idea of putting these LED jackets on
sheep and making them do crazy things. I worked a lot on the back
story of the Baaa-studs, and why they were making a film.

It’s interesting because the branding message is kind of soft. You
don’t realize it’s a Samsung promotion until the very end.

Absolutely. I particularly enjoyed the takeaway people had when they
wrote comments on YouTube. The general consensus is that it’s a group
of shepherds who got together and did this out of their own personal
passions. Yeah, they might have been helped out by computers and,
yeah, Samsung seems to have paid some money for it — but who cares?
People may have felt warmer about it because it didn’t have the heavy
hand of an advertising agency of a big corporation.

It’s been very successful on YouTube.

It’s obviously piqued people’s imaginations. I looked [at the
statistics] yesterday, actually, because it was on our ITV News at 10.
It’s been on BBC News two or three times. I was looking to see whether
that had an immediate effect on the main thread on YouTube, and I
noticed a comment from a guy in Australia who had just seen it on the
news. Another had seen it on Hawaiian news. And I know for a fact it’s
been on a couple of news channels in America. Heaven only knows how
many outlets have picked it up. The shepherds who have been
interviewed as a result of this have their own Hollywood kind of cult
following down in Wales, which is very pleasing to them. They find
that very amusing.

Where did you actually find the shepherds?

Well, we needed a location, and we knew we needed shepherds. We went
to Wales, where there are a lot of nice hills and a lot of sheep and a
lot of shepherds. We made inquiries to find the best shepherds around.
They look great because they’re the real deal. We shot for two days.
They were amazing — they gave everything they had to it.

Was it tough to wrangle all the shots you wanted during the two shooting days?

It’s always tough, isn’t it? I don’t think I’ve ever been on a shoot
where everything just comes together, and you can put your feet up.

So was it just like any other shoot?

I’m never going to put LED jackets on sheep and send them to play Pong
on a hillside again. But on many shoots you’re doing extraordinary
things, and this is another extraordinary thing that I’m fortunate to
have been involved in.

In the greater scheme of things, it was a very different shoot.
Strangely, I don’t think it was particularly difficult. I was
pleasantly surprised at what was possible using real sheep. Of course,
using animals you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get.

Was there anything especially challenging during the shoot?

Sheep don’t like being separated from the pack, I know that much.
Getting one sheep to stand alone is a bloody nightmare. They stick
together like mercury. Getting one sheep to stand on its own while
there’s another pack of sheep near it is virtually impossible.

They couldn’t have been used to being herded around at night, could they?

No. The shepherds genuinely had no idea whether that would work or
not. They couldn’t tell us how freaked out the animals would be
wearing these jackets. Strangely, they didn’t seem to be bothered by
it at all. It was as if they had always had lights on their backs
since they were born. The dogs wore lights as well, and they were also
completely unfazed by it. It was as if they had always herded at
night. With sheeps with lights on them. It was very, very strange. It
could have gone either way. I don’t want to be cruel to an animal, and
I would have felt extremely uncomfortable if the animals had seemed to
be in discomfort. But none of the animals were in the slightest bit
disturbed. It was just another day’s work.

Do you normally do TV spots, or do you do a lot of virals?

I’ve done a lot of both. I like to keep things as varied as possible.
Hopefully my style is eclectic. I’m working, at the moment, on a
film-ic number with 35mm, anamorphic lenses, massive crowd
replication. It feels like a scene from Gladiator, or whatever epic
movie you want to pick. It’s the storytelling that I’m motivated by –
the storytelling and the characters. And you can execute that in
millions of ways.

There’s a Honda ad you’re probably aware of, “Let it Shine.” It’s one
of those bizarre moments when there are two different executions of a
very similar idea. The similarities are very interesting, although the
style and execution are very different. The basic concept of lights on
a hill making shapes, and even the framing of the lights on the hill
and the type of hill they’ve chosen, is very similar. And then the
execution of that idea is vastly different. They are parallel ideas.

But the Honda spot looks like a characteristically glossy television
commercial This one feels more down-home.

I wanted to have the feeling that it had been self-generated by this
group of farmers and shepherds. I didn’t want it to feel like the hand
of a corporation, or a too-skilled filmmaker was making it. That’s
probably why they came to me — they didn’t want a too-skilled
filmmaker. [Chuckles.] The skill is in the sheep and the shepherding
and not in the filmmaking.
Client: Samsung
Spot Title: "Extreme Shepherding"
Launch Date: March 16, 2009

Creative: The Viral Factory

Director: James Rouse (represented by Outsider in the US and UK)
Producer: Jon Stopp
DOP: Richard Stewart
Editor: Owen Oppenheimer
Post: Unit/MPC


Rayna said...

I have to giggle every time I watch it, along with being completely amazed at having that much influence over the dogs. Simply amazing, very much so accomplished men and dogs involved in that piece of work!

Lindsay said...

Saw this last year - really funny!

VioletSky said...

I have this saved and watch it over and over. Thanks for the interview. I had wondered how long they had to practice with those light packs, but apparently sheep like to glow at night!

DayPhoto said...

I enjoyed this last year, so getting to see it again was a real pleasure.


Peacecat said...

I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants to go to Wales when viewing this awesome video. How cool! And really fun to watch. Amazing work and inventive. Thanks for sharing!

thecrazysheeplady said...

Coincidentally, my parents just sent a link to a travel show they listen to that was just in northen Wales. Hopefully this will work, but if not, google "rick steves wales".

Anonymous said...

That's really hard to believe it's for real!! Really, really neat. :)

Ed said...

This was one of the coolest videos ever!!

Alice said...

The video is an unbaa-lievable accomplishment. Thanks for sharing the story behind this feat.

Claire MW said...

Thanks for sharing that interview! I had seen the video a number of times but never knew some of the detail behind it. Great!

Anonymous said...

I was talking about this video at a party on the weekend (dog people) and someone suggested it may be faked. Hah!
Thanks for posting the interview. The men must be well disciplined to be able to work the dogs like that. (Ducks and leaves.)


WildBlack said...

Unbelieveable :O
My mouth is still wide open! its truly amazing.


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