Is advertising different to real life?
Hello, I'm Nic, writer and director of Ralph Styles Ultra – a wry and unsettling short film crafted by a brilliant team of award–winning independent filmmakers.
Together, we're recreating a 1970s cigarette advert and fleshing it out into a 15–minute tale of seduction, manipulation and control. And we need your help to make it.
Tobacco advertising of the 1960s and 70s was loaded with chauvinism and thinly–veiled lechery. What would it be like to inhabit that world and see its characters deal with the consequences of their actions?
Inspired by real adverts of the era, Ralph Styles Ultra plunges us into an arena of high–stakes sexual power play and examines the frail humanity beneath the glimmering façade.
"A pointed take on the advertising industry, with meticulous attention to craft" Rosie Arnold, Head of Art AMV BBDO "A heady tale of privilege and sexual power play, with a gleeful twist" Daisy Woodward, Film Writer AnOthermag.com "Troubling, sexy and complex" Christopher Laverty, ClothesOnFilm.com
Ralph Styles Ultra opens with an authentic recreation of a 1970s cigarette advert. The premise is innocuous enough: a wealthy couple enjoy a drink at a snazzy cocktail bar, smoking their favourite brand of cigarettes. It looks, sounds and feels like any other glamorous advert of the era.
Sixty seconds later, the advert should end. But it doesn't. Instead of fading to black, we see its characters continue their lives. Confined to a world of greed and luxury, they are forced to live out the reality of a scenario conceived by admen.
A swanky, smoke–filled cocktail bar. A vulnerable, naïve girl whose date hasn’t shown up. A wealthy businessman with an eye on his next conquest. His gorgeous and neglected wife. And a handsome barman, who should know better than to get swept into an ill–fated love triangle.
Last year, I stumbled upon an obscure cigarette advert on YouTube. It was wonderfully kitsch, but it also spelled out advertising’s cynical side in clear terms. Although it was made 30–40 years ago, the themes in the ad were startlingly relevant to the world we live in today.
Many ads from the 60s and 70s depict everything that we’re trying to get away from. Yet today we witness disparately wealthy individuals, with overt sexism and stereotyping still very much a reality – a world that feels like it’s hurtling backwards... Are those crude desires a part of us, or are they symptoms of something else? What happens if we embrace them?
We’re making this film to explore the personal consequences of those ideals and hopefully to understand something about who we are today, in a surreal, darkly comic and original way.
We need your help to make this film happen!
We've raised a small portion of the budget already, but we still need £16,000 to make up the rest.
Your contribution will make it possible for us to pay and feed our cast and crew on a 4 day shoot, cover the expense of our entire post-production operation (including the recording of an original soundtrack), plus assorted transport, equipment and insurance costs.
The smokey pie below chart shows how your money will be spent:
In return for your support there are a range of rewards available: from HD downloads of the film and soundtrack, invitations to the premiere, posters, Ralph Styles Ultra polo shirts, to actual cigarette packs used in the film, appearing in your very own cigarette advert, and your chance to be involved in the film anywhere from an extra to a fully–blown Executive Producer.
Check them out on the right –––––––––––––>
For full details of our rewards, please see the Rewards section towards the bottom of this page.
This film is designed to feel like a relic from a bygone era. Not just set in the 1970s, but made in that time too.
We have carefully developed the physical world of the film – everything we see in the frame – to serve our characters and the story.
Decadent, sumptuous, extraordinary, unreal... welcome to the world of Ralph Styles Ultra.
The shifting see–saw of power in Anna and Luca’s relationship is the core dynamic of the film. Costume provides a great visual shorthand that can say so much about about their characters before they even lift a finger or utter a single word.
Original ad campaigns from the era provide the richest seam of inspiration. For Anna, gloss and luxury abound, hair and thigh eminently strokeable, heels sky high. A black dress – tight, neat, sexy, with the merest suggestion of fetishwear, such as an intricate strap or cutout detail.
