Secrets of a High Speed Car Chase

16th June 2016 - Angela Buna

Toronto-based agency Juniper Park/TBWA was looking for a production company to execute a high-action spot for their client Nissan. They wanted the commercial to be shot like the scenes in films such as James Bond and The Bourne Legacy. Clark Stanley director/DP Hans Bjerno actually shot the action scenes for both of these movies. As such we were able to respond to Juniper Park/TBWA with the exact director from the films they referenced. Pretty great, right?

Hans is actually Canadian, from Hamilton, though he now lives in L.A. He has worked on many big Hollywood blockbusters, such as the Dark Knight, Inception, The Avengers, X-Men – and that’s just the beginning. Take a look at his IMDb page. It’s incredible, to say the least.

Upon receiving the storyboards from Juniper Park/TBWA, Hans had this to say: “When I first received the Nissan boards I was excited to see that Nissan wanted to shoot some really great action with its cars… real action a la Mission Impossible or James Bond, right up my ally. Having shot the action chase in Spectre, Rogue Nation and The Italian Job, I drew on what I had shot in the past.” We’re sure you can guess how well Hans executed the Nissan storyboards. Take a look at the full commercial below: 

While Hans was able to draw on his past experience to film this spot, shooting a short commercial is very different than shooting a film scene. According to Hans, “the challenge was to lay down a cool sequence and tell the story in 30 or 60 seconds, not minutes like I’m used to on feature films, where you introduce a character, set the plot, show the action and keep the viewer’s intrigue peaked.”

Choosing a location for the commercial was also very important. For this spot, Hans said “the look and feel of the roads and buildings needed to be all world, old school and modern combined. Montreal was the perfect blend of old and new.” Montreal was also a great choice for location because it allowed Hans “to choose a crew with extensive feature experience to be able to pull off what we did in a short period of time.” Hans was able to work with the same crew from major action films such as X-Men, saying that a “fabulous crew is to me the only way to pull off great scenes.”

To achieve the challenging action shots, Hans called on Performance Filmworks for this spot, headed up by Donny Bailey. Bailey’s team also shot Mad Max, and according to him shooting the Nissan commercial and shooting Mad Max were actually quite similar. He said that for the Nissan shoot “there was lots of great action from numerous angles. It was a lot of fun.” They used the Edge Arm, a very cool piece of equipment, to get the high-action shots. According to Bailey “with Nissan we got so many great shots because the Edge Arm allows for a lot of spontaneous creativity. We can go out and get shots that weren’t even boarded in the original shot list.”

Clark Stanley - Secrets of a High Speed Chase using the EDGE arm

Bailey estimates that his team has worked with Hans close to 15 times, giving him very high, well-deserved praise. “Hans is such a great operator and director, he makes everything easy.” Michelle Menke, the General Manager of Performance Filmworks, also gave Hans high praise, saying “he is not only an extremely talented cameraman, but a top notch director who is able to get the best out of everyone around him. Our guys truly enjoy working with Hans. Invariably, they come back from his jobs with a tremendous feeling of satisfaction and pride in the work that they’ve done. That inspired leadership comes from Hans.”

In order to shoot this commercial, we not only needed a great director and great equipment, we needed talented stunt drivers. We worked with Stéphane Lefebvre, a stunt coordinator from Action Stunts in Montreal, who put together an amazing team of stunt drivers, four men and two women. After shooting the commercial, Stéphane was very impressed with the Nissan Sentra, saying that “the handling of the Sentra was amazing.”

Clark Stanley - Secrets of a High Speed Chase using stunt drivers in Montreal

At Clark Stanley, we work on a wide range of projects, both big and small. This spot was definitely one of our biggest projects this year. We’re grateful to have been given the opportunity to work on such an exciting commercial.