Dutch creative film company Habbekrats produced this poetic commercial for Fox Sports in the Netherlands. Director Victor D. Ponten: ‘This project was a fascinating visual experiment.’
Dear Victor, what makes these films stand out in all the commercial football clutter?
“What I love about this campaign is that we see genuine people, not actors or models, reacting with genuine emotions to live football matches. Using a sort of blown up autocue set-up we were able to film the subjects without having crew and cameras within their eyesight. This resulted in a situation in which they forgot quite fast they were being filmed and really got caught up in the match. The fact we filmed all the people in their own living room and we didn’t add any furniture and used their own clothes, makes it very real. We just let people be people. To me, that’s what makes it stand out.”
What’s your own [spiritual] connection to football?
“I’m not a fanatic football fan. I definitely enjoy the game but I’m more fanatic about top athletes in general. The total devotion that comes with it and the harsh choices one has to make to make it to the top are truly inspiring.”
Habbekrats’ (which means a trifle, small amount) work can be pretty gritty, how does this commercial fit in?
“True. Our work can be gritty. On the other hand, I think it can also be gentle. But whatever it is, it always wants to represent a certain reality. That’s maybe why you describe it as gritty. From the moment ad agency Anomaly presented me the idea for this campaign, I was inspired because it had the ambition to catch something real. In that sense it connects very strong to what we always strive for. It was something you could never stage with actors.”
What makes Victor D. Ponten the director – what’s your main asset, what are you specifically good at?
“I don’t know if I’m the right one to answer that question. All I can say is that I’m interested in telling stories set in a real world and I very much enjoy using the complete toolbox of filmmaking when doing it. That’s why this project was a fascinating experiment. The technology we used for the shoot had a very big and limiting impact on the visual possibilities, but I didn’t want to make it look like a documentary. That had a heavy influence on – for instance – the choice of lenses, use of lightning and locations, edit and music. That’s how I like it.”
How do you prevent yourself from copying yourself?
“Funny you should ask that question. I was recently shooting something with a car driving on a certain bridge. When we were making that shot, I realized it was the third production in which I used that bridge, so I declared it a no-go area for future productions. On a more serious note, I’m not afraid of copying myself. I just believe in getting better and trust my intuition. And now and then I just like to experiment with visual style. Right now I’m working on a music video for which we’re developing a very tight visual concept, something completely different as opposed to what I’m used to do. If it works out how I envision it, it will be awesome.”
What is your own favourite sports campaign?
“I’m a big fan of the older Adidas campaigns, like the +10 campaign. I love the roughness and simplicity of this ad. In the core it’s nothing fancy, just two kids on a field fantasizing about the best team ever. I really miss that strategy in a lot of campaigns. And this very old Nike film still gets me excited. Imagine pitching something like this to Nike nowadays. “Everything is dark, there’s fire everywhere and then we cut to the devil. A recent favourite of mine is a Beats by Dre commercial featuring American football player Colin Kaepernick. The whole “Hear What You Want” strategy of Beats by Dre and integrating it with the sports world is so tight and these films are so well executed. The bold statement of taking 2 minutes and 47 seconds, the idea of releasing the Aloe Blacc song ‘The Man’ alongside the campaign, the cinematography, the fact that people are actually allowed to be real people and curse in these films, is truly inspiring.”
What would be your dream campaign on football, for what brand?
“Obviously I’d very much like to do one of those Beats by Dre commercials. But if I could wish anything it would be an intensive collaboration with a big sports brand on the feature film I’m developing. It’s a dark thriller about a professional football player getting caught up in bad things. Thus, to be continued.”
And the other 5 films: