The “Meet the Superhumans” campaign for Channel 4’s coverage of the Paralympics is widely held to be the best of 2012 and has a cabinet full of prizes – including Campaign of the Year, and a clutch of British Television Advertising and Arrow Awards to prove it.
Now its creator Tom Tagholm is moving into movies. Tagholm, 40, left his job as Network Creative Director, overseeing all of Channel 4’s advertising, after 11 years last summer. His new short, The Parachutist, screened at a Film4 showcase last week and is already touring the film festivals.
A quirky time-travel romance, it follows a German pilot who leaps from his plane in the Second World War and lands in an English suburban back garden in 2012.
“I was on a train, travelling back from my brother’s wedding in Cornwall, and saw a parachutist in a clear blue sky and no plane in sight. It struck me as a really good image so I kind of started with the poster and built out from there. It’s not really the way you’re supposed to do it if you’re a proper film-maker, but my background is advertising.”
The film, produced by Film4, the BFI and Various Films, stars the German actor Oliver Bigalke and Michael Smiley (Utopia) and was shot over 8 days in England and the suburbs of Berlin. “I didn’t want to make a sci-fi film, I wanted to make it deadpan, slightly flat. A tiny suburban story with a big conceit”.
Tagholm’s last short, A Bout de Truffe (2007), about the worst truffle hunter in France, won prizes at TCM Classic Shorts and Raindance festivals and was Bifa-nominated. He is now working on two feature films, one in LA and one in London.
A decade in TV advertising prepared him well for the world of film, he says. “At Channel 4, I was shooting a lot and working on big ideas. You stay match fit and you’re sharpening your vision all the time. We worked a lot with celebrities, or sportspeople who don’t have much time so you get used to being ready to get what you need in a matter of minutes.”
On both The Parachutist and A Bout de Truffe, he worked with 4Creative editor Tim Hardy, aka the man who came up with the idea of setting the Paralympics advert to Public Enemy’s “Harder than you think”.
“He sent me that track and we knew the search was over”, says Tagholm. “I’m still stunned by the reaction to the campaign. It was exactly what we wanted. We want to make something that would make people feel.” Public Enemy also approved.
“They got in touch and invited us to see them play in London. We went backstage and I was talking about raising kids with Chuck D and film-making with Flavor Flav. It was surreal”, adds Tagholm.
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