When award-winning creatives, Matt Collier and Wayne Robinson came to us with a script for a film about the perils of texting while driving, we were thrilled to get a chance to work with them to bring their vision to life. We quickly realised that this wasn’t going to be about just making another film; the subject matter was too important and no matter how much VFX we used or the world where we placed the film. Every step of the way, we attempted to be true to the heart (and pain / sorrow / loss / love) that comes with tragedy of a driving accident. We were desperate to show the connection in time between the dad and the daughter as they innocently texted back and forth… a simple “heart emoji” being the final, haunting unanswered message.
We decided to do the entire film in CGI and shot only the actors in front of a green screen (and they would be the only “real” element.) Not only that, but we decided to put the actors (including the 12 yr old!) on to an elevated, rotating platform and use a motion control rig to seamlessly film them going from scene to scene. Amanda directed our actors, Rob Mitchell-James and Darcey Brown who she’d chosen among many many talented actors she auditioned for the roles, and and the chemistry and care for the acting on set was palpable. Under Director Christopher’s (Watson-Wood) charge, James' (Medcraft) expertise coupled with our favorite 1st AD, Dominic Asbridge, cracking the whip meant we had a small chance in hell to get it done. We finally wrapped at about midnight in great spirits. It was the most rewarding shoot we’ve ever had the privilege of producing.
The fun didn’t end after the shoot. In fact, that’s where most of our hard work began. Our in-house post production company, Ruffian Post, led by Christopher and Toby Williams-Ellis, had months of work to do. Because we had very little time between paid jobs, every spare moment was spent on this film. Using Houdini for all the CG elements and Octane to render, we created Darcey’s bedroom, Rob’s car (with the trees zooming by in the background and the rain hitting the window), her glow in the dark night sky, the pavement and flashing lights, and the forest (with every individual tree, rock and snowflake.) After we were finally happy with the CGI environments, we had the large task of compositing the actors into the CGI backgrounds. The finishing touches came in elements like snowflakes and the passing car lights illuminating the picture frame and flowers descanso (roadside memorial.)
During the post process, we had the revelation to make this film take place on Christmas Eve and, as if by fate, I’ll Be Home for Christmas worked in the edit perfectly. The film was already sad, but this was the kicker for us. We solicited the help of Gillian Miller from Music Business Affairs who used her magic to actually get us the track - we never dreamed we’d be given permission to use one of the most famous Christmas songs of all time made timeless by Bing Crosby.
It’s been months in the making, and we are very pleased. Texting and driving is a real problem and many of us are guilty of it. Drivers using their phones, whether handheld or hands-free, are four times more likely to crash, potentially injuring or killing themselves or other people. And so, if even one person thinks about this film while reaching for his/her phone to respond to a loved one - and then doesn’t - then we have put our abilities (and hearts) to good use and possibly made the one difference that truly counts.