Justine Calverley’s latest car ad is a cinematic fantasy ride on Mars for Toyota

Justine Calverley’s spot for Toyota and FCB Joburg is a big-scale cinematic car ad that seamlessly blends visually stunning locations with VFX. The adventurous spot landed Justine 3rd position in AdForum’s Top 5 Best Directors Worldwide for March and we can see why. We spoke to the First Pencil filmmaker about her approach to the work.

‘Mars Sol 237’ takes us on a dramatic journey through the barren landscape of the red planet seen through the eyes of an Astro-obsessed kid. The combination of visuals, sound design and storytelling, while still showcasing the vehicle’s capabilities, was a balancing act between creative and logistic, and Houston, we have no problem. For Justine, the success of this car spot relied heavily on location, location, location.

First Pencil Co-Owner and Executive Producer Lebogang Mabuela says: ‘We weren’t going to stop until we found the right locations. 3 trips of 11 hours and we were certain we had the perfect backdrop for the Fortuner.’ The Red Dune Route from Kakamas to Upington and then north from Upington towards Askham and the Kgalagadi is what Justine settled on… and they had two days to shoot including three hours of travel time between locations! #HomeAloneScreamFaceEmoji

On how Justine approaches shooting cars, she says: ‘For me, a car ad comes down to location, shooting at the right time of day and having a great DOP, in my case Rory O’ Grady who always brings a magical quality to the work. For this spot, we also really lucked out with the team from FCB Joburg, some of the most talented creatives and wonderful people in the industry, truly a dream.’ FCB Joburg also walked away with AdForum’s Top5 marketing campaigns worldwide in the week it dropped, congrats team!

Executive Creative Director at FCB Joburg, Tian van den Heever, says: ‘Justine’s approach was very considered and incredibly thorough, and she spent a huge amount of time finding us locations that were very much of the red planet. She recce’d far and wide in the Kalahari and Northern Cape so that we could achieve as much of the film as possible in-camera. This allowed the out-of-this-world SFX to be applied very tactically and with great restraint so that the unbelievable final product felt incredibly believable.’

Left to right, on set, FCB Joburg’s Mark Livni, First Pencil EP Lebogang Mabuela and Director Calverley.

One of the most impressive aspects of this commercial is Justine’s ability to capture the otherworldly beauty of Mars. ‘I knew finding the locations that looked like Mars and that were arid enough and at the same time mountainous enough was going to be hard. Salt pans are a dime a dozen, but they are of course all flat and we needed both because we wanted to showcase the car’s abilities.’ Says Justine.

L: Live action driving shot in camera. R: The kid, car and background are real but the rock in the foreground is VFX.

‘Jissis, it never rains in the Karoo, or so we were assured. The night before the shoot it rained 25mm. We woke up at 3 am and it was pouring. We couldn’t cross the salt pans to reach our location, it was too muddy, the roads were so slippery, and we lost two of our team’s 4x4s. With much of the day lost, we eventually made it to the top of the hill to shoot the final scenes.’ Says Justine.

Not only good at going above and beyond to find the perfect locations, but Justine’s technical brain was also made for shooting for VFX, something that was an integral part of this Toyota shoot. ‘It was really exciting to create our own Mars, shoot in an area where our foreground elements work, and then build the final planet with our VFX team.’ Says Justine.

An example of how Justine worked with location and VFX above. ‘The top of this ridge is real on location and we made it a lot taller in VFX.’ Says Justine.

Shortly after the Fortuner shoot, Justine and First Pencil jumped onto another big-scale car spot, this time for Urban Cruiser and again for FCB Joburg, so keep your eyes open for that one dropping soon.

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Produced by the IDIDTHAT Content Studio – Credits: Anne Hirsch (Writer) / Julie Maunder

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