it was all a dream
Jero Villar & Gabe Munitz-Alessio Direct
"¿Qué es un Sueño?" for Mercedes as the world changeD.
A warm winter’s night in Oaxaca, 2019. The enchanted eyes of an Alebrije in rabbit form glint in the darkness, its quizzical stare fixed squarely at the camera, challenging the fabric of consciousness. Is this a dream? Or is the world we know a blurry peephole in the doors of perception? How’d we get here?
We certainly didn’t know where we’d end up when the Coma Agency in CDMX first reached out with a request to create a marquee video to support the debut of an art car later in the year. Longtime client Mercedes-Benz was partnering with renowned artisans Jacobo and Maria Angeles to create a modified G-Series “G-Wagon” in the fashion of their folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures.
The Coma Agency didn’t know exactly what they wanted, but they were responsible for a sizable list of deliverables, including Stills, Social, BTS, and more, and needed to offload creative, production, and post for what would wind up being two 60-second spots with some challenging logistics.
To kickstart the creative process, Directors Jero Villar Uribe and Gabriel Munitz-Alessio dug deep into the work of Jacobo and Maria, who were instrumental in designing the Alebrije featured in Pixar’s Coco and inspired many of the movie’s characters. There is a spiritual element to the characters they create that is foundational to the creation process itself.
We soon learned about the central theme of dreams as a medium of communication with Alebrijes. We discovered and were influenced by the work of Pedro Linares, the famous creator of the Alebrije, who feverishly crafted the creatures out of papier mache after seeing visions in a dream.
In the spirit of Ray Bradbury’s famous word association exercise, Jero and Gabe batted the word “dreams” back and forth on the phone between Mexico and New York. This was pre-pandemic, before Zoom took over as the primary mode of communication.
Dreams … dreams … a dream to drive … Mercedes-Benz, drives like a dream.
Wait a minute. Where have we heard that before?
We must be on to something! So, we settled on the theme of “dreams” and set about deciding what kind of story to tell.
One of the first questions to answer had to do with perspective. Who’s the star of the show? With whom do we want the audience to connect?
These questions are often obvious when the characters in a story are human, or at least alive. In a car commercial, this becomes a bit less clear. Do you place a human in the car (or, in one notable case, dancing hamsters) to create an empathic bridge from human viewer to the product? Or is the car itself the main character?
In pondering this big question, we were reminded of this all-time-great Spike Jonze Ikea spot.
So, that settled it. We would embrace anthropomorphization. The car would be the hero of our story.
We began to map out the hero’s journey. What does a car dream about? We thought about what the car itself represented: a fusion of luxury and performance, a plush, bed-like interior and enough power and durability to navigate the most rugged terrain. We thought about the dual nature of dreams. In dreams, we can have great adventures from the comfort of our beds. Dreams are ephemeral and eternal, real and unreal.
We had our story. We would follow the car on its dream journey, as it lived out its innermost desires, tearing through the Oaxacan desert’s dusty trails in luxury and style.
A NEW WORLD
We shot in Oaxaca, in February, March and May 2020, without any idea of the changes about to take place on a global scale and within our industry.
The second spot, especially, tested our ability to adapt to a new, yet unknown normal. Originally, we had planned for a much larger crew and a camera car, but because of the now fully in-swing pandemic (May 2020), we scaled back to a drone-based crew of three. Despite the setbacks, we were able to get some special stuff that completed the two-hander commercial nicely, proving to ourselves that, if the story is clear, there is always a way to adapt production without hurting quality.
We had managed to capture the magic but still wondered how best to handle post-production. How could we prevent our dream from turning into a nightmare amidst the ensuing chaos of the pandemic (there was still no "new normal"). We're big fans of an "in-the-room" editing approach and though we'd been using remote review tools for a while with clients for several years, we'd always found it helpful to have at least a few key in person sessions throughout post on any big project like this.
Yet, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention...we pivoted to the brave new world of remote collaboration, with directors and editors in both New York and Mexico City, and though it took a few sessions to get our sea legs (or zoom legs as it were), we soon adjusted to the new paradigm and figured out how to make it happen in digital space.
The lessons learned from this project helped us thrive during the pandemic, when we were forced to work remotely with crews all around the world. We quickly realized the benefit of filling the production workflow with lots of different voices. Working with diverse talent makes us learn to see and do things in new ways, which ultimately elevates the quality of the final product and grows our collective toolbox, making us more resilient to challenging situations that might arise in the future.
Agency Coma MX
Production Co Cave 76 @cave76productions
Directors Jeronimo Villar Uribe & Gabe Munitz-Alessio @ofjeronimovillar & @gabemafilm
Executive Producer/Creative Director Ernesto Escobedo @netto.escobedo
Producer Ximena Rodriguez @ximerodriguez
Associate Prodcuer Pedro Brehm @brehmpedro
Writer (Poem) Jeronimo Villar Uribe
Voiceover Luis Alberto Casado @luis_alberto_locutor_voiceover
DP's Francisco Iñigo, Gabriel Munitz-Alessio, Adrián Cores Del Río @franciscoinigo , @adrian_cores
1st AC David Jesús Ánimas@animas_ac
Drone Operator Emmanuel Mendoza@emmanuelmendozawp
Direct Sound Ariel Baca
Editor Jeronimo Villar Uribe
Sound Design/Mix Daniel Maurer @maurer_sound
ColorGavin Rosenberg @gavinrosenberg @yeahposthouse
Location Services Anna Bruce @ramblingspirits