Drinking 0.0% alcohol should not have to mean no fun and no taste. That’s what Japanese beer brand Asahi and FAMILIA director Fausto Becatti set out to rectify. Using invaluable data and research spearheaded by the production company’s next gen tools department, the 15-second commercial aims to bring back a level of authenticity and excitement to non-alcoholic drinking experiences.
Crafting a dynamic spot that constantly moves forward, the camera leads viewers through a series of zeroes to cleverly transition between shots. The result is a visually fresh and fun ad that entices you to rewatch and capture all the intricate creative details.
In an interview with LBB’s Sunna Coleman, director Fausto Becatti reveals how this technical masterpiece came together through challenging time, budget and weather restraints - including the biggest typhoon Japan has seen in over 20 years!
LBB> Tell us about the brief from Asahi and your initial ideas and approach.
Fausto> This was my first time working with Asahi, a brand that I absolutely love. They are so particular about design and details which I also really care about. The brief for this project was to make a 0.0% beer commercial that really stood out and that felt different to the other non-alcoholic offerings on the market. Asahi spent a ton a time crafting their first non-alcoholic beer and they wanted a piece of communication that makes it feel fresh in a quickly growing sector.
The world of non-alcoholic beer has been filled with inauthentic films, featuring people drinking a beer whilst driving, or at work. But if you study the data, especially in the younger generations, the consumption of alcohol is on the decline and people are far more conscious of their health. Therefore, we wanted to put this product in locations such as bars and nights out with friends, as this is a more realistic location for one to drink a 0.0% beer.
LBB> How did the concept develop from there into the final vision?
Fausto> It was always imagined and designed to be a forward-tracking collage of craziness that captures modern day Japan. There were a lot of 2D, graphics-based layers. My approach was to give it a more grounded and real feeling.I didn’t want to get stuck in a world of online-comping, and so I wanted to give as many real elements that we capture in-camera as possible. It was my approach to take this project to Tokyo, rather than a green screen stage in Eastern Europe. I am a big fan of getting as much in-camera as possible and being on location in Japan allowed this to happen.
We wanted the Japanese brand to resonate with consumers as authentically as possible. The client was very happy to get on board with this vision and could understand the benefits of shooting it this way.
LBB> You wanted to make a film that delights on both a visual and emotional level - how did you go about this?
Fausto> It was a tough challenge to set myself for a 15 second commercial. The aim was to land the brand and the feeling, and hopefully capture a modern day Japan. I think we achieved a film that has a really good flow in the end but there was a risk of it becoming overwrought and overwhelming - we really had to pick our moments, especially when blending all the scenes in.
I wanted to create something exciting, and still cohesive without being a full-on assault. In some of the initial ideas there was too much happening. So I spent a lot of time in pre-production considering the flow and connection through and between the different scenes, bringing it down a little into something more cohesive.
Visually I think we ticked the box and it feels exciting emotionally. It’s fun and because it loops really well, my hope is that people watch it several times and catch all the details we put into it.
LBB> What was the casting process like?
Fausto> Casting was a challenge because Japan had been shut-down to outsiders for covid, so the usual influx of actors was limited. When I got my visa to go over they actually told me how lucky I was as there was a 50% chance I wouldn’t have got it at the time!
We ended up doing some street casting and I think we found some great cast in the end. We wanted a balance of people to give the film a cosmopolitan look. They all bonded on set and have become actual friends - that was lovely to see. Our lead actress dressed as an Asahi Bottle of beer for Halloween the year before, exactly one year before being on set!
LBB> There was a challenging budget on this project. How did you find creative solutions around this?
Fausto> There is always a way. It just means you need to get down and dirty, and think outside the box. Often limitations create more interesting opportunities and solutions when you can’t throw traditional thinking at it. I quite enjoy the challenge of it! It also helps having a crew and team that are inspired to adapt and work alongside you to make things happen.
One example of a creative solution we implemented was using a probe lens to shoot textures on an iPad screen through different objects and in that way we built up a library of O-shaped textures for the online process. To create all of it in 3D would have taken a lot more time and money.
Another example was that we built a miniature set for the big 0 you see on the rooftop scene, and we shot it in-studio because shooting on location in Tokyo is incredibly challenging, and we couldn’t get a big sign on a real rooftop as that would have been super expensive.
LBB> How did FAMILIA’s next gen tools department help support the best solutions for the client?
Fausto> With data and research, they revealed that people want to be a little more focused on real, authentic moments of enjoyment when it comes to non-alcoholic beer consumption. A lot of people feel that 0.0% beers aren’t close enough to the real thing - calling it ‘fake’.
For that reason, we endeavoured to make everything as real as possible - to create a more believable and attainable vision for enjoying a 0% beer among friends. I wanted to get as many real locations, real people from the region and as grounded as possible within the scope of this visual concept.
LBB> Tell us about the equipment and camera techniques used to achieve the look you were aiming for.
Fausto> We used a Venice 2 with 8k high-res capture for the resolution with a probe lens as well as macro lenses. We also used the Bolt system for motion-control to composite multiple takes together, and techno-cranes to get the forward movement of the camera.
We then used an electric motorbike with a stabilised head to get the shot of the cast running on the street because we were not allowed to build any equipment on the street.
LBB> You also wanted the music and visuals to be well-aligned by breaking down the track in pre-production rather than leaving it as an afterthought. What are the benefits of considering the music earlier on in the process?
Fausto> I think music and sound design are criminally under-served in the pre-production process generally speaking. And yet sound is 50% of the final product. It’s so crucial and lends to the emotional side of the work. So I really love to put a lot of emphasis on planning for sound/music beforehand. And hopefully having sound and music on set.
The music on this project plays a big role in helping the viewer get into the feeling of Japan. We used the beat of the track to help us with the timing, pace and movement of the film too.
LBB> What are some interesting insights that you can share from the shoot?
Fausto> Shooting in Japan was wild for so many reasons, but a huge takeaway was how great the Japanese crew are, so professional and amazing. It was an honour and a privilege for me. Alongside that, the food was unreal!
The weather, however, was hectic while we were there. It was a huge challenge because Tokyo was experiencing the worst typhoon in 20 years and we had one day of exteriors. Everyone was freaking out about it and on the day itself, we were so lucky to have a lull in the weather for most of our shoot day!
LBB> What was your reaction to the final edit?
Fausto> I wish we had more time… haha. There’s always room for more crafting. But for real, I think we made something that is exciting, fresh and unique in the marketplace of non-alcoholic beverages. Hopefully it stands out and creates a rewatchability factor because of how it loops seamlessly
My favourite shot is the very first, going from a wide shot across over the bar to the actress lifting her drink as the camera hits the 0 on the bottle. It was really hard to achieve with the timing and speed but looked effortless in the end. Pulling that off was an achievement.