… and well, that’s that actually; I was on the set of the Mercedes-Benz Commercial, but in the end our super awesome squad was cut from the final version 😉
Mercedes-Benz X-Class Commercial Campaign
Location: Ljubljana, Slovenia
Date: Summer 2017
Production: Markenfilm (Germany), BAS Production (Slovenia)
Agency: Lukas Lindemann Rosinski, Hamburg
Director: Jan Wentz
Exec. Creative Director: Arno Lindemann (Mercedes Instagram Post by Arno Lindemann)
Costume Design: Charlotte Chadwick & Damir Raković Ponorelii
Cast: Annalena Kubinger (Marie Antoinette) and Manca Kaplan, Jernej Indihar, Gasper and more (=super awesome squad)
I had a lot of fun filming this international commercial, and I got to shoot a few behind the scenes moments.
But I am getting ahead of myself – the best part was, after all, working with all these amazing people and animals. Yes, animals. Finally I could use my horse riding skills on set.
I had gotten a call from my agency about an audition for the day of my last shooting for the New Year’s Concert so I wasn’t sure if I could still make it there. But I asked them for the very last opening and I actually made that – being about 10 minutes late.
With every audition for a commercial you never really know what to expect. This time they asked for “special skills” and I wrote down “horse riding”. During my audition they asked me if I could ride a side-saddle. Well, sure, I have been riding since I was eight years old. So I did my audition, went home and found a friendly side saddle owner who let me use her horse for a little audition film (Though I have to admit, it was a really patient horse which made recording a few nice moments pretty easy 😉 ).
Choosing a horse & a dress
So a few days later I got the call that the part was mine – yeah! 😀 But I had to go down to Slovenia to try out different horses before the shoot could start. So I packed my riding gear and took the train to Ljubljana (which takes about 6hrs in one direction). I spent that and the next day riding four different horses, with the last one being the fastest, but the second last being the prettiest. Neither horse was used to a side saddle so I had to improvise and swing my legs onto the left side, hoping that they wouldn’t run off with me – I’m soo glad we don’t live in a time when this was actually a dangerous way to ride (now it has safety skirts, etc.). Driving home I wasn’t sure which horse the production would eventually pick for me.
The next time, I had to drive down for my wardrobe fitting, where I got to meet the whole crew and a few other cast members – who actually made it into the commercial (I’ve posted a link at the end). It was interesting how many people from different parts of the world had assembled for this shoot. Some of the locals, like Gasper and his horses are quite used to international projects being shot in their country – it is a beautiful place with all kinds of scenery after all – but some members of cast and crew had to travel a long way to Slovenia. I got to chat a bit with the British Costume designer Charlotte, who travels all around the world for her work (funnily enough, her next project turned out to be for an Austrian company). And the best part was; the producers, the director and creative director were all German – I had such a blast talking and joking around with them (especially Jan and Arno, who liked to tease me about my “outfit choice” <3). I love speaking English, but there is some kind of humor that just doesn’t translate too well between languages (though my Japanese jokes are on point too 😉 ).
For this commercial they wanted to bring the past, the present and the future along on a road trip – so we got costumes as old as the 18th century and a futuristic cookie monster (okay, that wasn’t real). Our squad had to be dressed from head to toe in traditional clothes, complete with socks and weird undergarments. Oh the joys of being an actor! I got to try on 3 different dresses until we settled with the rosé one. I had Damir, the Costume Designer, help me out underneath my skirt a few times – I think it was quite impossible to get dressed alone back in that time (he literally climbed inside my dress).
Anyway, we finished the wardrobe fitting and the next day the general filming started – but my turn was only a few days later, so I traveled back to Austria.
Getting ready on set
Finally the day of our shoot arrived. I had taken the train to Slovenia the day before, but I was still tired when they picked me up at … well, too early in the morning 😉 We drove outside the city to this beautiful place with green hills and – our horses! They had to arrive even earlier. There was a trailer for the make-up and hair department and we spent the next few hours eating breakfast, getting dressed, getting our make-up done and I also got to wear a white, puffy wig.
