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If you went to the cinema in the UK at any point between 2003 and 2008, you'll remember being prompted to switch off your phone by Orange's brilliant Gold Spots. 

Created by Mother London, the campaign was notable for its genuinely LOL-worthy formula, in which a Hollywood heavyweight would have their feature film pitch hijacked by the ghastly Orange Film Board, intent on shoehorning their product into the script. 

Hungry Man's Bryan Buckley was the man behind the camera for all but four of the 20 spots and below, he looks back on exploding golf carts, demeaning baseball caps and why good comedy doesn't date.  

Above: Bryan Buckley


I didn’t have a clue what Orange was when I received the script. Also the idea of texting hadn’t caught on in the USA yet. It was a weird concept. Why would you want to text instead of just calling someone? But the script sounded good, and Yan [Eliott] and Luke [Willamson, creatives at Mother] were true characters, so I knew we were going to have fun with it.

The big question was, are we going ‘American’ or ‘British’ advertising humour with this? That led into the question, who is the board? Mother had introduced a whole lot of American work into the UK market, Dr Pepper being a good example, and it made their work stand out. So we decided the panel would be comprised of Americans.

To me, the purity of the boardroom concept - the idea of trying to chase down funding while a board sits there and rips your dreams apart – was something we could all relate to, on a human level, even though it was Hollywood stars.

There wasn’t a second or a third choice when it came to Mr Dresden, the main guy on the board.  Brennan [Brown] just owned the part. We did a lot of improv stuff and role play at the casting – like a Q&A where they were in character – because we didn’t really have any scripts early on in the process. And we cast my in-house editor at Hungry Man, Alex, as the big guy who’s always eating. It was funny, because he’d never acted before, and over time, his role expanded more and more. The chemistry of the group as a whole was just perfect. Everybody knew their part. 

When it came to the celebrity talent, a lot of times we wouldn’t know who we were going to get until the last minute.  With Verne Troyer, we lost the other actor the night before the shoot, so Verne got on a plane. I remember asking, ‘But does Verne Troyer actually talk? What if he shows up and he doesn’t speak?’ because in Austin Powers, Mini-Me doesn’t talk. So I called up this guy who’d worked with him on the movie, and he said, yeah, they cut all his dialogue, he’s hysterical, it’s just that Mike [Myers] didn’t want his character to speak in the movie.’ Verne showed up on set the next day and he was wonderful.

Orange – Verne Troyer

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Spike Lee was in the first group of spots, when it was critical that we got some notable people. Originally, we would ask the talent: ‘If you could do a movie, what would that be? Write the pitch for real, for your dream project.’ And then these Orange guys would completely destroy it. That was the strategy. 

He wanted to do something on the Negro League, a black baseball league that existed in America during racial segregation. It’s lightning-rod subject matter, and with Spike being one of the strongest voices in black America, against a bunch of white people, asking him to pitch so they could shoot it down, well, that was arguably one of the ballsier things a client could do.

Spike got the joke, but the funny thing was that Yan knew nothing about baseball. He had to write a script - which had to be so authentic in terms of what Spike would say - and get Spike’s approval, when he didn’t even know what third base was. We had a call with Spike and I remember him saying, ‘This is awful, you have literally no clue.’ But it evolved, and evolved.

Orange – Orange: Spike Lee

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The day of the shoot, Spike came in, but we hadn’t really established the rules of the pitch. How it was going to work, how much improv was allowed. We were figuring it out, and there was all this nervousness, and on top of that, we had that potentially politically incorrect, racially-charged scenario ready to be served up. It all had to click, which it did in the end, but there were certainly moments where we thought ‘Oh shit, did we just go too far?’ Like with the Orange baseball cap. I told them to just throw it at Spike and see how he reacted. He knew it was a joke, but he just looked at it, like it was so demeaning. Which made it even more funny. 

By far the hardest [shoot] was Steven Seagal. With any sequel, it tends to turn into Rocky IV, and things start spiraling into another dimension.

Was there anyone I would’ve liked to get hold of but didn’t? Not really. There were no Brad Pitts that would ever do this gig, so it was a question of getting an underdog, someone we knew and loved. Or someone who was at the peak of their career but hadn’t done any commercial work.

