Radioaktive: Behind the Scenes of Three's Positively Bombastic Future
In this era of uncertainty, social division and general gloom-and-doom, the UK network operator Three cut through last week with an emphatic rhapsody of positivity.
Their ad, directed by Ian Pons Jewell, showcased a futuristic Britain liberated from the negativity of the modern world. With industrial-sized sausage roll dispensers and an academy award for Barry from Eastenders, it’s hard not to leave the film feeling chirpier than when you went in.
Orchestrating the project’s ambitious production was the Kiev-based production service company Radioaktive Film. To go behind the scenes, we spoke to executive producer Sasha Bevka…
Q> Did you ever feel intimidated by the scale of the project?
Sasha> You know what, working with Ian is always intimidating! When you work with him you know that you’re going to be challenged, in the best possible way. It’s the kind of challenge where you don’t notice the time flying because you’re having so much fun, you’re not thinking about it and just totally immersed in the project. He drags you through a project with enormous speed.
I suppose what was especially intimidating for us was how on earth we were going to squeeze it all into six shooting days. Because there really was a lot of things to do, especially to fit into such a short time-span. But we managed it!
Q> When you look at the finished film, how close is it to what you envisioned at the start?
Sasha> It’s exactly the same. I must say I wasn’t even thinking of something else. It looks exactly how I imagined it, especially how they combined all the in-camera action and post, and I like that it is long enough that all these little stories are on the screen and all these characters have the chance to open up, so to speak.
When you have a storyboard and it’s for a 90-second commercial and then they make a 30-second out of it, sometimes you can feel that it’s too short for the story. So I am really happy that they kept the full three-minute version because it really looks cool and it shows all the assets and production value that we put into it.
Q> In terms of the visual tone, how did you achieve such a positive but seemingly-real vision of the future?
Sasha> Ian gave us amazing direction and reference for that. That was really fun because this ad, it’s very retro-futuristic I must say, but it’s full of humour. It can be dark in some places, but at the same time the humour really does shine through. And I kind of think this is how the future is going to be.
For me, watching this for the first time was like watching the Fifth Element, where you just think ‘woah, this is how it's gonna be?’
Q> What do you mean by retro-futuristic?
Sasha> For example, look at the taxi driver. It’s clearly futuristic but it’s a kind of future where we can see ourselves. It helps, I think, in creating that sense that we will still be alive when this future comes, because it’s grounded in references to our present.
Q> Okay, so how far off do you think this future is?
Sasha> I think maybe 50 years? It could be!
Above: A selection of behind-the-scenes images from production
Q> When you were looking at locations, were you thinking this has to be ‘the future’ or that it needed to be the future of Britain, specifically?
Sasha> You know, Kiev is very versatile in terms of locations. I think that for this film we were more inspired by the brutalist architecture which brings to mind this kind of future. All monochromatic, right-angles, that sort of thing. We weren’t going out and looking for something that reminded us of Britain 100%, it was a mix of things. The priority was to find cool architecture, and the British feel is something that came later.
Q> You mentioned earlier about there being so many different stories and characters - what was the process like from your perspective when it came to casting?
Sasha> You know what, working on this one we realised that we should never be limited by just using one casting studio. So we combined three casting studios from London, Kiev and Georgia. We did a film with Ian before for the Diamond Producers Association and we met a lot of cool characters, who Ian remembered and we got back in touch with them for this project.
They were perfect because they have a different look and they could really bring the diversity we were looking for. The goal was never to limit ourselves with the casting, and of course we did a lot of street casting as well.
Q> Do you find, with Ian’s work, it often feels weird and ridiculous, but also raw? Like everything is a cartoon, but it’s a cartoon of the real world?
Sasha> You’re right, I agree with you. Ian has a very specific sense of humour and the way he sees the world around him. I find him really cool in terms of how he can switch reality - as you say making it ridiculous and absurd. Working in this industry for so many years, he is so unique because he has this ability to make something ridiculous seem so real. Like it’s not a fantasy, it’s a real thing.
Q> Are there any memorable moments that stick out from production?
Sasha> I guess maybe the final scene was quite funny. We basically had to find eight or so guys with a totally shaved back of the head. But we couldn’t find anyone, and I remember standing around, pretty much throwing money at people trying to persuade them to shave their heads! That was good fun. And then at the end of it you can barely even see them in the film. So remembering how much of a struggle that was is quite funny.
Q> Any parting thoughts?
Sasha> I think the location-finding was quite special with this one. We used some locations that are quite commonly used, like you have probably seen ads which have used them before. But what Ian and the team managed to do was make them look totally unique, finding totally new angles to show them from. Having seen those locations so many times before, we were kind of shocked and thinking ‘wow, how have we never seen them like this before?!’. I really admire that creative process.
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