Friday, October 28, 2016
  • Friday, Jul. 26, 2002

Seasoned fishermen seem unperturbed that their boat is in the middle of the sea being rocked by rough waters—that is, until their fishing line tightens with such a force that it stops the boat in its tracks. Shots of the line lifting the boat's bow up from the ocean are intercut with ominous underwater glimpses of something moving quickly through the choppy waves.

Fearing for their lives, the fisherman cut the line and the boat splashes hard back into the water. The spot ends with the unseen force finally revealed—a Pirelli tire, which rises to the surface and drives away, followed by four other tires.

This European :60 for Pirelli Tires was directed by Jan De Bont of Santa Monica-based Plum Productions for Italian agency Armando Testa, Milan. Production house BRW, Milan and Rome, teamed with Plum to produce the job. De Bont is a noted filmmaker whose feature directing credits include Speed, Twister and The Haunting. He is repped by Plum for commercials.

"Executive producers Federico Fasolino and Catherine Byrne of BRW approached us about collaborating with Jan," related Plum Productions' partner/executive producer Thom Tyson. "They were looking for an action storyteller with feature film credits and the effects knowledge to pull of a very ambitious concept."

Shot in a water tank in Malta, "The Grip" entailed De Bont teaming up with key feature collaborators as well: special visual effects supervisor John Frazier, who had worked on Speed and Twister, and cinematographer Alexander Witt, second unit DP on Twister. Frazier and De Bont set out to create the effects in-camera for optimum realism. They designed five curved underwater tracks, each of which would guide an actual Pirelli tire. The tracks were powered by motors running on pressurized air. While this system worked at first in a Los Angeles test, more modifications needed to be made once it was put through its paces in the Malta water tank due to the intense power of the wave machine there. Structural changes to secure the tires to the tracks were implemented, and an increased power supply enabled the motors powering the tires to run longer than before.

De Bont and Witt also deployed the Aqua cam by Hydroflex on a remote-controlled Hydrahead system, all of which was mounted on the end of a crane arm. The crane enabled De Bont to place the lens so as to attain diverse points of view: from that of the tires, with the camera submerging and rising out of the water, seeing the boat in the distance; and right at water level with waves rolling over the lens to capture the impact on the boat and its crew.

Armando Testa's creative team consisted of creative director Maurizio Sala, art director Stegano Grossi and producer Alberto Carloni.

Fasolino executive produced and Chicco Mazzini of BRW was the line producer on "Grip." The commercial was edited by Marco Prez of BRW. The colorist was Adriano Mestroni of Interactive Milan.

Luca Loschi and Davide Flame of Chinatown, Milan, served as visual effects supervisor and visual effects artist, respectively. Composer/sound designer was Geencristof Casalini of Mack 2, Milan.