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Interview with the man behind Sky TV's advert for James Bond

By: Simon Firth
Sky TV advert for James Bond in 2012
The aficionados of the world of James Bond are abundantly aware of a plethora of Bond themed adverts to illustrate their ties and connections and officialdom to push upon the world, their wares. Bollinger, Heineken, Orlebar Brown and N. Peal have glorified and excelled with their video contributions to the exclusive world of of Bond and exactly what he or she should be wearing, drinking, thinking, or visiting if they want that special connection.

In a time before streaming where everything is available to everyone, no matter the time of day or if your need should be sated while on an ice-class ship to visit the world of penguins and polar bears, there existed another burgeoning world which was the fore runner to such ease. And this was only 10 years ago.

Sky TV, a UK based satellite company that offered for the time a class of TV-watching-immediacy, had a deal to create a James Bond 007 TV Channel. At the time of James Bond’s 50th anniversary, coinciding with the Queen’s jubilee and the UK hosting the Olympics, no doubt at all of which contributed massively to the loyalty of the UK’s leading secret agent and the box office financial results for the release of Skyfall in the same year, in 2012 the UK’s Sky TV subscribers had access to all of the James Bond films; but not only that, a host of documentaries and behind-the-scenes videos. Truly a great time to be alive.

To celebrate such advancements in deal making and technological supremacy, Sky TV created and released a suitably exciting advert. An advert that was released in three forms, two for TV and one for the cinemas, that in one minute and 30 seconds reminded everyone just why you had to be excited to be alive.

I was working at Sky TV in the same year and I introduced myself to the editor, David Millard, who was solely responsible for the creation, editing, mixing and delivery of this advert.

Watch the advert and then marvel at the sheer amount of work involved to bring this one and a half minute advert to celebrated fruition. A simple cut and chop, this was not.

David Millard is one of a number of Producers at Sky who create the promos and adverts for the Sky TV channels and programming. At the time of speaking with him, he had recently completed the advert for the upcoming 007 Channel that debuted on Sky Movies in October, 2012.

Editor's Note: This interview was conducted in 2013.

Can you give us a brief potted background to your career?
I initially trained at Virgin Media and I have been a Producer now for the past 3 years – most recently at Sky. In fact the Head of Creative at Sky Movies (Scott Russell) originally trained me at Virgin Media and so we’ve always had a great working relationship. I had freelanced since 2011 until now but am hoping to go into something more permanent here at Sky.

What is the decision process to go from ‘advert idea’ to completion from a management perspective?
Scott, the Head of Creative, was given the heads up at the end of last year for the Bond channel and it was at that point that he and our department had to start thinking of ideas. The Channel teams and Marketing sit together to produce a brief and once this brief agreed, it is sent to Creative, which is us. There then begins the Brainstorming process. The thing is with this, we already know who the target audience is so in some ways the process is less onerous than for other briefs.

The Key message is ‘All the Bonds in one place’. And to sell this, we wanted to show all of the excitement and all of adrenalin from all of the Bond films – and to demonstrate this with Every Bond actor from the last 50 years in the same sequence.

When it came to choosing the car chase as the main thrust, the decision came down to George Lazenby’s one film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). At the end of the day, because of his one film, there weren’t that many things that he got to do when compared to the sum total of all the other actors’ films and scenes where each actor would have multiple examples of love scenes and car chases, etc.

However, before we decided on the car chase, we were asking ourselves, what were all the common themes that Bond found himself in? So, there were the car chases, there were the casino card table scenes and there were the love scenes with the women.

We discarded the ‘seducing of the women’ idea because it would seem a bit awkward to have all the Bonds sitting, or lying, in one room ‘making out’! And even if it could have been achieved, it would probably have been a post watershed advert only!

The card table and poker idea seemed fun, all sitting round the same table, sussing each other out, donning their poker faces. But there was just no way it was going to compete with the adrenalin of the car chase. And so reverting to the car chase theme, there was a gag in one of the Austin Powers movies where there was some joke about all of rural England looking like the Californian hills – referring to the fact that so many Bond films seem to have car chases in a hillside environment. As a result, we figured we could probably glue the car chases together so they could look as though they were, in this case, all on the same track. So with this in mind, we went for a daylight car chase that took place on mountain type roads and tracks. And then it began to take shape with a whittling down of various chases. However, we knew right from the start that we wanted the Lotus to be present in the sequence as, it was just so cool.

