We like to watch the finals of big sports tournaments. We like to share in the joy of a winning goal, a record time on the track. But successes don’t come out of thin air, they are the result of years of dedication. ‘The hardest period is when a beginning athlete grows into an excelling athlete,’ says director Koen Mortier. ‘I’m interested in showing that process to the viewer. Showing how intense that can be.’
And that’s exactly what Mortier set out to do in his new pan-European Eurosport commercial, which features a sprinter and an ice hocker player training hard and both growing up to be winners— in a minute and a half. Each story get its own film in two extensively reworked director’s cuts.
The hardest period is when a beginning athlete grows into an excelling athlete.
The (adult) ice hockey player is Bieke van Nes from the Netherlands, who has played professionally in Canada and the US and is currently the only female player in the top level Dutch ice hockey team Dordrecht Lions. The track and field sprinter is the Belgian athlete Seppe Thys, a national silver medalist. Both have dedicated their lives to their sport. The commercials are not so much about them personally, however. Both athletes were cast to portray a story of what it is to live a sporting life. To quote the voice-over: Endure, suffer, bleed, sweat, cry, die.
What was it like to get them to act on camera? Mortier, who has directed two award-winning feature films: ‘That was easy. They’re doing what they’ve always done. They know what it’s like to be injured. What it’s like to win, and what it’s like to lose. They know the tension and they know the release.’ As real as that game looks, it was all staged – fierce bodychecks and Bieke’s injury included. Mortier: ‘I played hockey myself a long time ago and getting heavy bodychecks is standard. That’s the game.’
The official Eurosport commercial edits both stories, the sprinter and the ice hockey player’s, together. It also has another score and a totally different voice-over. Mortier was adamant to produce his own director’s cuts. ‘There is a real difference between your options as a director and the options a client offers you,’ he explains. ‘I want to show that difference.’