Director John Woo and cinematographer Gale Tattersall add visual kick to a spot celebrating Brazil’s national soccer team.

When Hong Kong action auteur John Woo (The Killer, Face/Off) asked director of photography Gale Tattersall to help bring his trademark style to his first-ever advertising campaign (Nike’s "Airport ’98"), the director also insisted on using his preferred multicamera coverage. "We often shot with three cameras simultaneously," Tattersall remembers, adding dryly, "That’s rather few for John. I was prepared for six."

Depicting an impromptu soccer game that wends through a busy Rio de Janeiro airport, the spot celebrates the Nike-sponsored Brazilian football team’s irrepressible love of life and sport. The clip begins with former and present members of the squad awaiting their delayed flight to France for the World Cup tournament. Bored and restless, the team’s superstar, "Player of the Year" Ronaldo, takes matters into his own hands and initiates a football match that transforms the airport interior and runway into an obstacle course cum soccer field. The ball flies from one player to the next, with Denilson dribbling it around passengers on a moving walkway; Romario evading a security guard to send the ball through the X-ray machine and onto the tarmac; Juninho kicking it over a taxiing jet (as Eric Cantona nods his approval from his passenger seat); and still others displaying their trademark footwork skills. It seems that nothing can stop the 10 players until Ronaldo kicks the ball toward what appears to be an easy goal, only to hit one of two small metal pillars which look suspiciously like goalposts.

Woo, a self-proclaimed "giant soccer fan" since childhood, crafted shots designed to capture each player’s unique talents. By running three cameras simultaneously, the director was able to respond to what each player could do, allowing his subjects to move with total freedom and not worry about staying in the frame. That concern was placed on the shoulders of Tattersall and his camera crew.

The director of photography’s relaxed, professional manner helped him conquer the complex production’s blazing heat, as well as a variety of logistical and scheduling nightmares. "The asphalt in Rio can reach temperatures of 115 or 120°F," explains Tattersall, who advises keeping cameras out of direct sunlight during high-temperature shoots to avoid damaging the film stock. "The magazines can get so hot you can’t touch them."

Outlining the filmmakers’ general approach to the shoot, Tattersall relates, "John wanted to give the spot a natural look, rather than something more stylized, so we did things without camera marks. That way of working allowed us to capture the Brazilian team’s spontaneity and charm, which brought warmth to the vast, impersonal airport setting. When John films something, it’s like a dance. He carefully crafts every shot, and nothing is ever photographed in a mundane fashion."

Woo adds, "The football players didn’t know much about the camera, so they always appeared to be natural and innocent. I had lots of moments to make them look great by photographing teasing smiles and childlike actions. Although we all came from so many different backgrounds, we ended up playing like kids, which added a lot of humor to the commercial."

The spot, which also marks the launch of Nike’s new Mercurial soccer shoe, had to be put together at the last minute during the Christmas holidays, when the soccer squad had a vacation break. "It was the only time we could get them all together," says Tattersall, who had just three days’ notice before hopping a plane to Rio, which serves as home base to most of the team’s players.

The project’s production company, L.A.’s A Band Apart, had to use all of its clout to secure enough seats on airplane flights during the holiday crunch, and get the necessary equipment to the location. "I’ve shot at airports before, but never has it been such a challenge," Tattersall attests. "I can’t tell you how chaotic it was shooting during the holiday in an airport where nobody wanted us. If you need something in Brazil, it’s three days away or that office is closed for the month. Fortunately, we had Roberto Baker as our production manager. He’s the best guy to fix everything when you shoot in Brazil."

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