Once decided, how was the chase configured? Was it all designed by you or Storyboarded/scripted by A.N.Other?
Well, we wanted a contemporary feel so we started off with the Quantum of Solace (2008) chase, and the idea was to fit all the other Bonds into that, rather than creating a whole new chase. The narrative of the promo’s car chase is the QoS chase and that was what sold it to the marketing people. It was never seen as a promo where a montage of scenes are glued together, it was meant to be a scene and actually, a story all of its own. A genuine James Bond car chase like you’ve never seen before.

There weren’t any storyboards even though it can sometimes be a good idea to do that for this type of work. Instead I searched through the footage, reviewed it all, and experimented with it to see how I could create an interaction between the different Bond actors, in a way that would keep to the QoS chase narrative and pace.

There were many versions where we had Roger Moore win at the end. For example we had an edit where Moore escaped into the sea - for the Lotus to become a submarine - and Pierce Brosnan catching up with Daniel Craig. The final edit of that version had Brosnan sliding to a stop on a corner near Monaco and he exited the narrative. But in the end, we stayed with the original concept and kept to the Craig QoS chase narrative.

Sky TV James Bond 2012 Pierce Brosnan advert
What were the difficulties?
I guess I kept getting sidetracked with the problems of securing the interaction between the various Bonds and their chases. I tried to make it look believable in terms of this interaction; believability of interaction is key. In terms of staying on the same plane for right and left interaction, many of the Moore and Brosnan shots were flipped to allow them to nod and smile to each other while travelling in the same direction. Actually, much of the footage is flipped. I’d say about 30% of the total footage is flipped. All of the Moore shots are flipped apart from his external shots, which factually, made it look as though he is actually driving a left hand drive car. This was an amendment, an edit, that had to be undertaken in order to uphold the continuity of the scene.

In this same nodding scene, the problem here was also to cut out the female actor in the Brosnan shots. Aside from Barbara Bach in the Lotus based scenes, for the rest of the promo, it was just the various Bonds that were interacting with each other. Bach was kept in as a small homage to Roger Moore for almost always having his Bond Girl in the passenger seat in all of his car chases.

The other problem in terms of the creation of a scene narrative, were the establishing shots. We wanted establishing shots where each of the cars would be introduced to the audience, but in same scene. So for example, in the Lotus shot where Brosnan’s DB5 is introduced, and Bach looks back, as it is now we only see the impression of a car following them through the rear view mirror – it could have been any car. Originally, and to our mind, the establishing shot was to have had the DB5 superimposed in the Lotus’ rear view mirror.

In fact, we had an original but draft edit where 16 superimposed shots were taken to a well known special effects company to superimpose the cars into and within the same shot. In essence, we wanted to do a Ford Puma Steve McQueen advert equivalent, but with the Bond cars. However, as part of the review process with Eon Productions, we were told that we could use any shots, we could edit and grade the footage however we liked - but we could not superimpose the cars into each other’s film footage: meaning that we had to solely rely on a well devised edit to create the chase.

How long did it take to do the edit / whole process?
From the moment we started assigning footage to a time line, it took a week to 10 days. However, the preparation before the edit commenced took two weeks of continual reviewing of film footage. We watched approximately 15 of the movies before the final six were chosen; so, roughly three to four weeks in total.

Once we had completed it, we took it to Eon Productions for a review and a final approval where we were then asked to make a few minor changes. Where Timothy Dalton’s Licence to Kill (1989) truck crashes into the wall, we originally had a much more impactful shot of the truck sliding along the wall within the tunnel but it was thought to be too aggressive; that had to be shortened. Another shot that had to be removed in entirety was when Moore manages to accelerate up the hill in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) sequence and squeeze in between two trucks. Originally we had the crash occur between one of the chasing Alfas from the QoS sequence and an oncoming truck with Moore appearing to rush past it, but that again was thought to be too aggressive. However, if people are paying close enough attention and again from the point of view of continuity, at beginning of the promo’s car chase there were two Alfa Romeos chasing Craig, but by the end there is just the one with no explanation of what happened to the remaining Alfa. The original edit explained that.

There are actually two versions of this promo; a 90 and a 60 second promo. There aren’t dramatic differences to these two promos but upon completing the 90 second promo and commencing the process of shortening it to a 60 second promo, I had to cut out half a second of every shot which saved roughly 10 seconds. I then had to lose another 20 seconds so I removed several of the establishing shots. Ultimately, the 60 second promo is nowhere near as finessed in my opinion. The 60 second promo is going into the cinemas at the time of Skyfall’s release. But for my part, I will always prefer the 90.

