I make commercials; thirty-second stories that highlight the benefits of a product. Although every spot I work on takes on special significance and I always enjoy the process, this spot was different - a collaboration with Innocean for their client Hyundai where we weren’t trying to sell cars, we were capturing an emotion. And as a filmmaker, that’s manna from heaven.
In terms of a creative approach, I first and foremost needed this story to feel as real as humanly possible, out of respect for all the families dealing with cancer. So the casting of the little girl was key. She would be the heart of the story and that choice could make or break the spot. The creatives and I agreed that the story should capture the optimistic side of treatment with a girl leaving the hospital having completed a successful round of chemotherapy, and so we were looking for a girl that had the perfect balance of vulnerability and joyfulness.
In casting, we had a lot of talented little actresses to choose from, but when it came to Raelynn’s turn to play out the simple scene, the unspoken chemistry and depth in this girl's eyes made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Raelynn (Rae-Rae) clearly had a beautiful expressive face, but it was the powerful blend of vulnerability, and innocence that pulled us in. And when her eyes lit up (on seeing her mum waiting for her outside the hospital), it was a joy to behold.
Setting the scene wasn’t simply about watching a girl smile and run. For the emotional reunion to feel completely real, I worked exhaustively with the actors to create backstory and meaning. Even though the mother and daughter in the spot never met each other until the shoot day, I spent several days beforehand, sharing photographs and stories, so by the time we arrived on location they had already forged a relationship. The rest was about letting the process unfold naturally, keeping the cameras from getting in the way of the emotion while making sure to capture the beautiful moments you see in the finished spot.