When everyone was finished and the director and the producers arrived we finally got to see the new Mercedes X. It really was a beauty and I wanted to take a picture with it so badly… but work first, there were about 100 people waiting to start shooting. So my super awesome squad and I walked up to the set right in front of us, where our horses had been waiting as well. My horse was a sweetie, but she had never had to put a side saddle on before, nor was she used to heavy fabric on her rider. Everyone else in my squad had their own horses, and most of them had been part of big productions before (Gasper’s horses are regularly featured in big productions), but for some it was the first time.
So we got started by getting on our horses, the director making sure that I was all set with my horse and ready to go. It was such a friendly and professional set, but I was still nervous – I didn’t have a side saddle whip (which is used to make up for the contact your leg provides on the side without a strap) and the side saddle was rather old – they had borrowed it from somewhere, because in this day and age side saddles have become rather rare and everyone is looking after their own like a hawk.
Filming with my squad
The scene was supposed to go like this: My squad and I hide at the bottom of the hill and start galloping up as fast as possible. Located on the other side of the hill, the camera crew didn’t see us, until we appeared like the rising sun – and then galloped straight towards the camera (Did I mention that my horse wasn’t used to cameras?). So far so good. We waited downhill, with a crew member equipped with a walkie for directions, and a horse trainer to help us steady the horses. This turned out to be really helpful because I couldn’t get my horse to stand at its position no matter how hard I tried – you can’t “steer” a horse with the reigns, you “guide” a horse with your legs (which makes for great leg muscles ^^). So whenever the camera was rolling, the crew member yelled my name, the trainer slapped my poor horse and Gasper (who was right next to me) helped by urging my horse on verbally – because over all I had to smile all through that take. After the first 3 takes my horse got used to running straight up towards the cameras, but it took a while to get used to it.
And, to be frank, my horse also figured out that she was the main character so she turned into full diva mode. I loved her attitude, it made shooting easier, because she was finally moving her ass along, not dragging her feet. Hooves? At one point she was too fast and I couldn’t keep my balance (in a side saddle, every gallop “hop” is followed by counteracting the movement of being thrown to the left by pushing your weight to the right) – she immediately slowed down, ruining the take but keeping me safe. Falling in a non-safety-skirt from a side saddle can be extremely dangerous, and I wouldn’t want to be dragged to my death behind a horse. My friend actually got thrown off in one take (nobody’s fault, it just happened in the chaos) and had to be treated by the on-site medics (Did I say 100 people?).
For the second setting I was supposed to gallop on my horse, holding up a cup of tea and smiling. A great idea, and definitely one of my favorite pictures:
According to plan we moved to another location, but because it started raining, the squad had to travel by car so as not to ruin our outfits, hair and makeup. Our glorious rides had to make way through a short path in the woods with the horse trainer. They arrived on set only a few minutes after we made it there – and we were still able to shoot, as the rain wasn’t that strong yet.
BUT, my dear, my sweet, my … diva decided to run back into the woods, just before I had the chance to get up again. And it wasn’t because she was afraid or anything – she just didn’t feel like working. She wanted to play catch and she KNEW that we could only continue working with her. In total she escaped 3 times before we finally gave up and switched to plan B.
In all honesty, I quite liked plan B. It involved me being strapped to the hood of a car, sitting on my fake horse. I was wearing a harness to keep me safe, and I had a huge stuntman-like guy helping me down by grabbing me by my waist and almost effortlessly putting me on the ground like a doll. Other than that, nothing changed from the concept of me sipping a cup of tea on a moving horse (well, I had to move up and down on my own, to make it look like an actual horse 😉 ), while my squad was galloping next to me. All directions came over a walkie from the director inside the car; the English ones for everyone else and the German ones for me ❤
We finished everything after a few rounds – before the rain started pouring down on us. And finally I got a chance to take a picture with the Mercedes X and our talented and funny director Jan Wentz.
My favorite memories of this shoot were definitely working with such an amazing crew, being swept off my feet by a stuntman, waving to little kids in our costumes and finally riding a horse on the job.
So that’s it – a BIG THANK YOU to Arno for the pictures, Jan and Mercedes Benz in general for such a pleasant work experience, my casting director for always having my back, my agency for helping me juggle my schedules, Gasper for helping me out in Ljubljana, as well as Charlotte, Damir & Manza for some great interview stories ❤
Media & More
And here are some of my favorite memories in picture form, let me know if you like Slideshows like this 🙂
Official Commercial (without our super awesome squad, but with everything else):
German Article about the Campaign
Horizont.net – Mercedes Benz Pick Up