Film audiences love historical dramas. The likes of Boardwalk Empire and Downton Abbey have set the benchmark for telling stories in real historical settings with authenticity and accuracy. It is with this same attention to detail that Perry Bradley approached his direction of NRMA Answer the Call.
The job spans 90 years of NRMA and New South Wales history. Perry knew there would be trainspotters out there who would take them to task for any historical inaccuracy.
Detail was key.
THE PROBLEM WITH OLD CARS
Vintage Vehicles were an all important component of this detail. “These delicate machines come with all sorts of quirks - including that of their owners,” says Bradley. “I didn't want to be the guy who wrecked a piece of history”
The opening scene: 1924 and a Douglas Motorcycle is patrolling the night time roads.
Perry wanted the exact motorbike that would have been used 90 years ago. Sourcing this proved difficult as the only model available appeared to be in the Australian Motorlife Museum. This specimen was beautiful but not in working order. Plans were made to tow the motorcycle behind a quad bike, to roll it down a hill and to even winch it through shot. But as the shoot day loomed, art director Jeremy Fuller miraculously located a running and reliable example of the exact model.
“We were amazed to have something we could actually drive through frame. Then we discovered the kerosine powered headlight,” Bradley says grimacing. It was a night scene and even with the benefits of digital photography, the weak kerosine lamp would not pierce the darkness, so the decision was made to retrofit a modern light into the casing. “We really didn't want to be tricking up the old bikes, but in this case we just wouldn’t have had a shot otherwise.”
1932 and it is the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. More motorbikes.
This time the shot called for a dozen NRMA Patrol cars. Harley motorbikes with sidecars were needed for the parade scene in order to match archive footage of the event. Research proved that there was only one model left in existence. So, what Perry thought would be a simple in-camera shot turned into a major layering exercise, replicating one bike so that the audience is plunged into an entire convoy.
A BADGE OF HONOUR
The progression of the NRMA logo over the years was essential to conveying the integration of NRMA and NSW history. As with the motorcycles, finding the ubiquitous bumper badge found in archive photographs was not as easy as first thought. Some had to be recreated from photographs as no physical examples could be found. Other precious examples were loaned from museums and fabricated so they could be used on set without fear of breakage.
The complexity didn't finish when the scenes transitioned to the modern day, as there were still some complex set ups. The night scene of a house with a power failure in the rain proved to be a photographical and technical puzzle. By definition, there could be no light coming from the house, but without sufficient backlight, rain would just disappear on camera. The lighting rig configured by DOP Ben Shirley was ingenious.
The TVC culminates with a crane shot of a semi-futuristic scene on a remote airstrip, set in front of a beautiful matte painting of Sydney by Fin Design. And with that, the history of NSW and NRMA had been accurately exhibited within 90 seconds of intricate detail.
Director: Perry Bradley
Producer: Tim Pietranski
DOP: Ben Shirley
Production Designer: Jeremy Fuller
Grade: Ben Eagleton
Visual Effects: Fin Design
Editor: Simon Njoo