Do Androids Dream of Electronic Cigarettes?, a short film by The Distance and director Paul Richardson using SMOKO as an analogy for a world of improved artificiality over flawed reality, is currently going down a storm across social media. If you haven’t seen it yet, have a look here.
We asked Paul to write his thoughts on the making of the video, from concept to creation. Here’s what he said:
“Tim Stanley of The Telegraph recently claimed that e-cigarettes won't catch on because they aren't sexy enough. With handy synchronicity, his article landed in the week that we released a teaser trailer for a film intended to showcase SMOKO as a glamorous and fashionable product.
“Inspired by the much loved and admired science fiction film Blade Runner, our short film - a co-production with digital agency The Distance - features the twin motifs of smoke and artificiality to convey the message that SMOKO has all the classic coolness of smoking but is better and more advanced than traditional cigarettes.
“Blade Runner (1982), adapted from the dystopian science-fiction novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, tells the story of a not-too-distant future in which android evolution has advanced to the point of creating artificial humans (‘replicants’), which are superior in almost every way to the genetic engineers that created them. Director Ridley Scott augments the relatively simple plot with a rich and densely layered vision of the future that paradoxically recalls Golden Age Hollywood glamour - specifically film noir. Through Scott’s trademark use of smoke and low-key lighting, the viewer is transported to a world of classic hard-boiled detectives and beautiful women, merged with futuristic imagery.
“Do Androids Dream of Electronic Cigarettes? (as our film came to be called) is no mere homage. While the use of smoke was designed to evoke the beauty and high glamour of smoking, the underlying theme of artificiality in screen writer’s Maxine Gee’s inventive script promotes the superiority of electronic cigarettes - whether that's socially, financially or medically, without glamourising traditional smoking.
“Much like Blade Runner itself, our film depended greatly on production design rich in detail and atmosphere. Judicious use of locations, Bethan King’s art direction and Alex Veitch’s cinematography helped us to achieve the visual style required to create ‘the Blade Runner look’. Credit must also go to the unseen work of music composer Peter Davy, who painstakingly researched Vangelis’ music studio circa 1981 in order to build his library of samples; London-based fashion designer Jeffrey Michael who hand-made the femme fatale character's outfit from scratch; Simon Brodie constructed a replica of Harrison Ford’s iconic gun; Alasdair Beckett-King's digital wizardry created the creepy blue eyes of the artificial characters. (The advertising blimp, on the other hand, was not computer-generated. It was a practical miniature constructed by Bethan. It still hangs in my garage.)
“Somewhat appropriately, the final shot of the production was filmed at Eston Nab, a steep hill in Middlesbrough that overlooks the industrial landscape of the Tees Valley. It was here that the young Ridley Scott, a former native of Teesside, was so struck by the epic panorama that it informed his later work as a seminal film director:
“There's a walk from Redcar into Hartlepool ... I'd cross a bridge at night, and walk above the steel works. So that's probably where the opening of Blade Runner comes from.” - Ridley Scott
“The opening shot of Blade Runner was achieved with elaborate visual FX in Hollywood, but we thought it’d be more fun to film the real thing for our opening shot. (The flying cars in the distance were added afterwards by Alasdair, of course.)
“Now that’s a homage.”