Optus makes an elephant fly filming on location in South Africa
Australian mobile operator Optus has made an elephant fly in its new commercial. Elephant Flight shows one of the animals being carried airborne by a flock of birds, along with a host of other wild animals. The spot promotes a frequent-flyer miles deal the operator has with Qantas.
Agency M&C Saatchi Sydney considered filming the spot in Australia as there are plenty of outback locations that can double for the African savannah, but they decided to go there for real to a place called Glen Afric Country Lodge 40 minutes from Johannesburg in South Africa so that they could use an actual African elephant. All the companies involved had been there before. The favourable exchange rate between the Australian dollar and the South African rand was also a tipping factor.
The light [at Glen Afric] is gorgeous. We shot early morning and late afternoon to capture ‘magic hour’ and the crystal-clear view with mountains and hills behind gave us an instant ‘epic’ feel to the spot.
Andy Flemming, M&C Saatchi Sydney
Alexandre Richardot produced the spot for Rods Films: “We knew the place as we shot some parts of Optus Secret Training Camp there two years ago. We knew the animals looked good and were able to work, and we were looking for savannah so it became evident we should shoot there as we only needed to get the opening shot right.”
A Cape Town shoot was considered, but the environment was too lush. The production team based themselves in Johannesburg and the Sydney contingent was initially wary of the city’s occasional reputation for violent crime, but never felt at risk when they were there.
Andy Flemming is Creative Director at M&C Saatchi Sydney: “The light [at Glen Afric] is gorgeous. We shot early morning and late afternoon to capture ‘magic hour’ and the crystal-clear view with mountains and hills behind gave us an instant ‘epic’ feel to the spot.”
The production shot for just one day and as they were working in July at the height of the South African winter the sun set early, but matching the light differences was about the biggest challenge they faced. Aerial shots that finish the commercial were compiled from stock footage.
Libbi Ball is a Producer with Made In Africa Films: “Filming at Glen Afric is always a pleasure as just about every one of our needs is easily accessible. The owners of the farm, John and Jenny Brooker, are wonderful to work with and are always on hand for film shoots.
Filming at Glen Afric is always a pleasure as just about every one of our needs is easily accessible. The owners of the farm, John and Jenny Brooker, are wonderful to work with and are always on hand for film shoots.
Libbi Ball, Made In Africa Films
“Filming with animals requires meticulous planning, patience and understanding. The key element when filming with animals is to keep an open line of communication between Director and animal trainer, so that on the day there are no surprises!”
Flemming concluded: “I would recommend South Africa to any feature or commercial in a heartbeat. As I mentioned before, the value, light, experienced crew and sheer number of beautiful locations available make it a dream location. There’s also the fact that zebras, hippos and elephants can be seen just walking about the place, which is rather special.”
Agency: M&C Saatchi Sydney
Creative Director: Andy Flemming
Production Company: Rods Films, Paris
Producer: Alexandre Richardot
Production Service Company: Made In Africa Films, Cape Town
Head of Production: Libbi Ball
Director: Thierry Poiraud
Images courtesy of Alexandre Richardot and Andy Flemming.
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