Sophie Brooks is a fixer. No, not the illegal kind that the mafia uses but she has a well-deserved reputation as the producer who can go into a very difficult situation and manifest the near impossible. You need to suspend people off the side of skyscrapers with cables? Done. You need to assemble hundreds of extras in Hong Kong to perform en masse martial arts? No problem. Sophie’s calm demeanor belies her near Jedi like ability to convince others that the unthinkable is not only a good idea but also their idea. She’s particularly adept at working overseas with credits in South Africa, Europe, and numerous other locations to vet this. Luke Jacobs, owner of the renowned Production Company FRIEND LONDON contacted Brooks to introduce her to French directing Duo Greg + Lio to enable their vision for Samsung’s new phone to attain truly cinematic moments. The producer concedes that the production was a challenge, which is the exact reason why she accepted the position.
Greg + Lio are the creative team from Paris (repped at FRIEND London) who have received international acclaim for their commitment to not only meeting client expectations but continually exceeding them. Greg is known for being stylish and pushing to break the norms of beauty on screen while Lio introduces unique flare and elements. When Greg + Lio created a stunning advertisement for Samsung’s Galaxy A9 featuring its wide screen ability, Sophie Brooks was instructed as producer (agent Barnaby Laws at WPA) and worked with the boys to bring an international team of stylist, editor, and production manager in tow. Filmed in Hong Kong on a very brief schedule, the shoot was ideally tailored to Sophie’s skill set. Beyond the required skills of a producer, Brooks is known for being sent into difficult international situations to “clean things up.”
Exceeding the typical lifestyle beauty shots, this production aspired to create interesting visual moments based on the most instagrammable spots. This process was made much more cumbersome by the fact that they were all owned by the Chinese government. Sites like Choi Hung Estate and Lok Wah Estate Circles are famed for their beauty and symmetry. The later of these became inaccessible so Sophie coordinated an exact recreation of it in a shipping yard in downtown Hong Kong. Recalling the experience, she notes, “The client insisted on this location so we had to replicate it when it was taken off the plate, so to speak. This is the most expensive set I have ever paid for in my career. It nearly gave me and my Production Manager Rebecca Sykes a heart attack. Working abroad is always hard, especially in Asia due to the level of governmental control and having to fly everything into the island. Ultimately it’s a producer’s job to figure out a way to make things happen.”
One of the most visually striking moments in the commercial occurs when over a hundred individuals perform coordinated Tai Chi across multi-coloured sections of a courtyard. Because of the demographic being marketed to, it was necessary to find young Tai Chi students to cast. This low impact martial arts form typically attracts older enthusiasts. Sophie acquired more than one-hundred students from five schools to gain the necessary cast. Filmed in oppressive heat and donned in polyester tracks suits, the final images were worthy of the intense work required on both sides of the camera.
Though it may not be tangible on screen, another trait which has endeared Sophie Brooks to those she works with is her insistence on enjoying the process though it may be taxing. She’s often placed in highly stressful professional situations. There’s a natural inclination for her to have the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction afterwards. Nearly delirious from the schedule and the stress of the Hong Kong Samsung shoot, Brooks could be seen at the airport in her pajamas. She comments, “When you’re working so hard, you have to find a positive way to alleviate the pressure. Walking through the airport in my PJs with my PM seemed like a way to be silly. I was so proud of what we did over those two weeks and cutting loose was a well-earned reward.”