The Spot: Cinema Sorta Vérité

A French faux blockbuster film gets an unexpected guest in this lavish telecom promo with a twist. Ooh la la!

GENESIS: In France, customers of telecom Orange can buy one movie ticket and get one free every Tuesday—perfect if you want to bring a friend along. The brief for advertising this promotion was simple: dramatize the idea of getting closer to the richness of cinema. The agency, Publicis Conseil in Paris, crafted an extravagant trailer for a fictional 18th-century war-romance film and threw a wide-eyed, modern-day moviegoer into the fray. "What could be more rewarding than being at the heart of the action?" asks creative director Olivier Desmettre. The contemporary interloper is a constant, unexplained presence throughout the trailer, which teases a story of love, war, and betrayal between two brothers. At the end, the preview turns from epic to goofy, as one warring brother explains to the other, who's lying wounded on a battlefield, that the stranger who's been following them is "Fred," the friend he's brought along to the movie.

ART DIRECTION: The agency hired Partizan director Antoine Bardou-Jacquet, best known for directing Honda's "Cog" and "Choir" spots, for his ability to streamline a complicated production to the essentials. Everything from makeup to the costumes, weapons, battle scenes, and explosions had to ring true. "We absolutely needed a director who could bring us very cinematic images," says Desmettre. The moviegoer is outfitted in a green jacket and jeans to stand out amid the period costumes.

COPYWRITING: The writers mapped out more of the fictional movie's plot than they would eventually need. "To be as credible as possible, we tried to imagine the story in its entirety, then took the highlights and made it a trailer," says creative director Fabrice Delacourt. "This is what gives it the feeling of being a summary of a true story." The onscreen supers are brief, vague, and melodramatic: "Two brothers." "Divided by love." "United by courage." "From a betrayal." "A legend is born." The dialogue is also overwrought, until the brothers discuss the matter of Fred, at which point it turns ludicrously pedestrian. "We liked the idea of switching from epic cinema to a farce in one second," says Delacourt.

FILMING: The commercial was shot in and around Prague in the Czech Republic over three days, capturing the five different settings in the spot. Almost everything was filmed in camera. The most difficult shots involved getting the trained horses to fall just as the explosions went off in the fields, sending dirt flying. "We had to redo those scenes quite a few times," says Desmettre.

EFFECTS: Some of the sweeping, wide-angle shots of the battlefields have CGI backgrounds. The image of the two stuntmen jumping out of the exploding building was composited from two separate shots.

TALENT: The agency used a feature-film casting director to find the main characters. The woman needed to look traditionally beautiful and vulnerable. The brothers had to be "virile and attractive," with somewhat imposing physiques, says Desmettre. The everyman is more innocent, average looking, and physically unremarkable.

SOUND: The soundtrack is stock music, so the agency focused on sound design—the galloping horses, cannon and musket sounds, battlefield cries, and barking dogs. The music grinds comically to a halt when Fred is introduced, before resuming as before when the battle begins again.

MEDIA: The spot is running in cinemas as a fake trailer before features.

Client: Orange
Agency: Publicis Conseil, Paris
Spot: "The Reason to Love"
Chief Creative Officer: Olivier Altmann
Creative Directors: Fabrice Delacourt, Olivier Desmettre
Art Director: Philippe Boucheron
Copywriter: Patrice Lucet
TV Production (WAM) : Pierre Marcus, Muriel Allegrini
Director: Antoine Bardou-Jacquet
Production Company: Partizan