Three crumpled Saabs, one shattered film camera, and a frazzled crowd of technicians, directors, producers and client – that was the real cost of the spectacular £600,000-plus Saab “Testing” shoot, split between a disused airbase at San Bernardino, east of Los Angeles, and the Californian mountains above Bakersfield.
The ad follows a Saab 900 turbo winding its way through mountain roads, the sun glistening on its silver bodywork. At three different stages the driver encounters potential accidents – one where a big black menacing truck overtakes a tractor and heads straight for him. The film then cuts to a scene of the car running headlong into a concrete wall, before switching back to the Saab motoring happily along.
The dream sequence scenes promote the idea that you can avoid danger in a Saab. Even if it’s impossible to avoid, they imply that you are still safer in a Saab than anything else.
The other crashes – a roll and a side impact smash – were handled by a stunt driver (although in the headlong smash into a wall the driver was replaced by a dummy).
The crash scenes are among the most spectacular seen in television advertising. One difficulty faced by the film makers was suggesting danger without overstepping Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre restrictions on promoting dangerous driving. The BACC became a term of abuse among some crew members, especially when they had to disguise a one-mile stretch of double “no overtaking” yellow lines.
At times the shoot resembled an expedition to Utopia, with the mercurial director Alan van Rijn leading a gaggle of camera and sound technicians across an ocean of yellow, blue and black wild mountain flowers in search of the “ultimate shot”. Meanwhile the client fretted about getting enough “beauty shots” of the car – one of the priorities laid down by the client and a source of some tension.
Sadly, some of the more inspired shots – such as van Rijn bouncing a camera off an overturned car, cowboys cantering across hills and a local woman who drove through a police cordon and on to the set to abuse one of the drivers (she was removed by the Highway Patrol) – may all be lost to the cutting room floor.