Then there’s her choker, a gift from Luca, a symbol of his power – a key piece of the story and our costume design.
For Luca, it’s a look powerful enough to imply his arrogance. A heavy suit, lapels wide, waist high. Not every man could dress like him – he is unique in this story and setting.
The Ralph Styles Ultra cigarette pack is central to the advert and the film's wider narrative. It also plays a role in immersing us in that era, so its appearance will be consistent with design language of the time.
The Ralph Styles Ultra brand is an extension of Luca’s character. There’s a palpable seediness to metallic gold printed on glossy jet black, while the advertising campaign uses other luxury brands to prove its own worth (like the original advert we saw above). A whiff of status that has been bought, rather than earned.
We wanted to treat other key props as part of that same affluent world. The film's production design accurately references 1970s styling as seen in luxury adverts of the period. Details such as beverage labels and banknotes will complete a consistent, coherent and authentic period look. Naturally, there are no screens or digital card machines here.
Luca's penchant for the new and fashionable extends to our choice of location too. The shades of brown, mid–century inspired furnishings, sumptuous textures and glitzy flourishes of Oriole bar in London are a wonderful mix of retro flavour and distinctive class.
It’s an ideal location that serves to create an authentic period look and signify Luca's affluent, modern tastes. It's not the 1970s of Boogie Nights or Anchorman, it's the timeless class of luxury with hints of period detail.
We're very fortunate to have the cooperation of Oriole's lovely team who have permitted us to shoot at this stunning venue.
The glimmering surface of Ralph Styles Ultra is an illusion of romance and seduction. So, dim the lights. Let’s get intimate...
Our primary cinematography reference is Haskell Wexler’s gorgeous work on the chess game scene from 1968’s Thomas Crown Affair. The soft lighting and use of visceral close–ups escalate the tension and tell us all we need to know. The scene is not about chess at all – it’s about seduction and sex.
We'll take inspiration from Thomas Crown's cinematography to set up Anna and Luca's romantic masquerade and the underlying sexual power games.
As chemistry turns to confrontation, we look to the pre–credits scene in 1971's Get Carter. The use of colour creates a cold atmosphere, and claustrophobic framing drives things into a much seedier realm. A far cry from the world of romance and seduction we first encounter.
There's a softness and imperfection to the feel of 1970s cinema and television. While it’s too costly to shoot on 35mm film (that money is better spent on crew and production), we can still do a lot to recreate the filmmaking conditions of the time. Our task is to create as much of the look in–camera as possible.
We've actively sourced vintage lenses from the period, including a set by Zeiss once owned by Oscar–winning cinematographer Chris Menges. These lenses have a softer, gentler quality compared to the ultra–sharp optics of today. As per the fashion of 60s and 70s cinema, we will be making creative use of zooms, while filters placed in front of the lens will create a dreamy look, and add a dazzle to the sparkly jewellery worn by Anna and Davina. Steadicam hadn’t made it onto the scene at this time, so any moving camera will be on tracks.
The lavish excesses of the world of Ralph Styles Ultra also extend to the film's score. We'll be recording a sumptuous soundtrack with a real string section, real piano, real harpsichord and real rhythm section. With a nice, fat recording in the bag, we'll then process it through a series of analogue recording equipment to make it sound as though it's been sitting in the archives for 50 years.
As with a real advert, the music in Ralph Styles Ultra runs for the duration of the entire film. At first, its warm and romantic tones lure us into a comfortable world of luxury and romance. But as the advert's sophisticated façade is gently peeled away, the lavish soundtrack creates a toe–curling discord with the cold, unromantic on–screen action. It'll be like sinking into cosy shagpile, then being fastened in chains.
We're taking heavy cues from film and library composers of the 1970s to create a sound evocative of the period. The music in Ralph Styles Ultra is an indulgent mix of heart–rending emotion and kitschy cheese.
We're currently in the process of casting the film and will announce our actors on Kickstarter and via our social channels when they come on board.
