Welcome to the HTC One Free Fall Fashion Shoot. The most exaggerated product demonstration we’ve ever seen.
It’s the first fashion show in the world to be captured using a mobile handset while skydiving. Yes, you read that right. Fashion, phones and skydiving – it couldn’t get any better. And in Arizona.
The concept for the advertising shoot was to have two up-and-coming photographers with the new HTC One X smart phone, a beautiful fashion model, lighting guys, a make-up artist and stylist, smoke machines and have them all skydive out of a plane at 14,000 ft. Yes, out of a plane. A fashion runway in the skies.
This kind of shoot has never been done before and apart from dropped phones, ripped dresses, plucked feathers and some emergency parachutes, it’s all headed for a spectacular global advertising launch in early Spring 2012.
The student photographers, Tony Mac and Nick Jojola have to compose and shoot the fashion image mid-flight at 120 mph and upload their shot by the time they hit the ground. To make it even more difficult, and to highlight the capabilities of the phone, they are shooting in low light conditions at dawn and dusk. That’s some challenge and we were there to see it.
Tony Mac is a first year student in photography who loves physical challenges: ‘I hike, snowboard, bike, and camp.’ Nick Jojola is studying digital photography and tells us ‘I’m really excited to be shooting in the sky because it’s something I’ve never done before and I don’t know what to expect.’
And guess what? Before the shoot both guys had never skydived before. We hadn’t either – but that was all about to change over a couple of days in the company of a great team from HTC, the global creative agency Mother and Lucinda from Fever PR.
Meet Roberta Mancino, a model with more than 7,000 jumps under her belt… when she’s wearing one. She is an accomplished Italian skydiver, BASE jumper, wingsuit flyer and international model. In 2010, Mancino was named the World’s Sexiest Female Athlete by the magazine Men’s Fitness.
A high-fashion show needs great outfits and make-up so we have Hayley Atkin, Fashion Editor of LA Times Magazine and Adam Breuchaud, an A-list make-up artist all set up in trailers out in the desert.
Roberta says it’s easier to model on the ground than in the sky and she’s always wanted to be a black space-swan. Even it means getting up at 3.30 am and heading for Area 51 in the Arizona desert so she can star in the campaign. Her costume of metallic silver suit and feathered cape and hood is a study in fashion physics. She’s a bird woman in the skies.
The stunt direction is led by Norman Kent, who is widely respected as the world’s best skydiving cinematographer, and tells us that before they started ‘We had no idea even if it this shoot was possible and we invited you here to Arizona to see for yourself.’
Norman says ‘the biggest challenge was to have everybody in the right place at the right time. We are all falling at different speeds and the team has to be in place for the photographers to get their shot.”
Cool Director Sara Dunlop admits that even when the team get a really difficult shot which she loves, she asks if they could just do a little more. She is here to create something bold and exciting. Part of Sara thinks that when the commercial airs people won’t believe it. ‘They’ll think it’s green screen or something.’ So we are flying over to Arizona to witness it for ourselves.
Here’s a peek behind the scenes:
After a 10-hour flight we were met by our driver, Michael, with an impeccable laminated welcome sign from HTC and an impressive Town Car for the short drive to Scottsdale and our colourful hotel The Saguaro. It’s already late night and we are too tired to ‘nacho and margarita’ with the tech and advertising crowd. So it was straight to bed, the biggest and most comfortable I’ve ever slept in, to be up for an early call.
After a spicy breakfast we boarded our bus for the day – ‘not quite what we’d ordered’ said Lillian, as we peeked in the long white coach to see padded leather seats, mirror balls – more a ‘disco bus’ than an executive RV.
All’s was missing was a lap dancing pole -but more of that later. We tucked into our goody bags of Sun chips, Godiva chocolate and Kind fruit and nut bar and headed out into the desert.
The international bloggers, just two from UK, were also with HTC VIPs. Not from their head office – these are the super fans from the HTC Elevate programme – a private community for HTC’s best customers. They know their stuff and were keen to get their hands on the new model HTC One X.
