As the list of most intense chase scenes ever filmed goes, the action-packed pursuit in the short film, “The Chase” might not rival Steve McQueen barreling after bad guys through San Francisco in “Bullitt” or Gene Hackman tracking a train-bound thug through Brooklyn in “The French Connection.” But just as these and other cinematic heart-stoppers have put theatergoers at the edge of the seats, Internet users by the millions are getting swept up by the live-action and animated short from Intel that incorporates iTunes, Facebook, YouTube, Microsoft Office, Google Maps, Flickr and other sites and programs.
In “The Chase,” which recently surpassed 2 million views on YouTube, a woman with an envelope of mysterious contents uses her skills in espionage to outwit, outrun and outlast hooligans across various digital media. Played by Czech actress Tereza Oslacova, the heroine – spoiler alert! — ultimately ensnares the pursuers on a desktop where she is able to put the villains in the trash and eliminate them with a tidy click of the mouse.
The novel spot, shot by a European crew in and around Prague, Czech Republic, is intended to illustrate the multi-tasking power of Intel’s latest processors. The film’s popularity has taken even Intel by surprise.
“I’ve never seen such a pick up on anything we’ve done to-date,” said Johan Jervoe, Intel’s vice president of creative and digital marketing services based in Santa Clara, Calif. “This is innovative marketing that works, one, because of the sheer production quality, and two, because the original creative concept is cool.”
“Car chase … Prague … girls … fast cars … bad guys … old women in lifts … how could it not be cool?” said Adam Foulkes, one-half of the London-based directing team “Smith & Foulkes,” the other gent being Alan Smith.
Sporting many standard action movie elements was by design, according to the film’s writer, Josh Parschauer, of San Francisco-based ad agency Venables Bell & Partners.
“We wanted a cliché movie action feel,” he said. “Using Prague wasn’t originally in the script, but ‘The Bourne Identity’ and ‘Mission: Impossible’ have shot there, and the cobblestone streets, the different buildings and people of Old Europe helped achieve that feel.”
So popular is Prague as a film location, a traffic jam of sorts caused some inconvenience for the 3-day “Chase” shoot in the world capital. Some other locations were unavailable due to production of “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” the third sequel in the film franchise. Word got around that “M:I” was shooting in town, so locals often asked the Chase crew where Tom Cruise was. Among those letting them down gently was producer Kacey Hart of Venables Bell.
“Watching a commercial being made is still cool, and even though they wanted to see Tom Cruise, they were still fascinated over the process and how much equipment is needed,” said Hart, who has produced several spots for Intel.
Other production challenges
For the model playing a sunbathing beauty whose serenity in her swimming pool is shaken up when the heroine plunges from the sky, it was pretending to be in 90-degree weather when the temperature was closer to 30 – and the heated pool wasn’t, adding to the chill of Prague in autumn. For the directors, the most formidable challenge during the making of “Chase” was, to no surprise, the chase itself.
“Obviously, the chase sequence is the most dramatic, impactful and expensive part of any action film,” Smith said. “We didn’t quite have the budget to smash cars on the streets of Prague, so we had to use our live action almost as the glue between animated stunts.”
The test, Foulkes added, was to then “stitch everything together so that the action seamlessly flowed. I think the lack of live action stunts frustrated our DP [director of photography] Oliver Wood, who is used to throwing Matt Damon off roofs.”
Wood, who lensed all three “Bourne” movies and last year’s “The Other Guys,” starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, is another reason “Chase” has a motion picture look and feel, albeit lasting for under 2 minutes. Others with feature film experience among the cast and crew include Czech native Pavel Bezdek, who plays the shorter of the two main hooligans and whose stunt work includes “Van Helsing,” “Hellboy” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.”
Feature work by “Chase’s” directors includes the purposely saccharine-sweet “Littlest Elf” cartoon that opens Jim Carrey’s 2004 dark comedy, “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. “Their 3-D animated short, “This Way Up,” was nominated for an Oscar in 2009. Ads fill up most of Smith & Foulkes’ calendar at present, and the team’s 2004 work for Honda has filled a trophy case all to itself. The animated spot “Grrr,” launched to promote a newly launched diesel engine in the United Kingdom, is one of the most awarded commercials ever.
Time will tell how well-decorated “Chase” is come industry awards season. In the 2 months since it debuted, however, the film has topped Visible Measures’ Top 10 Viral Video Ad Chart and was named an “Ad Worth Spreading” at the annual TED conference held earlier this month. The film was one of 10 ideas selected among 1,000 submissions worldwide by the non-profit group originally known as Technology, Entertainment and Design.
“Chase’s” success has led to some buzz about a sequel. Intel’s Jervoe hasn’t ruled one out, fully aware he’s got a hit on his hands. The directors said they’re game. “Maybe we can blow up some real cars next time,” Foulkes said with his partner going one step further: “‘The Chase Trilogy’ has a certain ring to it.”
While any talk of a “Chase” sequel is in the exploratory stage, at best, a sure thing is a global special edition. A re-mastered HTML5 re-release will give viewers a browser-based experience that opens up the different programs and applications in separate windows on the user’s actual desktop.
“By showing the story through separate windows, we’re more closely portraying the actual desktop performance capabilities of the 2nd generation Intel Core i5 processor,” Jervoe said. “This enables viewers to feel like the action is actually taking place on their computer.”
Another enhancement is multi-lingual translation of the original English text. Viewers will now be able to experience “Chase” in Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Polish, Spanish, Portuguese and other languages. In addition, because the film integrates various online programs and sites into the story, online entities were created to make them real. For users who want a deeper look, viewers are encouraged to find the eight hidden properties found in the film to uncover a deeper experience called “The Hunt.” The Facebook tab offers a leaderboard of users from around the world who have uncovered all of the hidden properties.
A re-launch of the film is scheduled for later this month with additional features being added through the early spring.