Writer & Director – Nic fforde
Nic has worked in film & TV for most of his adult career. His first short films were chosen to participate at Slamdance Film Festival and Sheffield Doc/Fest. Shortly afterwards he established a commercial production company, Spring Loaded Films, with Rob, our Executive Producer. At Spring Loaded, Nic has directed advertising and branded content for clients such as Volvo, Ferrari, E. Tautz, Dogs for Good, Trustpilot and Ubisoft.
Ralph Styles Ultra is Nic's first major foray into cinematic fiction. In February this year, the script was shortlisted for the Screencraft Short Film Fund prize.
Co-writer & Producer – Giulia Watson
Giulia has worked with Nic to develop Ralph Styles Ultra right from the script's first draft.
Giulia has spent the best part of a decade working in advertising, from managing accounts to creative and production. In her time at AMV BBDO, Droga5 and now, at Revolt London, she has developed award–winning TV and social media campaigns for Guinness, Budweiser, Danone, Blackberry, Mars and Unilever.
Executive Producer – Rob Osbourn
Rob is a London based creative director, producer and dad to two small boys. He has spent the last 20 years working in consumer publishing making award–winning content for blue chip brands.
Rob is a storyteller at heart and as technology has developed he has avoided being tied to specific format and instead has simply followed the audiences, being led by what people want and where they want it.
Cinematography – Richard Dunton
Our highly talented cinematographer Richard is a graduate of the National Film & Television School's MA Cinematography programme. He has since worked professionally on shorts, features, documentaries, commercials and music promos both in the UK and abroad.
Richard's passion for unusual Hawaiian shirts goes hand in hand with his calm, collected attitude on set (which led to him being affectionately known as 'Ricky Relaxio') and dedication to his work. Richard is quickly moving up in the world – twice featuring in British Cinematographer Magazine, most recently in September 2017 regarding his work on Edge Of The Blade, a new feature film about Oscar Pistorius.
Production Design – Pixie Tan
Pixie is a freelance Production Designer and Artist. Working between London and Singapore, her experience in Set Design has brought her to Siberian snow-scapes in London summers, organising a moon landing for Aliens and dismantling a stranger's kitchen in Berlin. She has also art directed music videos for Maricelle Wong, short films, as well as the short series 30 Minutes Breather, which showcased in Malaysia and Singapore.
Costume Design – Jo Penneycard
After studying costume design at Edinburgh University, Joanna moved to India where she worked as a costume supervisor in Bollywood. Films include Mausam, Queen and London Paris New York. As well as designing and selecting clothes for films, Jo also has a passion for making them. After 3 years in Mumbai and Delhi she returned to London to start work on her first collection for her new bridal label, splitting her time between costume design and her new venture.
Costume Consultants – Christopher Laverty & Julie Alpine
Chris and Julie have a soft spot for 1970s outfits and are experts in the subtle but significant art of telling stories through the language of clothes. Earlier this year Julie came across our Instagram account, which quickly led to a drink with her and Chris, and much, much chat on 1970s cinema. We are very fortunate to now have them both on board to help design the look of our characters.
Julie comes from a stage background, is a writer, stylist and collector, and runs the enviable Instagram account She Wears The Trousers. She is, to say the very least, a retro fashion obsessive and aficionado.
Chris' background is both film & stage. He is an author, costume consultant, and runs the excellent Clothes On Film blog. His detailed analyses on the use of designer clothes in movies can also be found in his book Fashion In Film.
Original Soundtrack – Chris Hill
Chris Hill is a London based musician, composer, arranger, and music producer. For the last ten years he has been in high demand as a double bassist and bass guitarist, working all over the world with artists including Jamie Cullum, Annie Lennox, Van Morrison, Frank Ocean, and orchestras including the LSO, BBC Philharmonic, and Britten Sinfonia. More recently Chris has focused his energy into arrangement, composition, and production, where he has had numerous commercial successes.
