The S-J Viral Ad

Pre Production

I was approached by Barefoot Design to be part of a viral ad campaign for their client, Sarah-Jane Boutique in Magherafelt. I had limited experience in this area but I was keen to get my hands dirty in the internet viral area of my work. I’ve watched hundreds of viral videos myself and I knew which ones really stuck in my mind and ones that ultimately worked. Subsequently, that was what Barefoot wanted to achieve- a short video that people would remember, enjoy and share with friends via the web to help spread the word of Sarah-Jane and her Boutique.

Barefoot Design had a basic idea/ concept for one of three stories and they were eager for me to develop it further. They also wanted me to really push the risqué element of the piece, which included having the female models in their underwear. After being inspired by many videos from filmmakers on Vimeo and You Tube, I went away and knocked up a script which was accepted. After a group brainstorm or a ‘Thought Shower’ as they are apparently called now, the script was locked down and the production began.

The Film Shoot

Barefoot Design really liked my previous work and were also fans of the HDSLR cameras which was a bonus. It’s always nice to have clients who share your enthusiasm in the technology that you are using. The risqué elements of the production included filming the two models, Lucy Evangelista and Jenny Curran in their underwear. I knew in the back of my mind that if you didn’t get this right, it would subsequently look sleazy as a result. So it was important for me to get across my artistic side of filmmaking when planning the shots in my head. Filming issues such as audio and white balance were not a problem as I would be putting any SFX in post and my clients wanted  the piece finished in Black & White anyway.

The Staff

Yet again, Rick Trainor was on hand as my DP on the shoot. We have an uncanny ability to read each other’s minds and thoughts. He tells me if shots can work and he is a master of his craft, from his knowledge of lenses to his lighting techniques and approaches. Rick also brings humour to the set which easies everybody around him, including myself. You can check out his photography via his website. Due to the nature of what we were filming, I was really looking for a female intern to help out on the project. As if by pure intuition, Kitty contacted me through Twitter about a week before the shoot and expressed her interest in helping out. I was keen to accept and I tried really hard not to teach her all my bad habits! Gabriel Muldoon from Barefoot Design was present for the entire shoot and kept us refocused when needed!


I decided to use a Tiffen Pro Mist filter in the Matte box for the camera to give a more cloudy/ dreamy look to the footage. I feel that the more I can do during the filming of the piece, the less I need to do in post. Some people rely too much on fixing things in the edit. I’m more of a get it right on the shoot person.

We had the 35mm Zeiss Compact Prime lens on hand for most of the shots and what I like most about this lens is how subtle the shallow depth of field is. For some scenes, we switched to the Canon 50mm 1.4 lens. This lens still blows me away with the image it produces. It’s such a great quality lens and at such an affordable price. I will be investing in the 85mm Compact Prime lens in a few months and hopefully purchase a wider angled lens in the same range later on in the year. They are an investment for me and the mounts can be easily switched around to accommodate other camera systems. It’s taken me about two years to save up for my HDSLR equipment; I’ve been patient and purchased kit along the way. For most of last year I worked within my limitations and it was important for me not to jump on the equipment band wagon and start buying the latest kit or technology. I believe in working with what you have at the time. I remember shooting my first short film for Film School and buying dolly wheels solely for one scene in the short. I filmed the scene buy didn’t even use the shot in the final edit. The wheels have been sitting under my desk, unused ever since!

A few months ago I was salivating over Matte Boxes but I ended up finding an old Chrosziel one with three filters in the store of the building which I rent from. It needed a bit of tender, love and care but I made it work and it does the job, saving me quite a bit of money. As frequent readers will know, the Switronix Powerbase 70 is a life saver. There’s nothing worse than seeing the flashing empty battery icon on the LCD screen and you scurrying around for a spare one. The Powerbase gives you ease of mind and an opportunity to focus on other jobs such as your main role as Director, camera operator or DP. It was also the first time I used a Glidetrack on set. Big thanks to my friend Cathal for letting me borrow it for the shoot. This piece of equipment has never entered my mind when thinking about building up my HDSLR kit. But I was aware that some of the scenes required it and I was ultimately impressed by the Glidetrack. I may even invest in one for the studio in the future but I’m not that convinced yet.


Overall, the shoot went really smooth but well over the estimated time for completion. It was a late one but worth the sacrifice. When people ask me how long the shoot is going to be, I genuinely don’t have a clue. Some scenes can be shot in one take, others my need a bit of coaxing and encouragement through many takes. It was also my first time directing professional models on set and I couldn’t have asked for a more enthusiastic bunch of women, even when I asked them to take their clothes off :)

Big thanks to Rick and Kitty for supplying the Behind The Scenes photographs.

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