Behind The Scenes on Sunlife’s tear-jerker with director Liam Dowler

If you can’t make an audience laugh and cry, it doesn’t matter how crisp your image is.

We’ve done a number of briefs with Sunlife, featuring everything from crazy dogs to April Fool’s pranks, but this one takes the cake for tugging at the heartstrings!

Created for the insurance brand’s ‘Selfless Acts‘ brief, ‘Because They’re Worth It’ was directed by British filmmaker Liam J. Dowler, and we caught up with him to chat about working on the video, including with his pint sized cast member.

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Tell us about coming up with the concept for this brief- What was your approach to the video? 

In terms of the theme, currently, the UK is massively divided on political issues. For me it was important to create a world that wasn’t within a niche of a certain political demographic – we needed something identifiable to British people all of backgrounds, wealth and ethnicities. We settled on a family story in a family home, when it comes down to it, we are all in unity for family and I think this is fundamentally the most important thing to British people. So this was really the spine of our story.

As well as this, I really wanted the film to feel as authentic as possible. I’m a filmmaker from a documentary background, so realism is something I’ve played with a lot in my films, and I definitely wanted to bring the level of authenticity found in documentaries to this commercial.

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Let’s talk gear. What did you use for this shoot?

We shot the film on the Sony PXW-FS7 – this was great for filming certain aspects in 4k to allow crop room of the video, as well as great slow motion for our climatic scene. We used a variety of Arri lights as well as simpler LED’s – depending on what the scene required. Ultimately though the kit is not vitally important to me, the most important thing to me is the characters and story. If you can’t make an audience laugh and cry, it doesn’t matter how crisp your image is.

As well as this we used a variety of dolly’s to play with being subjective, the film is through the eyes of the boy, so for me it was extremely important the camera reacted to the boys mindset, bringing out the isolation and excited emotions of the boy through the movement of the camera was very important to me.

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You had quite a few people working on this one! Can you tell us about everyone you collaborated with? 

Our crew was great, I work for a production company full time called Callapro Films who are fantastic, the company director Matt Callanan was DOP the film, he’s a fantastic talent with the camera and is extremely creative. It’s definitely beneficial to have someone like this on set – as sometimes when you’re shooting a scene, something comes up that’s better than what’s on your storyboard, so having someone creative like that to think up compositions on the spot, is great.

Our talent was amazing. We had a boy called Mico who plays our young boy in the film. When I auditioned him I just couldn’t believe how emotionally developed he was for his age, he had no problem taking direction and reacting naturally to the emotion I wanted to get out with him, in an authentic way too. A huge talent.

Then Heather and Tony, the Mum and Dad, I couldn’t have hoped for a better combination from casting, they played a really authentic couple, some scenes were dropped in the edit suite unfortunately which showed there relationship a bit more but being parents themselves in reality, they connected with the idea in a great way and were really professional on set and worked great on camera.

Also a big thanks to everyone involved in the project and helping me bring it to life. Post-production was smooth, I edited the piece myself, with music originally composed by two extremely talented composers I know Ben Jenkins and Sam Flook, who have done a fantastic job. The foley was produced by CTV Sound Studios, who did a great job to bring certain qualities out of the images through sound. Foley is something I love to bring into my edit as it tells a story in itself sometimes, and they’ve done a fantastic job with it.

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How was the experience overall? 

I had such a blast on set, it was easily one of the more favourable things I have directed. The client went with my idea 100%, so it was great to have that level of creative freedom on the project. It’s such a great thing that Genero do for filmmakers, to connect them with global client reach. I can’t say thanks enough.

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Big thanks to Liam for chatting to us! Follow his work here, and see our open briefs here.