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Spotlight on: Blarke Sonne Levring a.k.a BSL Denmark

A while back production house Blarke Sonne Levring did the hip thing and shortened their name to BSL, which is a lot easier for a non-Dane like myself to pronounce. With huge names like Paul Arden, Thomas Vinterberg, Ingen Frygt (No Fear) directing for them they need a globally easy-to-pronounce name. In this months spotlight on I get to chat with their producer Thomas Romlöv about the creative forces that hide behind those humble letters.

db: First, show us BSLs Hot spot: Where are the ideas born?

I guess our creative hot spot is really in our directors minds. But this is one place where they sit when they work – at least some of them, at one time or another… Directors work nowhere and everywhere.

db:What is the best work from BSL - the piece that you are currently proudest of having produced?

TR: Overall we have to say “Harry & Bahnsen” for DSB and our campaigns for Tryg insurance.
DSB is the Danish Rail Company - It is the longest running series of commercials ever produced for Danish television – we’re currently shooting episodes #49-52. The series have won more viewer awards ( 22 and counting ) than any other campaign ever. It features Harry ( a puppet, think sesame street ) vs. Bahnsen – a human and their never ending discussion of whether to go by car or rail.
The Tryg insurance campaigns are renowned for their simplicity and the high level of creativity now in it’s 17th year. Tryg are positioned as furnishers of safety and previous films have shown for example animals juxtapositioned against their archenemies but feeling safe. A fox and a hen, a cat and a chicken etc. All done in the simplest possible way but with a lot of attention to detail.
Recent pride goes into a series of films for Coca-Cola ‘Chill’ that turned out very well – and a film for Carlsberg beer.

db: When and how was BSL born?

TR: BSL starts out as Produktionsselskabet Son et Lumiere back in 1987. Founded in the same year that the first commercial television channel was started in Denmark. It then became Produktionsselskabet until Blarke Sonne Levring was started in 1994. In 2003 the company is known just as the acronym: BSL.

db: The old wise words that even Bernbach said is that advertising should be different to stand out. With this follows that an agencies and production house culture should be different. What does BSL do different?

TR: In Danish a commercial is called an ‘advertising film’. In the beginning we used a tagline saying instead that we do “Film for advertising” – thus emphasizing that what we do best is film and advertising is best left to the agencies. We still believe that a good commercial is best developed by specialists working together – i.e. the agency does the creativity and we create the film. All our directors are firmly rooted in a story telling tradition and we have a tradition of producing commercials with feature film directors and directors from the national film school of Denmark.

db: Show us some work you've done!

Royal Danish Ballet- Kristian Levring

This film is quite old but still remains a favourite ! Shot in a day for a minimal budget it quickly became a hit with the movie going audience. Brilliant Idea from Saatchi & Saatchi Copenhagen – Directed by Kristian Levring.

EMR Directed by Michael Sonne

I don’t think any of us had really heard of ‘The council for sustainable energy‘ when the agency approached us for this film. It’s always interesting to make good films for government bodies. After the film was shown the client received numerous requests from people wanting to buy the props from this film ! Yeah, we think they look cool as well.
Agency is Umwelt, Copenhagen – Directed by Michael Sonne

Blur video directed by Thomas Vinterberg.

Thomas had just won the jury’s special prize in Cannes ( the film festival – not the lions ) for ‘The Celebration’ when he was asked by Blur to device a promo for their song ‘No distance left to run’ His idea was for us to see them asleep. The film was shot with IR cam and IR lighting in the homes of the band members. The three man crew wore special goggles with small screens – the only way for them to see what they were shooting. Idea and direction: Thomas Vinterberg

Promo: Mumm – Brian Lee Hughes

Brian was asked to give a speak at the Danish Design School. The first thing he did was hold a paper plane contest. A still was taken of each contestant and the distance was measured. The editing with the music makes it hypnotic. If you watch it, be sure to watch the result of the competition. The music is by Mumm. Briand directs films with BSL but earns his daily living as a creative at TBWA/Chiat Day San Fransisco

Tryg, Elefant – Thomas Busk

Continuing the legacy from Tryg insurance Thomas Busk directs a beautiful film for Trygfonden. The V.O. says: ‘We support safety, no matter your size’ Yes, it took some advanced compositing work to pull this one off. Agency is buhl UnLtd – director is Thomas Busk

Our 2 most recent films:

Carlsberg After Ski

A European film for Carlsberg. It was shot in Chile this autumn. It’s a straight forward feel-good beer film. It features Sports, a cheerful crowd, beautiful people and a cameramans gut reaction to the sirens of malt beverages. Good skiers will notice a well animated Iron cross over the logo in the end. Agency is DDB Copenhagen - Director: Kenneth Kainz

Coca-Cola – Brian Lee Hughes

Released this week is a Coca-Cola film for their Chill campaign. They feature audio and video scratching. The scratched voice of the girl says: “The bad news is that I’ve found a new boyfriend – the good news is, we can still be friends”. We made a number of films in four different languages – all were scratched in real time on the set by Dj Noize. Agency is Propaganda-McCann – director is Brain Lee Hughes

db: The homevideo-boom has had a large effect in that everyone can make their own video and we’ve seen some good work coming out of that. How do you think this has affected the easthetics and language of commercials ?

TR: I’ve certainly seen a change with the arrival of the prosumer DV-cams. It allows for cam positions and movements on locations that used to be extremely complicated with larger equipment. There has been quite a lot of handheld aesthetics developing in Denmark and the audience has become used to it. However, the real impact probably has yet to come. Most clients ( and directors ) still work towards a film transfer look as the possibilities of digital video are still not explored to the full. With the arrival of higher resolution video and various progressive scan techniques we will be able to retrieve much more information from video and treat it in new ways visually. It has also made it easier for aspiring directors to create their own showreels and the showreels from young directors we receive today are much more impressive than a couple of years ago – at least visually – but still they have to learn how to tell a story and that’s all in the mind regardless of the equipment.

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