Jara Moravec and Will Thacker's interview with Shot
Sofa brand Swyft is a relatively new player in the market and, with its first major campaign, wanted to approach things in a new way.
Beautiful Living was created by 20something London and directed by Jara Moravec through Kode London, and tries to fill a "tonal and stylistic hole" that positions Swyft as "the icon of the living room". The 30-second spot is a stylish, fast-paced film featuring glitter, bouncy balls, dogs, parties and kids... all part of one woman's frenetic lifestyle. There's also some specially made over-sized furniture thrown into the mix, too.
What was the brief the client came to you with?
WT: Having had a phenomenal first year, they had already saturated the usual D2C social media strategies. The brief to us was to step up to the next level. Ultimately, they wanted help driving mass awareness of the Swyft brand and building an emotional connection with the audience. However, there was a crucial twist: they didn’t want sofa ads, because they don’t want to be just another sofa brand.
It's a new brand operating in a fairly crowded market; what conversations did you have around that, and around how to differentiate Swyft from its competitors?
WT: Swyft is still a very small player in the £3.2 billion sofa market, but it has experienced phenomenal growth in a very short period of time because they’re doing things differently. Swyft, and their take on the emerging sofa-in-a-box concept, is a total game-changer for homemakers. Twentyfour hour delivery, boxes that can be easily lifted, fit in and around difficult corners and in tight lifts, no screw assembly, even stain-proof fabric; finally, a modern, cool, practical sofa has arrived. The sofa market has been cluttered, either with the cheap uninspiring choice or cosy, frumpy, upper-middle-class lifestyle choice. There was a tonal and stylistic hole to fill, one that positioned Swyft Sofas as the icon of the living room; the statement piece you’ve been dreaming of. One thing that stood out to us in early conversations was a philosophy within the company that they never want to make a product unless they can make it better. Where many would be opportunistic about expanding the offering, this self-imposed benchmark will no doubt bring a lasting integrity.
As a new brand, and as a new client for 20something, how hard was it working together during the pandemic when everything was remote?
WT: The first time we all met was on the shoot, in Kode's Media remote shooting space. It was great to shake hands and look each other in the ‘IRL eyes’, obviously post the Covid test and hand sanitiser ritual. The Swyft team have been amazing, it's really great when an ambitious brand full of ambitious people collide with a creative company full of the same energy. The level of trust has been second to none.
Over half of 20something’s existence has been spent in a pandemic lockdown, so we’re used to this now. We’ve won more pitches and produced more work remotely than we have in the traditional ways. But it makes perfect sense to us, we set up this company in 2019 for a ‘new creative normal’. At the time, we envisaged that being some years off - way before anyone knew what a coronavirus or a protein spike was – but 2020 brought all that forward and lots of brands needed to work differently, almost overnight. It’s been a strange stroke of fate.
Why was Jara the right choice as director for this project and what did he bring to it?
WT: Jara has a super-distinctive style and the ability to capture energy through interesting and clever techniques. He has a lovely fashion edge, the perfect aesthetic to step Swyft away from the competition, and the conventions.
What were your first thoughts when you saw the script and did you immediately know how you wanted to approach it?
JM: 20something came up with very distinctive, stylised way to show Swyft sofas, contrary to your usual 'comfy' sofa ads. I am a big fan of this direct storytelling where every single frame works on its own, whether it’s a thousands teapots smashing against the sofa or a funny character dropping crumbs. I wanted to give that approach a more singular perspective, a clear point of view of a main hero - a woman that dreams about her new sofa and life that revolves around it. We kept that graphic, slightly surreal look and applied it to everyday situations. Every scene then became a snapshot from her life, a possible fantasy. It was important to keep the edge and vibrancy in each of the shots but glue them together through the perspective of the main hero woman.
You shot the film in Prague remotely, with the agency and client dialling in over Zoom; can you tell us a bit about that experience?
JM: I have done a number of remote shoots over the pandemic and my experience has been mostly positive. Working on Swyft was the smoothest experience so far. The pre-production phase was pretty easy, with lots of mutual trust and encouragement to push the envelope, the two most important factors for producing great stuff in my opinion. The actual shoot was just as smooth with our producer, Monika, on the call with the team in London relaying info on the set.
You requested some specially designed and over-sized furniture for the shoot; can you explain a bit about the thinking behind that approach?
JM: While we were brainstorming ideas for the fantasy world of Swyft, I noticed the different size of the stool and sofas and realised it could be pretty cool to turn it on its head. It complements well those changing perspectives, going from macro world to wide angles, from underneath and inside of the sofa. That variety shows the inner world of the main character, with all the chaotic and funny thoughts that run through her head as she dreams about her future.
I asked Swyft to make the oversized stool and padded box and, to my surprise, they said, “Sure, let’s do it!” A couple weeks later and we had the stool on the set, looking stellar. The stool was so heavy that we had to keep it at the back of the room for the whole shooting day, working from underneath. The grip guys also built a rotating rig for the padded box [above]. Initially we had bouncing balls but those were leaving marks on the padding so we had to source lighter balls, spray the box and reshoot that shot on second day.
The finished film is very kinetic and different from other, similar brands in that space; why did you choose that route?
JM: That was a real challenge; sofas are big and heavy and don’t really offer too much movement. So, we set out to transport that soft and comfy vibe into something more exciting, looking for scenarios that are sofa-related and also fun to watch, injecting energy into moments that are usually slow and uneventful. Finding a different language that sets Swyft apart from other sofa makers was always our aim and that kinetic energy was a great help.
WT: Originally we had written the script a lot slower; slow-mo moments capturing the beauty of everyday life. It was Jara's idea to inject pace and energy with this almost domino effect of camera moves. Fast cuts, interesting angles and smart camera tricks have all given this a bright and confident feeling, miles away from the squishy, cosy middle-England feeling of the competition. This brand is fast paced in many ways – name, delivery, ambition, growth. It made perfect sense to bring that through in the work.
What was the most challenging part of this project?
WT: Getting the right balance of sofa versus beautiful, visual shots. Trying to create a sofa ad that's not a sofa ad, but that sells sofas, one that is successful and delivers for this exciting, young company.
JM: The final three revolving shots required a lot of prep on the day and everybody’s imagination. The camera turns in such an unusual way it’s a bit of a headache. Also the dog had a strange habit of randomly snapping and biting, so we had to be quick.