Contenders at Cannes 2023: Macpac – A Bit Precarious | Sweetshop & The Monkeys

Leading up to Cannes Lions, we showcase creative campaigns submitted from across the Asia Pacific.

Campaign Background

Sweetshop & The Monkeys

Macpac’s ‘A Bit Precarious’, produced by The Monkeys Australia and Sweetshop is a stellar example of a great concept, written superbly (hat tip to Hugh and Joe at The Monkeys) and executed to perfection.

The deadpan comedy, accentuated by a well-paced edit, draws on both suspense and comedy in a way that is expertly positioned for the brand’s Australasian target audience.

From the get-go, director Damien Shatford wanted this spot to be something that felt nail-bitingly real. For the comedy to read – this spot would have to be shot on location, somewhere daring – but not so unsafe it would give the producer a heart attack. Shatford was clear in how he wanted to approach this;

“For me it was the only way to make it funny. A dramatic scene with dramatic dialogue is just drama. The idea needed something to rub against. So through casting we played with tone and found the more relaxed we played it the more we smiled.

High stakes visuals next to a conversation you might hear at a bakery. But doing it this way meant we really needed to make the visuals feel precarious. So that’s partly the reason we decided to shoot it on location, a million miles above sea level. It anchored the pictures in danger which allowed our people the freedom to make it funny.”

A dramatic scene with dramatic dialogue is just drama. The idea needed something to rub against. So through casting we played with tone and found the more relaxed we played it the more we smiled.”

It is difficult to find a group cast who are organically funny, who can bounce off each other in a scene. When the location is already contributing additional elements – putting the actors in a high stakes environment – it is important to make sure they are as comfortable as possible to ensure the best performances can be delivered.

As the shoot was so technically intense, during pre-production Shatford focused on finding fantastic talent and dedicating rehearsals where they were hoisted into the air;

“It was a great script to start with. Then we just rehearsed a lot. Found a group of humans who looked interesting together, could hang in a harness and perform well. Barnie Duncan who played Barry – the man hanging in the middle – was a great improviser so we played around with the dialogue in prep and noted some funny ideas to explore on the day.”

The team searched far and wide to find the perfect location; and ended up atop a cliff face in Queenstown, New Zealand. It took a lot of planning, rigging, a few harnesses, and some very clever people to ensure the cast did not meet the same fate as many cliff-hanging protagonists in the cinematic cliches.

Safety was number one priority and stunt coordinator Mark Harris, did an incredible job of designing, rigging and operating under extreme conditions. He made the difficult look easy and kept all the actors secure and feeling comfortable. With safety at the forefront, it added another layer of complexity to the job from a directing standpoint. Shatford commented;

“After a bunch of rehearsals we learnt our actors could only be in their harness’ for 12 minutes max. And as the day went on, that number went down. It took 5 mins to hoist them up from the ground. And 3 minutes to get them back down. So we had about 4 mins to get them attached correctly, the tension looking right and then as many takes as possible.”

Meanwhile cinematographer James L Brown, navigated the challenges and adapted to the unique terrain like a champ; the end result speaks for itself. Though there were technical challenges with the shoot; the end result certainly shows that it’s hard to beat practical effects and great comedy. Shatford and Brown have worked together many times in the past and they are a collaborative force to be reckoned with. Shatford noted;

“The location was tricky, the weather was tricky and there was nowhere to hide in the coverage. But James L Brown shot the piss out of it and it looks rad. But honestly every department deserved MVP. I learnt a lot about schist. Made some new friends.

The spot has been really well received since its release in March.

Credits

Client: Macpac
Managing Director: Cathy Seaholme Acting GM of Marketing: Maria Glass

Creative Agency: The Monkeys, part of Accenture Song Chief Executive Officer: Paul McMillan
Chief Creative Officer: Ant Keogh
Chief Strategy Officer: Michael Derepas

Strategy Director: Dave Collins
Creative Directors: Hugh Gurney, Joe Sibley
National Head of Production / Producer: Romanca Mundrea Production Coordinator: Genya Mik
Group Account Director: Vicky Mockler
Account Director: Ella Goldberg, Jenny McLarney
Account Manager: Grace Tenaglia

Media Agency: OMD

Production Company: The Sweetshop
Director: Damien Shatford
Producer: Katie Kempe
Managing Director/Executive Producer: Edward Pontifex Executive Producer (AUS): Greg Fyson

Executive Producer (NZ): Ben Dailey / Kate Roydhouse DOP: James Brown
Editor: Simon Price
Colourist: Matic Prusnik

Online/VFX: Stuart Bedford
Sound Design: Squeak E Paul LeCouteur / Ceri Davies Photographer: Vaughan Brookfield
Retoucher: Dave Mercer
Stills Producer: Katherine Muir

The Work

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