14 March 2019

How Does a Mini-series Get Made? The Stages of the Web Series “Urban Tales”, from a Computer Keyboard to “Action!” on Set

Notes and anecdotes from Francesco, an editor on mashfrog’s communications team, who created a series of “urban fairy tales” for Open Fiber in Milan, Perugia, Bari and Cagliari.

To see a project take form before your eyes, sometimes you have to wake up early. And find yourself, shortly after, resting your head on another pillow, 9000 meters higher. Tuesday, 6 November 2018: Roma-Cagliari, a 45-miute flight to bring together the first click-clack on the keyboard to the last “action!” on set.

That’s what happened to Francesco Guarino, a digital editor in mashfrog’s communications Business Unit, called to supervise the creation of UpDate Me, the last of four episodes of Urban Tales, a corporate storytelling project custom designed for Open Fiber. 

The “urban fairy tales” in the web series came from an idea of Francesco’s colleagues Antonella Cocca and Fabiana Rocchi. They mix surreal elements with Open Fiber’s core business, which is present in each episode with a manager entrusted with the task of “breaking the fourth wall” and physically being in the atmosphere of the video. 

The project was shot in four locations: Milan, Perugia, Bari and Cagliari. For each episode, the web mini-series brought a small army of communications team members and colleagues from mashfrog’s video troupe, actors and extras and four different Open Fiber managers to star in the videos. 

Forcing a manager to leave the office and be scrutinized long and hard by the camera provided both awkward and funny moments. Especially when the location chosen, like Cagliari, suddenly became a tourist throng, due to an unexpected and massive cruise line disembarkation at the port of Cagliari: “Excuse me, what film are you shooting?”.

“The manager had to recite lines that I had written up after an interview”, explained Francesco, “to connect the surreal aspect of the urban fairy tale with the corporate part of the video. It was key to put the non-actor at ease – or at least make him not uncomfortable – in front of the director, cameraman, sound engineer and line producer”.

An hour of filming to get about thirty seconds of edited footage. Gaffes, laughter and confidence with the camera that increased take after take. The text written at a desk in the mashfrog office in Rome took form between the evocative walls of the Bastion of Saint Remy in Cagliari. 

For Francesco, every minute was full: understanding the troupe’s needs, putting the managers at ease and, if necessary, making quick revisions to the text. All with his fingers crossed to ward off the nightmare of every outdoor set: variations in weather and natural light. 
After those takes, they began shooting in the heart of Cagliari.

The urban fairy tale needs to be contextualized and covering footage was needed. Four hours to explore the capital: starting from Carlo Alberto square with camera in hand to get colorful details of the alleyways, up to the waterfront with the lens up to the car window. Sunset is the most natural and romantic “wrap”. 

The final outcome would come after a long and meticulous process of editing, effects and color correction. The million views registered in the weeks following the release online demonstrated the great work done within the mashfrog team. For Francesco, there’s the satisfaction of having given shape and words to a new, creative and digital native fairy tale.