Were there any post production effects involved in the work if superimposition was not allowed?
Yes. Once the edit was agreed with Eon, we took the promo into a suite called Mystika, a special effects suite. Due to all the different lighting, the ages of the footage, the times of day, differing lens, and some older scenes that involved back projection, we graded all the shots to make them appear to be all part of the one scene. We also added camera shakes. Following the idea that the QoS chase provided the backbone and the style, that was the style that we aimed all the shots towards in terms of style. The Dalton scene saw quite a lot of shakey movement added. Moore’s Lotus scenes also had slight shakes added to them. We also spotted camera techniques in the QoS chase that we emulated throughout. For example, when the DB9 flies past and close to the camera, the camera wobbles due to the rush – this was an element we added to the other footage we chose for the promo. In the Brosnan establishing shot where the car comes close to the camera, there was a 10 frame [less than half a second] camera shake before cutting to the next shot. You wouldn’t notice it unless you knew it was there, but it’s these kinds of tiny amendments that made the resultant promo chase believable. All these effects and manipulations took three nights with a single Mystika engineer – 4pm to 10pm for three 3 nights.

What was your favourite scene/edit?
Everyone loves the Moore Brosnan acknowledgment head nod. But I like the individual post edit shakes and things that others don’t consciously notice.

Was there any sound manipulation along the lines of the Mystika edit?
Well, the Sound design is an all new design. None of the sound came from the movies in question. Radium is the sound design studio we used. We would often send them the latest cuts for which they made the sound. All of the sounds were from the correct sources which is to say, they found and used a real Lotus car for the Lotus for the film in question; only they made the cars gruntier. We would give them all manner of references, such as the tunnel sounds that would sound similar to when the UK’s Top Gear programme presenters would gun their sports cars in tunnels for an audible and visceral thrill. To be honest, I consider Radium to be the unsung heroes of this promo. We were told that they had visited upon a car collector with a DB9 and a Lotus to record the engine sounds of all the cars. And they also went to a gun firing range to record all the gun sounds. A pretty cool job!

The reason for the necessity of recording all this ‘clean’ sound was that, even though the master soundtrack we were working from was all split track Dolby, the centre track, which is usually the ‘clean’ track, also had the music in it. No matter what we could have done, the ears would have picked up the underlying noise or music. So we made sure to put money aside to commission our very own sound track.

Were you already a fan, was there a reason you got this job?
I do like the Bonds, and I watched them a lot growing up with my brother who is a genuine Bond fan. But I am more of a sci-fi guy if I am honest. I don’t think I got the job for any specific reason, other than I am a bit of a film geek.

Was there any ongoing process of approval, not just with Eon but within Sky?
Well, I am lucky that the Head of Creative and I, have always worked very closely, so all the changes and edits had an on-the-run approval. Marketing and Channel heads were involved at the beginning and were always sold into the idea; I think they always had an underlying faith in us. The Eon final approval was very quick. Eon had asked if the Bond actors could be introduced in chronological order but we said, not really, as that was impossible to do undertake while keeping the QoS narrative alive. There was one other thing; when Craig opened the boot at the end of the promo, we had offered an edit, or a version, where we saw Jaws wedged inside instead of Mr White but this would have been one of the superimposed shots we were steered away from so, in respect of Eon’s wishes, the idea was out. In fact at one point, we were considering doing five different versions of the promo with a different villain squeezed into each car boot.

How was the Voice Over chosen?
The VO was Colin Salmon. We wanted a Bond actor or actress from the current or recent films so that they would be recognisable to both young and old audiences. Also, the requirement was to have someone living in London to have made the realisation more sensible and commercially viable. It came down to three people but Colin just had this amazingly powerful voice. We were actually asked on the internet if we had actually used Patrick Stewart’s voice. Talking about the internet, the response to our promo was insane; by the second day after its release, it was in The Guardian’s top ‘Viral Promo of the Week’ list. By the weekend, it was in the Mail on Sunday, the Radio Times and it was even being tweeted by Empire Magazine; my absolute favourite Film magazine.

Sky TV James Bond 2012 advert
What other adverts have you got coming up?
Yes, there is another spot next week but this is more of a marketing promo. ‘If you want to Upgrade your Sky Package’ etc.. It basically shows some nice Bond moments, and then offers how ‘To Upgrade...’ It centres around the gadgets and Q but is essentially a montage as opposed to a sequence. I guess you could say it is a ‘Sell’ technique, rather than a ‘check us out’ advert. We’ve also been discussing ideas for the future. Nothing finalised yet but, you never know. Watch this space.

Interview by Simon Firth. Copyright © 2022 From Sweden with Love. All rights reserved.



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