New M-Net Campaign | My Life As A Movie



This is the first M-Net brand campaign to be made in over a decade. The ad, “My Life As A Movie”, stars Emmanuel Castis whose character’s life story is told through clips and narration as if it were a movie to draw comparisons between on screen and real life.


The ad was a collaboration between Ogilvy and Picture Tree Films, was directed by JH Beetge and filmed over 2 days after more than 2 months of pre-production.


Creative Director at Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg, Mariana O’Kelly, answered a few questions about the making of the ad:


What was the process of creating the scenes for the ad?


O’Kelly: After it was written, the creative team spent weeks plugging and crafting scenes. We wanted to write scenes with universal insights that most people could relate to. We wanted it to be real and not clichéd ad scenes to allow viewers to relate to M-Net’s magic in a way that was more personal and real. For every line, we had about 20 scenes.


Once Picture Tree Films’ short film and commercial director, JH Beetge, came onboard it was a complete collaboration and we tortured over every scene again to make sure we could achieve the right mix of emotions and not necessarily show and tell every line. It was important to maintain a cinematic feel (using 35mm film), but also to keep it real and sincere. We had to get this balance right for the ad to work.


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You had 24 scenes to shoot over a very short period with the aim to make the ad feel like a short film. Can you tell us about this?


O’Kelly: To achieve this, we had to work as smartly and efficiently as possible. We shot the entire commercial on stills after the locations were pinned down and worked out every angle because we didn’t have time to shoot close-ups and wide angles on the different scenes.


We had to point the camera, get the right emotion and shoot. After recording a guide voice track to give us an idea of timing, we put together a previz and mapped out each scene to the last detail before we got to set.


We also needed to be clever about locations as we couldn’t move around too much over two days. Variety of location in one location was therefore the brief. With careful planning, we managed to shoot all 24 scenes in only four locations. The way we handled the production meant that very little wastage of footage occurred in the edit. The edit became a crafting session.


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Is it true that you had a ghost on set?


O’Kelly: Luckily we knew beforehand that Park Station is haunted! In the director’s location shots, five figures showed up very clearly. This is not a hoax. Thankfully, the ghosts didn’t show up on the day of the shoot. (That we know of). We were more focused on the freezing temperatures – the ad was shot during a freak cold front.


Screen shot 2012-08-16 at 3.54.02 PM


Apparently one of the stunts didn’t go quite according to plan?


O’Kelly: We did the stunt on the motorbike with our stuntman on a separate night, attaching a go-pro to his chest and helmet. He fell and broke his collarbone. (We still managed to get the shot). Amazingly, he offered to do the stunt again after being discharged from hospital!


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What was it like working with Emmanuel Castis, the lead in the story?


O’Kelly: We first cast Castis, our hero, and then we had to find the three younger versions of him, aged five, 11 and 17. Not an easy feat!


Castis was a good sport. He never complained – even when he got showered with rain in the forest scene in sub-zero temperatures and had to sit through over an hour of being made up to look as though he’d just had an accident.


The car in the accident scene belonged to the Art Director. Fortunately it was a close-up, so Cowboy, our friendly tow-truck driver, helped the art department carefully replace the window with shards of glass.


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Agency credits:


Executive Creative Director: Fran Luckin
Creative Director: Mariana O’Kelly
Copywriter: Stephanie van Niekerk
Art Director: Renier Zandberg
Agency Producer: Debbie Dannheiser



  1. Love the attention to craft and detail. Unfortunately, it is a bit too much for the 60 second format for me. Lovely cinematography though.

  2. Wow that’s pretty.

  3. was it intentional to have scenes from “the dark knight” and “the grey” in there?

  4. @dcock – i believe it’s called “referencing” – every single TVC you see has a reference to another movie or ad, it’s how you sell it to the client.

    This is an awesome ad though – the craft is brilliant. Reminds me of Levi’s Go Forth, but in a good way.

  5. Can’t hate any of that.

  6. Great Craft, but the concept is really abstract… Anyone who hasn’t seen the ad’s title “my life as a movie” probably wouldn’t know what it means. In fact, I’m not sure I know what it means, and I read the title first.

  7. @uno

    if i shot an ad “referencing” directors like christopher nolan i’d also have a great looking ad.

    also, i was asking if mnet intentionally wanted some of the scenes to mimmick those in the movies they screen.


  8. Looks nice and drew me in, but I have no idea what’s going on.

  9. re-edit, you have the shots, just cos you shot amazing shots, dont put them all in, make sure the concept works.

  10. Show me the ghosts dammit

  11. @dcock it seems to me that the idea is exactly about referencing movie scenes. Like sometimes life feels like a movie and sometimes movies mirror our lives. I don’t think it’s stealing, I think it’s clever art direction. But ho hum. Good job.

  12. Don’t just talk about ghost pics, post them

  13. Also, ghosts

  14. Hey Boo, added the ghost pic for you.

  15. @jscott
    yeh, id like to think that too..but i dont see that many “famous shots”to support this theory.

  16. great ad.interesting

  17. Captivating ad with awesome production value. Nice work.

  18. @dcock I think you’re misinterpreting what I said: All commercials use mood boards and reference shots (not as a homage, but as “this is what we want it to look like”).
    Not all shots used are famous – some are from obscure films that the researchers find. You end up slicing a cinematic with all the film references.

    I can’t talk much about the “life is like a movie” part of is, but I assume the theory is more “UHR MAH GERDD mah life is so awesome and filled with ups and downs and twists and turns – just like in a movie”. I highly doubt the creative intention was to say “let’s reference lots of film shots because we know how intelligent and film-buffy our audience is”

  19. Great concept, production and execution! We need more commercials like this doing the rounds, well done to those involved.

  20. Very nice work. I think it’s excellent. It reminds me very much of Nokia – Fairytale ( ) I wonder if this was a reference.

  21. Here's the formula

    Take some pretty pictures
    slap a somewhat clever voice over it,
    and boom! Instant insightful relevance.

    It looks like every montage ad made for every financial institution in South Africa in the last five years.

    It’s not bad. But it definitely isn’t great.

  22. Why an American person?

  23. i havent seen a commercial in ages that made me pause, rewind, watch every frame and go online to see who shot it. I thought it was greg grey – but hats off to you guys it’s something i wish i’d been a part of. Concept is a bit abstract , but it made me interested and it’s not supposed to be more than that – interesting and a visual treat

  24. Captivating, I loved the first person perspectives. It took my attention and made me feel something! Phew chilling. I’m 22 I don’t know a whole about filmography but compared to the crap I see on TV, I’d love to see more of this. Outstanding work.