Three's a Charm for #FitGotReal Director
Skunk's Georgi Banks-Davies discusses the highs and lows of directing the third installment of Sport England's This Girl Can campaign... plus the joy of working out in pants.
Whatever your background, ethnicity or level of fitness, if you've seen the latest iteration of Sport England's This Girl Can campaign, created by FCB Inferno, you can't help but feel motivated to get up and move.
A joyful offering showing real women tackling exercise their own way - no matter how unconventional - the spot was helmed by Georgi Banks-Davies through SKUNK London. We caught up with the director to find out more about taking on the This Girl Can mantle.
Above: Sport England's #FitGotReal
Were you a fan of the original This Girl Can campaign [below]?
I’ve never met someone who isn’t. It’s so seminal. Not only as an ad campaign but in the mainstream representation of women – we got to see women as they really are - for the first time. I think it had a profound on everyone (woman) who saw it. Any women, in or out of the industry, that I talk to knows it and it left a positive impression on them.
Above: The original This Girl Can campaign
How do you feel about knowing how many people will compare the third iteration to the very successful first two?
I don’t really think of it like that, it’s a new brief and a new chapter. Sport England and the awesome guys over at FCB wanted to speak to the audience in a new way, and that’s what excited me. I forgot about anything that came before; if you don’t, you’d just set yourself up for a fall…
How did you feel when you got the call to say you’d got the job?
Fucking elated! I knew we’d have the chance to do something very, very special with this creative.
Above: Banks-Davies [pictured right] on the set of #FitGotReal
What was the production process like?
Like a speeding bullet train. The best part and the hardest challenge were one and the same - the casting. We cast a net across the UK looking for these women, the only brief that they exercise against some restriction (could be time poor, cash poor, ability etc.) You can imagine that that produces a lot of results. I’m big on casting, I watch it over and over, so the process of going through 400ish women, and then 60 odd callbacks was a long one. I also am fascinated by people - ‘Ain’t nothing as strange as folk’, as they say. So meeting all these women, either on screen or in the flesh was amazing - it felt like a real privilege and unique insight into a diverse slice of UK life.
Was your approach to directing this film any different to previous commercials or short films you’ve made?
I think in everything I do, whether running round with real people, or with trained actors and a locked down camera I’m always looking for some truth (as wanky as that sounds). So there was no difference at all here - that authenticity meter was on max. The one thing I had to do was be willing to throw away a plan at any point, the script is entirely driven by the cast, so we had to be super flexible in our approach, and ready to react to anything – nothing was, or could be scripted, and I think that shows.
How do you feel about the new choice of women used in this round of the campaign?
I love them all; those in the TV ad, and beyond in the online and print campaign. They are so real, and it was my sole job to let that shine.
What do you feel the choice of song brings to the film?
An award for best music in an ad? Joking. We tried a million things in the edit, but this just always felt right. It was also always on the table, from way before I came onboard. Todd, the DP and I would listen to it in the van - he loved to belt out “Don’t tell me what to say...!” It’s just such an anthem of self-ownership. It’s joyous, rebellious, infectious; everything our heroines on screen are.
What was your focus and goal when directing this film and what do you hope your audience takes away from it?
To show real women and the realities of everyday exercise. I shared in the treatment that my friends know I box because it’s cool. They don’t know I do Davina [McCall's] 15 Minute Workout in hotel rooms in my knickers (minus bra to avoid the hotel laundry costs), getting carpet burns on my elbows from doing the plank. That’s my reality. I want the audience to be inspired to celebrate their reality, and feel proud of that.