First stop was SkyDive Arizona - on the edge of Eloy airport boasting ‘more sun, more fun, more jumps.’ We were at an indoor wind tunnel. The full team from the ad were there to show off their stuff.
Once the wind was cranked up Roberta, Norman and the stunt guys took to the tunnel to twist, turn, rise and fall in the 120 mph winds. They really made it look easy spinning around like riders on a wall of death.
We were also showed around the skydiving centre, the world’s biggest drop zone for divers – outside in the sun, a grassy lawn with spectators in their deep deck chairs watching the skydivers plummet from the sky, pull their shute and trot gracefully onto the verandah. It all looked so innocent.
There was a press conference in the HTC marquee – kitted out with carpets, sofas and HD TVs so that crew and Director could tell us about the amazing concept for their commercial and how it was going. There were a few days lost due to the winds and sand storms but they were working together as a team. A nice clip of the previous day’s filming here.
Then interviews with A-list makeup artist Adam Brechaud and LA Times Magazine Editor Hayley Atkin who sit patiently in their trailers on the end of the runway. Adam gently talks us through the products and the quick turnaround he has to get Roberta fresh and back up on the plane for her next jump.
Hayley is chatty and friendly and tells us about getting the outfit to work in the sky and at those incredible speeds. Alan Greenhalgh goes back stage to meet them – read his interviews with Hayley and Adam at www.beautyandthedirt.com
We get a buggy ride around the airfield to see the film set actually inside the plane. It’s set up like the backstage of the fashion show. There’s a full rack of sparkly dresses, make-up counters and stools. It’s all there – mirrors, Hollywood bulbs, hair dryers, straighteners and it’s all fake. The brushes and make-up are stuck down with super strong glue so they don’t fly out when the doors open for the cast and crew to jump out the plane.While we’ve been looking around the skydivers are ready and head up into the sky while we drive to the restricted Area 51 for some serious cactus hugging and to watch them land on their last sunset ‘dirt dive’. No grassy soft landings out here.
As we head off-road in the RV we end up with a mouthful of dust. Remember that missing lap dancer’s pole? There had been one in the van and when it was removed it’d left a hole in the floor and a whole heap of dust got sucked up in the van.
Nick Jojola comes down first and can’t wait to share his HTC One X shots- stunning frames of Roberta, a ballerina of the skies, pirouetting trails of purple smoke behind her against the dry brown desert below. Superb pictures of such high quality and we all wanted to see them.
To marvel at her and to marvel at the phone.
Everyone seems pleased and it’s a wrap.
Time to crack open a celebratory champagne and toast the cast and crew on a good job in the can.
After a dinner at Eva’s Mexican restaurant in Casa Grande, it was time to get blown away, literally, in the skydive tunnel.
We’d booked a late night dive at SkyVenture Arizona and rather than stay for another large margarita, we suited up and put on knee and arm protectors, ear plugs, helmets and goggles.
We’d waived all our rights on the numerous disclaimer forms so there was nothing to lose but to fall right into the gusts.
If I had one superpower it would be to fly – so this was a dream come true for me. I weaved and spun all over the place eventually, with some help from my handler, got to fly right up into the roof and be a superhero for a couple of minutes. It’s a lot to navigate – one false move and you spin out of control, knock into the wall and all the while try to smile as G-force cheek is so not-a-good-look.
Inspired by this, it only seemed natural to turn the training into the real thing and go up, up and away in the sunny blue skies of Arizona. The big jump was booked for the next day.
At least if we didn’t make it you’d could say ‘what a way to go!’
The HTC One Free Fall Fashion Shoot airs globally Spring 2012.
UPDATE: 25th April 2012, Roberta Mancino is back in the wind tunnel for “Sea, Land + Air” edit for HTC and Momentum Ride Shop. RPRT Management are producing an edit to coincide with the US launch of the new HTC One S phone which is available on AT+T and T Mobile networks. Roberta Mancino, who starred in the HTC phone’s worldwide campaign, will be joined by surfer Nick Rozsa and skate boarder Curren Caples for a day of fun including surfing, skating and flying in the wind tunnel. Next up? Shark diving in the Bahamas…
READ MORE about Roberta Mancino here