Seemingly endless passages leading you through dark sewers and slums, sweeping forests and bustling markets emerge in the most recent TVC for adidas Originals to make a decidedly pointed statement – the future is not lost on the youth.

Directed by Egg Films’ Terence Neale for New York agency Johannes Leonardo, Your Future is Not Mine is as much a short film as it is a piece of advertising. Filmed across a number of locations in both Budapest and Cape Town, the TVC is soundtracked by Daisy Hamel-Buffa and challenges the dominant notion of a looming dystopian future by inspiring a new generation to rather create their own. 

We had a chat with Terence about the making of the clip, both technically and conceptually, as well as his thoughts on technology and the future of South African advertising.  

What was your brief for the adidas Originals ad? How did you then go about conceptualising the piece? 

Most ideas of the future are pessimistic and dystopian. The commercial is about individuals who embrace the unknown. They move forward into the future unafraid – not letting societal bullshit hold them back.

A big part of the brief was to come up with scenarios that depict a world in the very near future. It was important to create scenes where the cast were able to move through the negativity that could otherwise sway them off their path.

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The narrative plays out against visually interesting settings. What did the location scouting process entail? Were many of the settings altered – physically or in post-production? 

We had to come up with locations that suited the brand’s urban heritage and at the same time spoke to the most important markets for the brand. Each pair of shoes in the commercial is matched with a relevant location to represent different aspects of the brand. Some locations had to be gritty, some more colourful, and others had to be slick. To create the impression of moving towards the future, the locations needed a sense of perspective with converging lines that led to a vanishing point. This device creates the momentum of the spot and holds it together visually.

We ended up shooting in Budapest and Cape Town. Budapest had an incredible mix of textures and architecture. It was also one of the few places in the world where we could get into the subway system. Cape Town obviously has spectacular locations that we were able to enhance with art direction.

We worked with MPC in New York and many of the scenes were extended in post to emphasise the vanishing point.

Can you tell us more about filming the recurring hallway-like scenes, both technically and conceptually? 

In theory the technique is actually fairly simple. In locations with similar perspective we shoot on tracks, matching the lens, speed, camera height and camera angle each time. That should allow the locations to be stitched together to form one continuous passage. The reality however was not quite that simple – MPC put a huge amount of effort into altering the plates to make the ending work.

Conceptually the ending implies that the future is open and waiting. The locations are slightly brighter and uplifting, suggesting the possibility of a more positive future.

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You make numerous references to humankind’s obsession with technology in the advert – the motorised scooters, the virtual reality headsets, the selfie sticks. As a filmmaker whose business revolves around technology, what’s your personal relationship with it?

The references to technology are about how we as humans are going to interact with the planet and each other going into the future. Technology can be a solution (like in the hydroponics scene) just as much as it can lead to an obsession (like in the selfie stick scene). Technology is not really the issue: to me it’s more about society’s dysfunctional attitute to many of the issues explored in the commercial. Pollution, poverty, fame, self-obession, and complacency are all elements the cast pushed up against on their journeys towards creating their own future.

As a filmaker and as a general member of society, I embrace technology. I’m as guilty as most of us are of being too obsessed with my phone and I look forward to my first VR sexual encounter.

The clip rides the line between advertising and art beautifully. How do you strike a balance between the two, and why is this important to you?

I am very reluctant to call anything I do art. Even my music videos operate in a commercial space that is influenced by popular culture. I am hugely inspired by street culture so working with a brand like adidas Originals has been a dream come true. Style is really important to me and I like to think that this particular aesthetic is evident in most of the work I produce. It’s important for me to never be too serious in my work. I tend to be cynical about most things in life and I use humour to express that. I am as interested in performance and human relationships, as I am in creating visual spectacle.

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Where do you see the future of South African advertising heading? And where would you like to see it go? 

In South Africa TVCs remain the most effective way to reach an audience. There will always be a need for the classic 30-second commercial but that has become just one element in much larger campaigns and executions.

Audiences increasingly have the choice of whether or not they want to be exposed to adverts, so brands are going to have to generate content that is genuinely entertaining or compelling to hold their market’s attention. To me this should be a positive development that will hopefully encourage brands to take risks and be less traditional, which is something that has definitely been lacking in our local industry.

I would love to see brands putting serious budgets towards generating content that is true to expressing the values of what the brand has to offer, but also enables us to create work that people actually choose to watch.

Head over to Terence’s reel to see more of his work.

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