Behind The Scenes of the McArthur Glen’s Christmas TV Commercial with Director of Photography Josh Williams.

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Josh Williams is a British Director of Photography. He’s shot commercials for big brands such as Tag Heuer, L’Oreal, and GQ, as well as documentaries, shorts, and campaigns. Today we chat about his first outing with the Angenieux Optimo primes shooting a Christmas advert with Director Russ Owen.

This time we’ll dive into his latest commercial for McArthur Glen’s in Serravalle, Italy and we will have a look at his work and his camera, lenses, and lighting choices.

Camera: Alexa Mini
Lenses: Angenieux Optimo Primes (from Shift-4)
Grip: Movi Pro with Ready Rig, Moovie Slider top down rig.

Hey Josh, welcome to our blog, let’s start this conversation! Let us know more about this TVC!

We went to shoot in one of the biggest retail outlets, in Serravalle, Italy to shoot McArthur Glen’s Christmas TV commercial. High-end luxury Christmas with happy friends and family, as well as a load of face-paced transition shots. I really felt for the actors, it was Italy in the summer so 32-degree heat and they had to be in thick winter wear!

Behind the camera, I was sweating enough in shorts and a t-shirt. It’s a miracle they looked so matte.

Josh Williams

How did you light it, Josh? Let us know also about the challenges of this work!

One of the biggest challenges on this shoot was the nighttime scenes with the family. I had to light a huge outdoor retail park by only using 13 amp power, as generators weren’t allowed on site. My go-to in the UK would usually be Aputure 1200s. But they were nowhere to be found in the whole of Italy, and we only just managed to source a couple of Nanlite 1200s, that had to be brought over from the other side of the country. I paired them with a couple of M18s and had the lighting team hoisting the lamps on top of shops so that when the outlet shut and the sun went down – we would see how far the lamps could really go – it turns out pretty damn far! We had a huge cast of moonlight over a very large area and a great backlight for the snow.

Since it was a Christmas advert, I would have wanted to make that light source a cool blue moonlight, but I didn’t want to lose any output by adding gels, so I dialed in the white balance to make it blue, and warmed up my key lights. 

Josh Williams

Other lights we used were Nanlite Forza 500s and 300s with china balls, Asteras for fitting into tighter spaces, and a Lupo Superpanel for a keylight. I also had a load of lightbridge CRLS and muslin for bouncing sunlight into the day scenes – we even had one scene in a shop in which we had a 1×1 CRLS bouncing a beam of sunlight into the shop and then 2 X 25×25 CRLS inside the shop bouncing that light into a keylight and backlight – no electricity needed!

It was your first outing with the Angenieux Optimo primes – how did it go?

Angenieux has always been known for amazing zoom lenses, and they haven’t made a proper set of primes before. The Optimo zooms are beautiful, and the go-to for a lot of cinematographers – they have a look at them and I’ve hired them many times for doc and branded content. So having a prime set to complement them is a beneficial thing. For fast-paced movi work, primes are essential.

Josh Williams

I haven’t seen them for hire in the UK, but Shift 4 was the first company in the UK to have them and I jumped on the opportunity, I knew the warmth would sing on a Christmas advert that was going to be full of color – they made the reds of Christmas punchy, with excellent fall off and bokeh. 

This ad was nearly all shot on movie-pro – apart from the top-down rigged shots. So I needed lenses that were light enough for gimbal work, and the fact that the lenses are so closely matched in weight helps a lot with change over time. For this shoot, we had to move at quite a pace, as Serravalle was still open for the most part whilst we were shooting. 

I’d love to be able to try out dropping in diffusion filters for each lens, to the back element, which Shift-4 has said they can do as part of the service. This would help with changeover time for lenses, and subsequent matte box filter changes which would need to be swapped out for each lens. Having the right diffusion level pre-set for each lens would be a pretty amazing thing, and also makes for a less front-heavy matte box.

There are not many shoots I do without a nice diffusion filter for skin tones and bloomed highlights, for Christmas ads I tend to go quite heavy on the bloom for a dreamy look.

The final result looks amazing, you combined really in the best way the Alexa with the unique touch of the Angenieux Optimo Prime.
What’s your next project?

I’ve just shot a campaign/series for Lego which will be coming out late Jan as a YouTube series and commercial for cinema, and I’ve also got some top-secret exciting projects coming up with @swamp_motel after the success of our short film The Alter which won ‘best experimental film’ at the Cannes World Film Festival this year.

Credits and IG profiles

McArthurGlen Christmas Campaign 2022

Production Company: @kindredcomms 

Director: @Russowen

DOP: @joshwilliamsfilm

1st AC: @Axelrituel

2nd AC: @Solmosoli

1st AD: @ekulgoodrich 

2nd AD: drk@waters

3rd AD: Matteo Cimbal


Exec Producer: @samorams 

Head of Creative: Dan Willoughby

Creative Production manager: Daisy Hayes

Gaffer: Rui Dias

Spark: Andrea Frigerio, Gabriele Santi & Davide Bianchi

Production Manager: Dario Figoli

Production Co-ordinator: Sara Spigariolo

Playback: Andrea Serioli

Cam Trainee: Denise Pace

DIT: Timothy Boue

Props Buyer: Silvia Ventimiglia

Props Master: Luigi Napolitano

Head Stylist: Candice Bailey

Styling Assistants: Suzannah Lund, Marina de Magalhaes, Francesca Lulli, Guilia Bandioli & Jessica Ravanelli

Props Stylist: Elpida Magkoura

Seamstress: Margherita Plate

Hair Stylist: Roberto Nardozzi

Hair Assistants: Alessandro Firenze, Antonella Muggeo

MUA: Katja Wilhelmus & Filippo Ferrari

MUA Assistant: Monica Ricciardi

PA: Daniele Pellegrini

Runners: Simone Fiorentino, Luca Serioli

Drivers: Luca Leonardi, Meazza Alessandro

Shot on @angenieuxlenses Optimo primes supplied by @weareshift4 

BTS shoot & edit: @solmosoli

Shot at McArthurGlen Serravalle. 

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FilmmakersWorld Team

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