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Sat 25 Jul 2009 04:00 AM

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Playing with fire

A 150-member crew descended on the Hatta mountains last month to produce a TVC for Saudi telecoms operator, Mobily, with dangerous stunts such as jumping from cliffs, running through fire jets and playing football with fire-lit balls all part of the game. Vijaya Cherian reports.

Playing with fire
Playing with fire
Playing with fire
Playing with fire

A 150-member crew descended on the Hatta mountains last month to produce a TVC for Saudi telecoms operator, Mobily, with dangerous stunts such as jumping from cliffs, running through fire jets and playing football with fire-lit balls all part of the game. Vijaya Cherian reports.

Dubai-based production house Déjà vu recently undertook a challenging shoot for Impact BBDO Riyadh on behalf of its client, Saudi telecoms operator, Mobily. The TVC, which is slated for release in the first week of August, involves a stunning combination of stunts in production and will involve significant work in post production as well to convey the message that it takes more than extreme training to qualify to be a player at Hilal Club, which is sponsored by Mobily.

The shoot was undertaken in Hatta on 35mm cameras including the Arri 435,235 as well as a Bolex camera.

“They wanted to show that the Club’s players trained under very harsh and sometimes, unreal conditions,” says Manasvi Gosalia, executive producer and owner of Déjà vu.

To convey this, the director, Marc Chaloub wanted to show the players playing with fireballs as well as performing several other dangerous stunts such as jumping from cliffs, running through fire jets, jumping over fire and playing football with fire-lit balls.

“Marc wanted to shoot this as much as possible in a real live environment but we were initially apprehensive about how many shots we could possibly get ‘live’ given the dangers of playing with fire,” explains Gosalia.

“We flew in stunt artists from a company called Pyranha in Cape Town to do this as they are quite well known for performing stunts for major Hollywood movies. However, there was no need to worry. They played with the fireballs with complete ease and confidence. We lit up actual footballs and the body doubles of the players kicked these around to make it look as if the Club players were training on a volcano mountain and they do everything with the fireballs that a player would do with a normal football such as kicking and hitting it with the head and the chest. All of this was done on top of a mountain with mercury levels hitting 48 degrees C and more.”

The crew, which comprised more than 150 people, included Massimo Vico, a fire effects specialist.

“He knew exactly what Chaloub wanted. His experience in the field brought a lot of value to this production. He would often suggest what type of explosions and fire jets would look natural as we were trying to recreate the environment inside an active volcanic mountain. He came up with a lot of creative solutions to meet the tough logistical requirements of shooting atop a mountain,” Gosalia says.

Safety was paramount to this shoot and Vico brought a wealth of experience to this production, explains Gosalia.

ClientMobily

AgencyImpact BBDO Riyadh Production houseDéjà Vu, Dubai

VFXReal Image, Dubai

“Vico was our premiere man when it came to safety. He briefed the actors and stunt men on safety before every shot and always had wet blankets and fire extinguishers handy in case of an emergency. In addition to keeping the cast and crew safe amidst such extreme explosions, he also took responsibility for gas cylinders and other related equipment,” explains Gosalia.

In addition to this, an ER ambulance and a police car were always on call should anything go wrong.

Perhaps a bigger challenge for the crew was dealing with the soaring temperatures in Dubai.

“It’s hot as it is. When you create fire, it creates temperature of 50 to 55 degrees and shooting for three days in such intense heat was quite daunting. It was also tough to maintain the camera equipment and film stock at such extreme heat levels. We constantly had wet towels wrapped around the camera to make sure it did not overheat,” explains Gosalia.

Some of the key issues of this shoot were also the logistical challenges and managing the celebrities.

For one, the terrain was quite challenging and therefore, only accessible using 4x4 vehicles. Secondly, driving back to Dubai after each day’s shoot would have tired out the crew, explains the executive producer.

Instead, 42 hotel rooms were booked at Hatta to accommodate the team.

”Celebrity management was a bigger issue in the middle of the desert,” confides Gosalia. “We had a celebrity manager with the players 24/7 to take care of their needs. We had special AC tents built for them. Each player was available only for six hours as the weather was too hot for them.”

Dubai-based post production house Real image has been roped in to undertake the special effects for the TVC.

“We had a VFX professional on set the whole time to oversee the VFX shots, place track marks and take key information on set so that he could incorporate this when working in a 3D virtual environment,” explains Gosalia.

This production is another example of how smaller production houses in the emirate are pushing the envelope further in terms of what can be delivered from within the region.

Key players

Executive producer:Manasvi Gosalia

Producers:Alison Jennings & Sara AbuZara

Director:Marc Chalhoub

DP:Bobby Dhillon

Special Live Effects:Massimo Vico

Stunts:Pyranha Stunts

Edit & Post Production:Déjà vu & Real Image

Equipment:Pro Action Media Services

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