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Yesterday saw the release of a beautiful, bold new campaign for Formula E from Uncommon Creative studio London, called Change. Accelerated.

The spot, which was directed by Academy's Marcus Söderlund, features six different cities (though all shot in one location) as bystanders marvel at the Formula E cars passing by them. The VO is from a speech by Sir Arthur C Clarke, the famous science-fiction writer, futurist and inventor, and was filmed entirely in-camera, with no VFX. A Phantom camera rigged to a high-speed tracking vehicle, a Porsche Cayenne, on a gyro was travelling at almost 80mph and shooting at 1,000 frames per second to capture all the action. 

Below, we hear from Söderlund and Uncommon ECD Sam Walker, who reveal what it was like to work on the campaign and the challenges they faced.

What was the brief you received from the client for this campaign?

SW: Formula E is at the forefront of positive change in the world and the cities it races in. The brief was to bring this to life. 

It’s actually unusual for an idea to make it through all the way from the pitch intact.

How quickly was it - and what processes did you go through - before you arrived at the concept that you eventually decided upon? 

SW: This film was one of the ideas we pitched with, and it's almost unchanged. It’s actually unusual for an idea to make it through all the way from the pitch intact, but it’s testament to the team at Formula E for having the courage of their convictions right from the start. 

Formula E – Change. Accelerated.

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Above: Formula E's Change. Accelerated.

How, and at what point in the process, did Arthur C Clarke's speech come into the equation?

SW: We had a voiceover that we’d written that worked well but when we came across Arthur’s speech it felt like we’d found the words that could elevate the film to a positive vision of the future. As Arthur says, "the only thing we can sure of about the future, is that it will be absolutely fantastic". It’s incredible how far ago he predicted things that were, at the time, completely farfetched, but that are now so completely ubiquitous. 

Why was Marcus Söderlund the right director for this campaign?

SW: Marcus is one of the most photographic directors I’ve worked with. Our aim for the film was beautifully shot ‘reality’, and Marcus does that brilliantly. Because of the high frame rate and speed of the car, the film is essentially a series of Magnum-style photographic city tableaus. 

On the rehearsal, the police horse was nervous and wouldn’t rear and the dog was running in the wrong direction.

The entire spot is shot in-camera; how hard was it to choreograph the action with so much going on in certain frames and with it shot at such high-speed? 

MS: When the camera passes the action, it goes so fast that you have no idea what was captured. On the rehearsal, the police horse was nervous and wouldn’t rear and the dog was running in the wrong direction. But it was very joyful seeing it all come to life and super-exciting watching playback to see if the scenes worked or not.

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Above: Some behind the scenes images from the shoot in Mexico.

Where did the shoot take place and how was it working within the Covid restrictions?  

MS: We shot everything in lovely Mexico City. Working with restrictions has become the new normal. The service production company, The Lift, did an amazing job, making the set safe. You feel like a professional football player that gets tested all the time; my nose started bleeding from all the PCR tests. But you get used to temperature and PCR checks, or not standing close to anyone. The saddest thing is that you go through a whole production not seeing people's faces because of the masks. 

You feel like a professional football player that gets tested all the time; my nose started bleeding from all the PCR tests. 

The colours in the film are bold and rich; can you tell us a bit about the reasoning behind that decision?   

MS: That’s the way you experience colours the first time you visit a place like Mexico City, Paris or New York; bold rich and beautiful. We wanted to capture that experience. 

Above: Some of the cast and crew from the Formula E shoot.

Can you explain a bit about the soundtrack you used for the film and why you felt it was the right choice? 

SW: Singularity, by Jon Hopkins, fitted the tone of the film perfectly. It’s almost the musical version of the car itself. The unusual sound of the Formula E car has a chance to become the sound of the future. Everything about it screams change and progress. It also has an ever building tension that evolves into optimism which mirrors the arc of our film.

We actually broke two tracking vehicles before the Porsche took over. The camera vehicle had to be fast or the idea wouldn’t work.

What was the biggest challenge in putting this campaign together? 

MS: Getting emotions and real life into the scenes so the slow-motion wasn't just an effect. It’s a blink of an eye that we capture, and then you stay in that moment for a long time. 

SW: Recreating five cities in Mexico City wasn’t easy but the team at Academy did a brilliant job. I had to keep reminding myself that what I was looking at wasn’t actually Paris, New York or Seoul. Achieving the speeds with the camera vehicle we knew were necessary for the idea was also challenging. We actually broke two tracking vehicles before the Porsche took over. The camera vehicle had to be fast or the idea wouldn’t work.

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Above: Some of Uncommon London's recent work.

Uncommon has already released some fantastic work in 2021, from Habito, H&M, ITV, B&Q; what do you think defines a piece of work from the agency?  

SW: We work hard to not have a house style, other than to try and create change, break category conventions and generate fame. Nils [Leonard, Uncommon CCO] and I are lucky to have such a talented team around us. There are no passengers in the creative department and you can feel that hunger from everybody in the work. We all demand a lot of ourselves, whatever the brand, whatever the budget, whatever the medium. And it’s more fun that way too. 

There are no passengers in the creative department and you can feel that hunger from everybody in the work. 

What's next for you? 

MS: I’m shooting a short film based on the story Kärret, by Swedish author Jerker Virdborg, and I am working on a feature script by the same author. 

SW: I’ve been working on a project for ITV that is due to break mid-May. After that I’m going to focus on directing a few things and developing my own projects.

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