iDidTht: That’s a nice open canvas. What was your process to create this ad?
Alexa: I did what I always do when I work with non-actors – I interviewed both my leads because with real people you can’t build a Director/Performer relationship unless you speak to them before production starts. A hook between the two of them was this idea of providing for the next generation, so I kept coming back to that. They both came from different backgrounds so I wanted to find a unifying space. The beach was also a great metaphor of what we were talking about; the crashing waves and what life feels like when it gets hard and when things calm down. So that launched the whole story. I wrote the piece and then we had one day to film. I think I lost 5kgs on that day because of all the running up and down that beach with the kids.
For Alexa’s Castle #SmashTheLabel commercial, she asked a group of strangers to describe someone solely based on their photo. What she didn’t tell them was that they were then going to meet the person in the photo. She knew the story needed to be about reconciliation, but she needed a contrast, she needed to have brokenness so she could have that reconciliation at the end. Dealing with sensitive issues and people from vastly different backgrounds and lived experiences can be challenging. Add to that the fact that the performers had no idea about the plot twist they would face on the day, she feared that the ad could be borderline gratuitous. After personally interviewing over 50 people, carefully navigating her way through tough conversations to gauge their feelings and experiences around labels and stereotypes, Alexa chose her final six performers and produced a sensitive and thought-provoking piece for the brand. And it certainly didn’t hurt the brand that the commercial was a viral hit, with over 8 million organic views on Facebook alone.
Alexa on Castle: With Castle it was also very important to brief the crew on what to expect and the issues we would be dealing with on the day. If you ask people to open up you have to create a safe environment where they can.
For MTN the brief was simple; shoot six spots in one day and use influencers, not actors #Faints
Alexa on MTN: I really don’t like to tell people that we shot all six spots in one day, because I’m terrified I’ll be asked to do that again, haha. But thanks to careful planning, using only one location and the experience I gained from Slim on how to problem-solve, we finished 3 minutes before wrap time.
iDidTht: What do you look for when casting ‘real people’ or rather non-actors?
Alexa: An emotional intelligence, those are the people who can connect the dots and will have the ability to respond to direction on the day.