Four Weddings and a Funeral and Harry Potter director Mike Newell has returned to advertising to helm a mini biopic set in early 20th century Scotland for whisky brand The Macallan.
The eight-minute film "The Spirit of 1926" casts film actress Emily Mortimer as Janet ‘Nettie’ Harbinson, an important figure in the distillery’s past whose story the brand’s creative director Jaume Ferras decided to tell.
Nettie is shown resisting patriarchal pressure to sell the distillery when her husband dies in 1918 – an event that gives Newell the unusual opportunity to echo his emotional Four Weddings funeral scene in the commercial space, where he has previously produced work for Yardley’s and Nescafe.
While big screen talent and long-form ads are not new to whisky marketing – think Robert Carlyle and Jude Law for Johnnie Walker – Ferras relished the chance to give Harbinson’s unusual story cinematic treatment.
“We uncovered Janet Harbinson’s story when researching the background to The Macallan Fine & Rare 1926 [crafted by her and to date the most valuable bottle of wine or spirit ever sold at auction] and we knew we had to share it as soon as we learned of her role in its distillation and maturation, as well as the deep influence she had on the future development of the brand,” he said.
“At its heart, this is a love story,” he added. “It celebrates the love that Nettie had for her husband, her love for the local community, her love for nature and her love for the family business. She cared deeply about others and was determined to use her position at The Macallan to enrich the lives of those around her."
The film is available online and will also be shown in full in Everyman cinemas as a special feature ahead of select film screenings and in a 30-second cut-down version during the ad slot in other cinemas. Media buying is by Zenith.
The project took Ferras five years from conception to finished film and involves several high-profile Scottish collaborators: Simple Minds wrote the music, Christopher Kane designed the costumes and The Queen’s Gambit screenwriter Alan Scott (who is also a former chairman of The Macallan and Harbinson’s great-nephew).
Ferras added: “Film is in The Macallan’s DNA [and] as a brand with a long Scottish heritage it was important to us to bring together the best of the country’s creative talent – people who are also dedicated to the incomparable creativity and craftsmanship for which The Macallan is renowned.”
Welsh actor Jonathan Pryce, currently playing Prince Philip in The Crown, provides the voiceover.
Also involved in the project were Sharon Gibson, head of creative content at The Macallan, and creative and production agencies Masters For You, Potlatch and Leith as well as channel agencies The Big Partnership, Dog Digital and Like Digital and Partners.