Sound Recording & Dubbing Mix – Merlin Bonning
Merlin is a BBC trained Location Sound Recordist with production credits in recording engineering and post production audio editing. He has worked as a location recordist and studio engineer for TV shows, feature films and commercials. Merlin's TV and Film credits include Calvary, Sing Street, Hammer of the Gods, The Royals, The Hunted, Live From Abbey Road, and more.
Editor – John Smith (A.C.E.)
John is an Emmy award–winning editor, founding partner of global post–production outfit The Whitehouse and an American Cinema Editors (A.C.E.) member.
John's career has spanned both cinema and advertising, working for various directors including Michael Mann, Mike Figgis, Frank Budgen and Bryan Buckley. He has edited Leaving Las Vegas, Sliding Doors, Proof of Life, The Life & Death of Peter Sellers, and Fox's new series 24: Legacy.
Production Coordinator – Parita Mandalia
Parita is a freelance Production Coordinator working in both TV and Films. Most notably she has worked on the award–winning Bollywood production Queen, Stacey Dooley Investigates for BBC3, the controversial Channel 4 series Ramadan, as well as National Geographic Channel's Drugs Inc and Lawless Oceans.
A Spring Loaded Films Production
The production of Ralph Styles Ultra is in the safe hands of Spring Loaded Films.
Together, Writer/Director Nic and Executive Producer Rob run Spring Loaded Films and have delivered a raft commercial films for brands and charities such as Volvo, Ferrari, E. Tautz, Trustpilot, Dogs for Good, Ubisoft, and more.
They started the business from scratch, with no clients and no showreel. So they went out with a camera, made a showreel, and started knocking on doors... Four years later, they now have a growing list of clients to their name. Every year Nic and Rob take time out to pursue their passion for filmmaking and this year – with Ralph Styles Ultra – is their most adventurous yet.
In addition to the film itself and its sumptuous soundtrack, we have an ultra-special set of wares and rewards available in return for your kind support: posters, t-shirts, props from the film, tickets to the London premiere, appearing the the film as an extra, and even appearing in your very own Ralph Styles Ultra print advert!
The Ralph Styles Ultra Collection Poster
The Ralph Styles Ultra Collection Polo Shirt
Our exclusive Ralph Styles Ultra Collection Polo Shirt is made from premium heavyweight cotton in a soft, luxurious double pique weave. Comes in smart black and features a unique embroidered logo, inspired by the days when tobacco companies sponsored the glamorous world of F1 racing.
The Ralph Styles Ultra Cigarette Pack
Be an Extra!
Availability: We anticipate to shoot in January 2018. If you wish to participate as an extra, you will need to be available that month on a weekday.
Be in your very own cigarette advert!
As a Co–Producer you'll be credited in the film and billed independently from our cast and crew, and receive an IMDb credit for the role. You'll also receive the full VIP Package of Invitations to the London Premiere with our cast and crew, the wrap party and receive invitations to any domestic and worldwide screenings of the film at festivals. You can be in the film as an extra if you like, and we'll also give you 2 x copies of the script signed by director and cast, 2 x Polo Shirts, 2 x RSU cigarette packets, and of course all the digital rewards too.
Check out our bundles too!
Get discounts on all our items by ordering them together. All physical orders will also include a HD download of the film.
Phew! That was a lot of work for us, and a lot of reading for you. I hope you are as excited as we are about bringing this film to life! On behalf of the RSU team, we are all extremely grateful for your support in helping reach our goal. Please share this page with your friends and family to help spread the word. We can only succeed with your help. Thank you.
Risks and challenges
We're a highly experienced team of filmmaking professionals, but as with any film there will be things that can go wrong. The best anyone can do is to anticipate those problems and have a contingency in case things go a bit pear-shaped.
Together our team have successfully delivered a wealth of films to film festivals and expectant clients alike, and we're aware of the many challenges a film crew can face. We've all encountered adversity in situations where time is money – very expensive time at that – and thankfully have become adept at problem-solving. When it comes to the practicalities of filmmaking, this project is no different to any commercial venture and our track record shows we have what it takes to deliver. Let's make this happen.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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