Being that my mentor and inspiration is still the late Mike Portelly the whole idea of creating an underwater fantasy with mermaids but this time with modern special effects was an attractive one from the start.
I had known Director Nick Sneath for some years having worked on many underwater projects before with him and he asked me to be underwater DOP for this Pantene Shampoo commercial fantasy for the agency FKC produced by Mathew Choat.
The idea was a simple one with our hero mermaid looking rather disconsolate sitting on a rock in the middle of a calm sea, ruminating how much better her hair could look. In a light bulb moment she swims down to old-fashioned type galleon with golden light streaming out of a gaping hole starboard side. Finding a treasure chest full of Pantene Pro V saving her lackluster hair and restoring the balance of nature for all.
A restored and happy Mermaid swims upwards through the sea towards a setting sun, exits the water and confidently strides towards the camera having jettisoned her tail ready for a superb evening out.
Claire Baudet our expert Mermaid from France was cast in the title (and only role). Her main asset in this production apart from her beautiful hair and look was her ability to swim underwater and hold her breath for a very long time.
Underwater sets were constructed in the Underwater Studio in Basildon from giant false rocks, medium rocks, sea shells and a ton of ground up sea shell type sand, all expertly art directed and placed by Mariska Lowri, darting up and down with snorkel and fins.
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Director – Nick Sneath
Producer – Mathew Choat @ FKC
Underwater DOP – Zac Macaulay
Underwater Camera Operator – Rich Stevenson
Lighting Gaffer – Bernie Prentice & Neil Blackman
Art Direction – Mariska Lowri
Studio – The Underwater Studio
Our hero treasure chest was plucked from obscurity and roughed up by yours truly and a handful of others. A transparent ledge was fabricated on which to place hundreds of glass see through pebbles and the product was set amongst them. All the while the client was viewing the developing scene from a video village and monitor topside, and was able to direct with the help of a hydrophone.
The lighting by Neil Blackman and Bernie Prentice was partially achieved by placing warm tungsten light in a secret space beneath the product in the chest and underneath the transparent pebbles, which looked beautiful as it shone upwards with a warm honey like glow. Reflectors were laid at an angle in front of the chest with more tungsten light bouncing of it, giving Claire the same warm glow.
Kino flow lighting filled in and we were soon looking at a small underwater tableau right out of Pirates of the Caribbean.
The ship wreck scene was shot in a glass miniature tank in my small studio with a tiny 12 inch size plastic ship wreck by cameraman John Rose. We dressed the shot with the finest sand hand scooped from an atoll in the Pacific adding the small rivulets in the sand shape with a ice lolly stick.
The main underwater camera was a Red Epic Dragon in a Gates housing ably supplied and shot by Rich Stevenson with camera feed to the surface to a 17” monitor.
Studio co-ordinator was Geoff Smith and dive supervisor Fred Woodcock owners of the Underwater Studio. Always a happy experience. A great production to work on.