From concept to bone-crushing reality: how Colenso’s Mountain Dew print ad came into existence

Last week, commenting on an article about the magazine category at the Axis Awards, a StopPress reader expressed the opinion that Colenso BBDO’s Mountain Dew advertisement deserved more than only a bronze award at the Axis Awards.

As it turns out, the reader might’ve been onto something, because the creative work in that campaign recently won two awards – in the advertising and open categories – at the sixth edition of the International Loupe Awards ceremony, which this year received over 4500 entries from photographers from 72 countries.

Mark Carter, the photographer behind Colenso’s Mountain Dew ad, recently got in touch with StopPress and gave us a behind-the-lens look at how the image was brought to bone-crushing life.

Who came up with the idea?

The creative gurus at Colenso came up with the idea, we were tasked with making it happen. It was a great brief to get. A really challenging and brilliant idea.

What is your relationship with Colenso? (How is it that you ended up working with them on this project?)

This project came about through a collaboration between myself and Lightfarm, which is an Auckland-based creative retouching agency. We were both briefed on the project at the same time, because of the technicalities involved and the tight timeframe that we had to produce and shoot the campaign.

How tight was the deadline?

We were briefed on a Tuesday and shot it on the Friday. No time to muck around there. After that it was into post-production with the guys at Lightfarm. Milton Menzies did an amazing job here to bring it all together. He’s a master at this kind of work with great vision and always keen to keep the integrity of the photography so it was great to work with him on this. Originally it was set down to go to print the following Friday, I think, but that was pushed out a bit with extra changes that were made to the layout. I also think media deadlines may have changed a bit, which was great and gave us a bit of extra leeway there. We shot hundreds of frames, all different options, body positions, boards, wheels and so forth – there were so many variables and options open to us that finalising the image did take some back and fourth between the agency, client and Lightfarm, but it was really worth that extra attention to get it right, keep it seamless and to not overcook it.

That sounds quite intense. Can you talk us through some of the technical aspects involved in creating a piece like this?

Right from the start everyone was aware this was going to be technically challenging. The first hurdle we had to overcome was how to bring the scamp that the agency had drawn up into reality and make it feel like one image but, at the same time, show that the skateboarder had tried to complete this trick several times before he finally nailed it. We didn’t want it to look like your usual skate photo that shows several stages of the ‘same’ trick. So we settled on the idea that the skater had to be layered and tangled within himself. The next part was how. After some discussion, we decided to use four body doubles along with our ‘hero’ talent so we could intertwine them with each other and keep it looking real. Several of the bodies you see without their faces showing are the body doubles. We then had to layer the piles of bodies on the stairs to be composited and overlapped as they went up the stairs. I shot this with a shift lens so we could increase the height and width of the stairs. On top of all this we shot hundreds of frames with our ‘hero’ talent jumping, falling and crashing. We had to use stunt mats for some of it.

What were some of the biggest challenges involved in producing the image?

Apart from the more technical challenges I have already talked about, we had a very tight deadline on this project – media placements were booked and we had to allow enough time for post-production as well. It left us with three days to produce and bring it all together before shooting it. As you can imagine it was a crazy lead up to our shoot day with the sourcing of locations, talent and body doubles, matching clothing, and obtaining permits and stunt equipment. It all had to come into place quickly, so it could all be approved. I worked with a really great team and Colenso were excellent with constant feedback and direction. We had a preproduction meeting late Thursday afternoon, where we had to make a few last-minute changes before heading out to location at 5am the following morning. It all came together exceptionally well on the day: the weather played its part (which doesn’t always happen in Auckland) and we shot through until that evening. With the change of light throughout the day we had to set up a 20×20 scrim to control the light and supplement this with some flash to give it a consistent look. The 20×20 was a challenge in itself—anyone who has used these outside will know what I mean. All in all, it was a lot to bring together in such a short time frame, but we did it. I think I was running on adrenaline by the end of it, but that’s all part of the fun.

What was it like to win big at the Loupe Awards?

I entered this into the International Loupe Awards shortly after [the project was completed]and it went on to win the advertising category and the professional open award. The Loupe Awards have been around for about six years now and the event attracts a high calibre of professional entries, so it was great to follow in the footsteps of some past high-profile winners. Part of the prize I won is a trip to Hong Kong later this year to attend Creative Asia, which will be amazing. I’m looking forward to connecting with the creatives there and hopefully making some headway into the Asia pacific market.


Photographer: Mark Carter 
Agency: Colenso BBDO
Client: Mountain Dew
Creative Director: Dan Wright
Head of Art: Mike Davison
Art Director: Scott Kelly
Copy: Ben Polkinghorne
Agency Producer: Caroline Wells
Account Manager: Siva Clement
Post production: Milton Menzies @Lightfarm
Styling: Monique Forbes
Skater: Simon Thorpe

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