25th September 2017
Into The Uncharted: Capturing the scent of adventure for Molton Brown
When London’s top bath, body and beauty connoisseurs Molton Brown approached Connected Pictures for ideas on how to promote a new fragrance made with coastal cypress and sea fennel, they knew they wanted to embody the power and pull of the ocean. In the film – called Into The Uncharted – the viewer canoes the rough and rugged Pembrokeshire coastline with explorer and author Alastair Humphreys.
Being authentic is essential to Molton – something that chimes perfectly with Connected Pictures. For Into The Uncharted the perfumer had the bravery to focus solely on Alastair’s inspiring narrative, leaving his words about adventure and endurance to do the talking.
Here Managing Director Adam Penny explains the challenge of the aquatic shoot plus the strategy behind creating films that focus on storytelling rather than product.
What brief did Molton Brown set for the film?
The brief was fairly open. We have worked quite closely with Molton Brown’s creative team for a while so they came to ask our advice on what we thought would work for fragrance they were launching. They knew the themes they wanted to express – exploration, venturing into the unknown and travelling across vast distances.
At the time they were still looking for someone to feature. Unsurprisingly there aren’t too many modern day British explorers out there. Once Alastair had been cast we started to explore more but it was still fairly open as a brief.
How did you find Alistair? It’s not everyday that you meet a professional adventurer!
You don’t just want an explorer you want one to fit the bill in terms of look, purpose and values. It was actually Leanne, the creative and editor at Molton Brown who found Alistair after a long search. He was perfect. He has made a few films for different brands, most recently for Land Rover.
What sort of preparation went into the film?
Stephen, the director, and myself met Alastair before we started planning out the film. Authenticity is important to us and it’s certainly important to Molton Brown so we needed to know what went on in Alastair’s head, how he thought and why he did what he did. It was also important to do things that he felt were visually genuine for him. He’s not a model or an actor so we need to express who he was as well as Molton Brown’s vision.
Why was the location fitting for the story you wanted to tell?
It was important to find somewhere that had a dramatic coastline and a dramatic wave break that we could also safely get a canoe into. We shot the film in Pembrokeshire, West Wales over two long, blustery, cold – but fun – days. It was wild, dramatic and inspiring but wholly British. It certainly fit with who Alastair was.
What challenges come with shooting on a location that is so rugged and open to the elements?
You literally have to take what the weather and the day throws at you. You make the best strategy, you have contingencies, but a coastline like that might have other plans for you. Obviously safety is paramount. Stephen as shooting director will throw himself into anything to get the best shot. I had to sit him down before leaving London to tell not to do anything stupid no matter what! We then had a canoe expert with us who knew that part of the coast very well and had filmed with crews a lot there before. He advised both the crew and Alastair so that nothing bad happened.
Although the film was made for Molton Brown, there is no mention of the brand within the film. Is having such artistic license important?
The film was done as part of a series. In a separate film we meet the perfumer Carla Chabert, who created the fragrance. That was much more product-focused, but even then it was much more a focus on the mind of a creative.
Mentioning the brand (or not) is something we discuss a lot with clients. The braver the brand, the more they let a film speak for itself. But a brand has to know its audience and its customer, including when and how they will be watching, in order to know what will work. Our starting point is that if you make a film that is unashamedly FOR the audience rather than the brand, then what will work for them needs to come first. Hosting the experience, telling a story and expressing values is becoming the norm more and more for brands (thankfully!). Brands associated with a loyal fan base or with a niche audience (like an audience that loves cars, watches, make up etc.) find it much easier to lose the brand/product name and still keep its audience.
How was the Alistair’s narration achieved? Was it scripted or taken from an interview?
It was all taken from an interview. In our experience it is by far the best way to really connect and engage with an interviewee and an audience. Alistair is a real person with real thoughts and emotion, not an actor or a voice-over artist. It’s a real annoyance of mine when people put a script into the mouth of someone and expect it to sound interesting or really connect with an audience. But again this is something that brands have trouble with. They want a scripted message that they can control, but that loses authenticity which loses the audience.
In terms of our process, we do preliminary interviews with our contributors to get to know them. We also talk with the brand about what messages they want to get across, always trying to focus on what the human story is, not what the brand is trying to sell. Then we overlap the two. We build a list of questions, but what is more important is connecting with our interviewee on a level that is human and to have a conversation, to share ideas. Not simply ask questions. If you get this right then something magical happens. If you trust the person you’re interviewing and they trust you, you can bring out wonderful things.
What was the biggest challenge when making the film?
Initially Molton Brown wanted the films that focused on Alastair to be 16 seconds long. Trying to tell a story in that time is very very tricky. So we focused on one theme with each of those 16 second films. And then we worked on a cut that was longer, to explore deeper into the mind of Alastair, which Molton Brown was very supportive of.
Watch the full film here.