We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again - the internet is simultaneously the best and worst thing to happen to society in… like... ever. On one hand it allows communication between individuals the world over in a manner that would seem like science fiction only 30 years ago, on the other, the relative anonymity in said communications can make it a dangerous place for the vulnerable.
It’s with this in mind that Wabi Productions (partner to The Sweet Shop) and director, Andrew Lang, have made ‘Love Story’ for mobile company, Movistar. Through Y&R Mexico, the compelling film (picking up nearly 10 million views within a couple of weeks) tells the story of young love… with a creepy twist.
With a story behind the shoot, Lang answered a few questions about the concept, creative freedom and putting it all together in a startlingly short amount of time.
Tell us a bit about the background to this film.
The idea for Movistar – Love story came from Luis Madruga Enriquez and Rodrigo Casas, two creative Directors at Y&R, Mexico City.
The minute I read the idea I knew it was a winner. One of the things that excited me was how modern and urgent the story felt. This kind of short-form filmmaking is the perfect tool for getting a message out there quickly. While feature films can have a hard time being current because it takes so long to get them made, a film of this length - because of the relatively short time it takes to produce - can really respond to news headlines.
What was the process of script development like?
Madruga and Coco gave me a fantastic degree of freedom and support in interpreting their idea. I decided that the best way to go about it was to write a conventional screenplay. I worked through several drafts and sent them each one and then we’d have a chat on Skype and they’d give notes.
I carried on re-writing and tweaking the script right through preproduction and the shoot.
And the casting?
The casting ended up being a more delicate process than I’d imagined. Once we started to see videos, we realized that you needed a pair of kids who were young enough to be sweet - because that generates the empathy of the audience - but old enough to be sexual, because that legitimizes the tone of the texts. That leaves you with quite a narrow range of ages and personality types.
In the end we stuck gold with the actress Alejandra Saez. It was the first time she’d ever acted and was a natural talent. One of those actors who the minute you see their face on the monitor, you know they are something special. She came up with all those looks you see in the film just based on me yelling different emotions at her from behind the monitor. She even yelled back at me a few times if the direction was confusing, which had the crew in hysterics. Like I said, a complete natural!
What were you trying to evoke with the visual tone?
The main visual idea I was going for was quite a strict colour scheme to the whole thing. Mia is always in red, pink and blue, whereas Alejandro is always green and brown. This was really helped by finding an incredible location on the outskirts of Madrid with a brown living room, blue bedrooms and a red bathroom! I suddenly realised that there is a certain era of Spanish interior design that is straight from Almodovar, and that his colour palettes are less the product of his imagination than I had imagined.
Handling the twist in the tale at the end of the film was obviously crucial. How did you go about that?
There was a lot of debate in my mind about how and when to reveal that each child is in fact a man; the exact shot order. Do they ever appear together in frame? Does he see her first or she see him? All these questions make a difference to the dramatic impact… In the end I was relied on two sources, and then built the finale around that.
For the walk to the meeting, I wanted to do something like the slow mo walking in Xavier Dolan’s 'Heartbeats', which I’m sure was in turn inspired by Wong Kar Wai’s 'In the Mood for Love'. Then for the meeting, I wanted the two men to eyeball each other like two boxers, and remembered this brilliant scene in 'Beau Travail' by Claire Denis. A key element to making the transition from love story to horror story was finding a piece of music which had lyrics and tone that could be warm and sinister at the same time. Jasper Gadeberg hit it out of the park when he suggested Flora Cash, 'You’re Somebody Else'.
What did you want to make the audience feel with the film?
There were two main emotional beats we were trying to hit: For the first part of the film we wanted the audience to feel that adrenaline of being 13 years old and meeting someone you like. Then the second was the biggest shock possible when the two kids are revealed to be old men.
Overall of course, we want kids to be more careful about who they befriend online. Although I’m sure most kids wouldn't launch into an online relationship as eagerly as these two do, some do, and the consequences can be dire. In researching the film, I read some horrific stories which started much the way the film does.
It’s really exciting to me that an agency and brand can take on an issue like this, and use their storytelling skills and distribution networks to make a film that has a positive impact. It’s great that Y&R and Movistar continue to create this and even better that they asked me to direct it.