Elton John was a weird one, I’d heard so many horror stories about him, but he turned out to be amazing. Patrick Swayze was also wonderful, he was the biggest surprise in terms of screen perception. He’d come in, he’d memorise everyone’s names, take the piss out of himself. He was just the nicest guy, even after doing take after take. John Cleese was probably the person I was most nervous about. He was very exact, he had to know what line was coming at him, so he could be specific in his retort. There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room.

Orange – John Cleese

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That wasn’t the most difficult shoot, by the way. By far the hardest one was Steven Seagal. Any sequels tend to turn into Rocky IV, and things start spiraling into another dimension. He called me to talk through the spot and was like, “Hey, Bryan, Steven Seagal here. I don’t want to do this commercial on the golf course. I hate golf. Can we do something else?” I said, “Um, well, I think we’re committed to doing golf at this point… we’re shooting in the next few days.” 

“Well, I don’t like the outside," he said. "I need to be shot inside. So how about I show up in the gold clubhouse, and the Orange guy’s in there with this Asian chick on his arm. I come in the door, and we notice the Asian chick has the same tattoos on her arm that I have on my neck. So we just know something’s going on.” I’m like, “Ok… it’s an interesting idea.” “And then we bust the place up! I start fighting him, I do stuff for real… Hey, hold on a second, I’ve got a call on the other line.” 

Good comedy is timeless. Hairstyles change, the lapels change, but the comedy stays the same.

So he jumps off the line, and when he gets back on, he says, “I’ve got to go, I’m dealing with a kidnapping right now. But think about it. Let’s set a meeting for next week."  The next week, Luke and I go to his house in LA, to pitch the idea again. We’re ushered into this huge room, where Seagal is playing his guitar. He looks up and says, “Did you see that Mountain Dew commercial I did? That is the biggest spot in the world right now. I want to make your spot fucking funnier.” He does the whole pitch again, we hear him out and then we leave, get in the car and say to ourselves, ‘Well, it’s time to move on. Let’s ask Chuck Norris instead.’

When Chuck agreed to do it, [the team] called Steven back and said ‘it’s over’. And guess what? It was all completely an act. He just rolled over. “You want to do golf? Let’s do golf!” 

Orange – Orange: Steven Seagal

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When it comes to the shoot, he shows up on set with his own personal lighting assistant, a guy with a light meter. He tells us we can’t shoot him from below and he won’t wear a mic. The funny thing was that about three quarters of the way through the shoot, I actually started to like him because he was so insane. I was actually entertained by his crazy behaviour. And from his unpredictability, you could get some interesting stuff. Could you imagine doing a full-on feature [with him]? No. But the stories that came out of that little [commercial] shoot add texture and perspective to life. 

Expectations get set higher on spots like Seagal, than when it’s just people sitting across from each other [in the boardroom]. Real, physical danger – like helicopters blowing up - when you’re trying to do dialogue that’s funny down below makes it harder. To me, the purity of the boardroom concept - the idea of trying to chase down funding while a board sits there and rips your dreams apart – was something we could all relate to, on a human level, even though it was Hollywood stars. It was a simple, easy-to-digest concept where the dialogue could take over.

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Orange – Orange: Rob Lowe

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Orange – Orange: Snoop Dogg

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Orange – Anjelica Huston

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Orange – Patrick Swayze

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Orange – Stephen Fry

The funny thing is, I never saw any of these spots run in the cinema. Not once. 

Why do I think they still appeal? If you boil it down to the classic concept of pitching, there’s nothing dated there. Hollywood is still Hollywood, business is still business. Also, we didn’t really show the [phone] technology in those spots, so you can’t see how that’s changed, it holds up pretty well. Formats also play a role, and we used 2.40:1 aspect ratios, which I think helped. Because anything that was shot in 4:3, you look at now, and you’re like, ‘oh shit.’

Good comedy is timeless. I was watching 20-year-old South Park episodes the other day and crying with laughter. VFX - cars driving round and what an explosion looks like on-screen - that dates. But comedy and character, good writing, good acting, that still resonates. Hairstyles change, the lapels change, but the comedy stays the same. 

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