The Making of Making Babies Make Music

I’ve recently finished this commercial for Cow & Gate, which has just debuted on TV and in cinemas. Here’s the full 2 minute version:

If you enjoyed it, here’s an interview with The Reel about how it all came together.
And here’s an interview with Neil Dawson, creative director of BETC

And finally here’s a Q&A that Neil and I did with Shots:

BETC London and Jim Field Smith bang the baby drum

9th October 2012

Baby food ads don’t look, or sound, like this do they? They do now. Thanks to BETC London and RSA’s Jim Field Smith (director of TV series Episodes and feature film Butter) the category has received a wake-up call, and a rather noisy one at that.

Letting a herd of babies and toddlers loose in a recording studio might sound like aural suicide, but the result, thanks no doubt to some slick editing, is music to our ears as the adorable youngsters bash out an end-of-the-disco worthy rendition of Dexys Midnight Runners’ classic Come On Eileen.

We caught up with Field Smith and BETC ECD Neil Dawson to find out about the inspiration behind the ad and how they dealt with the artists’ egos on set.

Neil, What made you decide to do a musical spot for Cow & Gate?

ND: The Feed their Personalities campaign demonstrates Cow & Gate’s understanding of the personal development of all children and their nutritional needs. Showcasing real moments of discovery of musical instruments is just one example of that. It’s the opposite of the talent show culture that is so dominant at the moment. A musical spot was the loudest way to kick the campaign off.

How did you arrive at Come on Eileen as the best tune to use?

ND: It’s fun. It’s upbeat. It’s a track you can’t help but nod along to. It’s the perfect antidote to all these overly sentimental ads that seem to be in fashion presently. It’s time for some positivity! In addition the multiple instruments on the original track allowed us the opportunity to include the sounds of as many kids as possible.

Jim, When you saw the script did you think; ‘this is going to be brilliant’ or ‘this is going to be a nightmare’?

JFS: A bit of both. The promising thing was that I wanted it to feel real and unplanned and chaotic – and usually when you work with kids, you’re fighting against that. So I felt confident we would get what we needed.

The kids look so angelic in the commercial. Were they easy to work with? How did you keep them happy on set?

JFS: Kids are very easy to work with if you just remember two key facts: 1, they have no sense of urgency. 2, they have no sense of danger. In other words, they cannot successfully be coerced into, or prevented from, doing anything that they do or don’t want to do. So for this I just needed to create an environment where everything they could see or interact with was something that we might want to end up on film. That way we simply couldn’t go wrong. And where there’s a drumkit, there’s happiness.

Did you have a storyboard with each child ‘playing’ certain notes from the song, or did you just shoot as much as possible and put it together in the edit?

JFS: We had a storyboard – but for this commercial, more than any other, it really was just a guide or a kind of ‘wishful thinking’ document. As it happens, a lot of the frames in my storyboard did end up fairly faithfully in the finished film. But there are many more moments that we simply could never have planned for, and if we had become obsessed with shooting the storyboard – as is so often the case in commercials – we would have missed those.

If you’d been a musician, which band would you most like to have played in and why?

JFS: I am a part-time musician, but don’t get to play as much as I’d like to. I had a band at university called The Alan Jeffries Band, and if I could create a time machine and play bad rock covers with them for the rest of my days, I would be the happiest man alive.

What’s the next project we can expect to see from you?

JFS: My new feature film, Butter, starring Jennifer Garner, Hugh Jackman and Olivia Wilde just came out in the US last weekend, and hopefully will be heading to the UK soon. I’m just starting preproduction on The Wrong Mans, a new comedy thriller series for the BBC starring James Corden that I’m producing and directing, and I’m really excited about.  It’s like the Bourne movies, but with more jokes, and steadier camerawork.

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