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Behind the Work

How shelter.film and Halal Effortlessly Cut Through Claustrophobia in Vanmoof’s Commute-Busting First US TV Ad

LBB goes behind the scenes with shelter.film’s Albert Zurashvili and Marina Karmolit, and Halal’s Gijs Determeijer to find out how they brilliantly reminded us of unbearably sweaty pre-pandemic commutes just in time for summer

How shelter.film and Halal Effortlessly Cut Through Claustrophobia in Vanmoof’s Commute-Busting First US TV Ad

Amidst the seemingly endless debate on remote vs office working, there is at least one thing on which both sides seem to agree: Namely that city commuting, particularly in the depths of summer, kinda sucked. 

If anyone had been in danger of forgetting that fact, cycling brand Vanmoof’s latest spot was on-hand for a timely reminder ahead of summer 2021. In their latest spot - the brand’s first to appear on US TV - we witness a triumphant bike and its rider sailing through the noise, sweat, and congestion of a summertime rush hour. 

It comes at a time when attitudes towards cycling in cities are becoming remarkably more accepting. A recent study commissioned by Vanmoof in association with the polling giants YouGov found that the pandemic had been a key factor in what the New York Times has described as an ‘e-bike boom’. 

As a result, the serenity we see in Vanmoof’s latest ad, then, could well become a reality for many city-dwellers in the near future. The overwhelming sensation of bliss conjured up by the spot is down to the team behind the camera, including shelter.film’s owner & EP Albert Zurashvili and managing partner & head of bidding Marina Karmolit, plus Halal’s EP Gijs Determeijer. To find out more about how the campaign was put together, we spoke to the duo. 


Above: The campaign is running worldwide on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, and on TV in the United States as well as in the Netherlands and Germany


LBB> As well as the visceral visual details, the ad also brilliantly conveys the heat and claustrophobia of commuting. How did you achieve this?

Albert Zurashvili and Marina Karmolit> Haha, well in the life of a filmmaker timing can be both a blessing and a curse. In this case, it was a good thing - we were shooting in the middle of summer and the heat was very real! So it wasn’t hard to convey the atmosphere of a heavy traffic jam. I do have to add that we strictly adhered to Covid protocol and tested our extras accordingly.

Gijs Determeijer> Yeah, it was almost 40 degrees when we shot it so there was a lot of real heat - I still pity the actors and extras in the bus! But we also used a lot of heat canons and fire below the camera to create that shimmering effect. And lots of haze and smoke.


LBB> This film does such a great job of reminding viewers of the dreaded rush-hour commute. Did you draw on your own memories to recreate this, or were there any insights that helped you in building up this picture?

Gijs> Besides our own experiences, director Paul Geusebroek & Creative Director Pascal Duval were heavily inspired  by the opening scene of Falling Down and the REM Everybody Hurts music video. We really wanted to show that pressing feeling you get when you are in traffic or public transport.


LBB> What can you tell us about the location for this spot? Where was it filmed, and what made it the right choice?

Albert and Marina> We spent about two weeks scouting for the right location. Again, it had to be something which looked like New York, but we also had to be able to block the whole crossroad and four streets for two days. Together with Paul Geusebroek and Halal, we found the best option and then fine-tuned it to get it where we needed it to be. 

Gijs> We wanted the film to feel like New York, so we were originally going to shoot this in a Hollywood backlot in Sofia with our friends at Solent, but the studio was not available and the shoot couldn’t be pushed for two weeks. We almost had to kill the job because getting permits to block an intersection for 36 hours is nearly impossible. Luckily the heroes at shelter.film pulled some strings and made it work in Kiev in about a week! We had to change all the signage obviously because all signs are in Ukrainian and Russian, but a huge advantage was to have a crossing with four streets. There was always a street with perfect light and we shot simultaneously with two crews, making it possible to shoot over 60 shots in two somewhat normal days!

Ukraine is such an amazing place to shoot, a lot is possible and the crews are the most professional you’ll encounter. shelter.film is my favorite production partner in the world, really - they are professional, but so relaxed and nice with great taste. I would trust them with my life!


LBB> What were your objectives when it came to casting, and how did that process work?  

Albert and Marina> The main goal was to achieve a ‘metropolitan city’ look which brought New York to mind and find around two hundred extras. Needless to say it took us some time and effort, but we found a way to make it happen. Fortunately for us, Kyiv is a very diverse city. Many thanks to the casting agency, who did a great job and found the right people for this project. 


Above: Three high-res stills taken from the shoot. 


LBB> What was the most difficult component of this campaign, and how did you overcome it?

Albert and Marina> Back to that point about timing, in this case we had literally about two weeks to prep everything and turn Kyiv into New York. However, the project was so ambitious that we couldn’t help but accept the challenge and immediately jump onto this train. We were really excited to work with Halal and Paul Geusebroek. Looking back now we can definitely say it was a perfect match! 

The most complicated part about this job was to combine both worlds, with time moving both backward and forwards, in one shot. To achieve that we used BOLT and shot the story in four layers. Sometimes actors had to literally walk back and do things in reverse! 

Gijs> I totally agree about the time pressure! Apparently you don’t sell bikes after summer, so we had a very defined deadline to work towards. That meant we had six weeks from the first phone call until delivery, including VFX and post. We basically had 10 days to line up a shoot with over 70 cars, 200 extras and a blocked crossroad. 


LBB> Finally, if you could go back and change one thing about this production, would you? If so, what would it be? 

Albert and Marina> For our part, we wish we have known Halal and Paul before! This is probably the only thing we would love to change about the job. The vibe and synergy we had was lit!

Gijs> Agreed! For me, this film is in my top 3 of what we have made so far. Actually having everything in one location, and taking in the slow pace of the finished ad really touches you like cinema does. Why do most commercials need to jump to 6 locations in 25 seconds?! This more thoughtful approach is the way to touch people, I believe.


Albert Zurashvili and Marina Karmolit are owner & EP and partner & head of bidding at shelter.film respectively. Gijs Determeijer is EP at Halal. 

Featured Companies: Halal

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Category: Outdoor Equipment , Sports and Leisure