Bentley was one of those dream jobs that come round every so often. You do the shoot, the client likes it; you do another, their client likes it.
The shoot leads to other jobs and the spin off can last several years. As I say, a dream job.
With the launch of the Contintental GT 9 years ago, Bentley wanted a worldwide splash on the new model. Problem was it didn’t exist.
Actually, this isn’t unusual. Companies tend to piece together prototype designs and then ask me to shoot them prior to a big launch. So I end up shooting patched up models, then bring them to life afterwards through post shoot CGI work.
The Bentley job was very cloak and dagger. We went to Crewe in northern England and photographed the prototype. It was built on scaffold poles. A shell built around a load of RSJs. They simply bolted the car to it.
Given the secrecy surrounding the car, ironically someone sneaked out pictures of it the morning we arrived. All hell let loose as the company sought to uncover what they saw as industrial espionage. So we waited for 4 hours in their offices while Bentley staff ran around looking for the mole in the organisation.
When the big boss realised it wasn’t us who leaked the pictures, we finally went ahead with the shoot. We were taken – again very cloak and dagger – to the styling gardens. I was very impressed at the thought of bespoke gardens for a Bentley shoot, but was sadly disappointed when I entered a concrete bunker surrounded by 15 foot walls and barbed wire. Styling gardens! Felt more like I was about to see the prototype of a new breed of ballistic missile!
So we were in this yard and the designer suddenly appeared wheeling out this Bentley model on a giant pallet. He laughed: “There yer go, take some pictures for me.”
I’d shot one of the backplates while on holiday in Barcelona, so we shot the car to fit the backplate. The other backplates were a road in Tuscany and one in the Pyrenees.
For the final images, we spun the wheels to make them look like they were going round. It reminded me of when I was a kid playing with Tonka Toys – only this one was to scale and cost millions.
Bentley were over the moon with the images and used them for the worldwide launch of the Contintental GT. These went out as the tease pictures for the launch at the Geneva motor show.
After the success of the first project, Bentley then asked us to shoot the actual prototype. So we flew off to Spain and shot in Valencia. Architecturally, the cities fitted with the image of the car that we had started with on the Barcelona backplate.
For this job we pull out my 30ft carbon fibre camera on a stick (rig) and shot it in a bus stop, stopping all the busses. I guess we weren’t the most popular people in town that day.
Also, the difference this time was the car existed; in fact it almost worked! Again, the secrecy was amazing. It had security guards standing over it 24 hours a day.
The shots went all over the world. It was very well received in the US, which was excellent news for me.
A few weeks later, while I was in LA, the watch maker Breitling called me to ask to use the shots for their press ads – Breitling and Bentley have a collaboration on clocks and watches. They asked me how much would I charge for all rights worldwide. The very nice man from Breitling also threw in a the watch featured in the ad!
Following the Continental GT, we were asked back to do the launch of the Bentley Flying Spur. We did the worldwide launch, then Breitling asked for more ads. No watch this time though.
After the Flying Spur, Bentley came back and asked for images for the new Mulsanne. Another two week shoot. Breitling came back to us again.
So the whole process – 3 launches, 3 shoots, Breitling wanting worldwide rights – was repeated over 18 months.
To top it all, it gave me a huge profile in the US and led to a few years’ worth of jobs across America and Europe.