How the chilling Women’s Aid ad was created entirely under lockdown

Engine’s creative director Christopher Ringsell explains how the important film was made under government restrictions and shines a light on the the current spikes in domestic abuse.

7 April 2020


Lockdown has presented countless challenges for the creative industry, particularly for disciplines that can’t be done at home, but this new campaign from Engine shows a resourceful and inventive approach while adhering to government advice, to spread an important message. The film and poster campaign for Women’s Aid shows quiet shots of desolate streets around London with the simple, chilling message that “domestic abusers are no longer walking among us” meaning they are now locked inside with their families, for whom lockdown is anything but safe. Between 26 March – 1 April, the charity experienced a 41 per cent increase in users visiting the Live Chat site, compared to the previous week.

The new ad, launched today, was made in just a week by a team of creatives at Engine, who independently got on their bikes and shot footage around their local area while on their once-daily exercise routine permitted by the government, making sure to keep at a safe distance from anyone else outside. Working with production company Knucklehead, the film was put together through a resourceful process of virtual meetings and collaborations, showing what’s possible despite the situation.

After getting the go-ahead from the client, the team spent a day planning before heading out to film over three days. “We realised quite quickly as the situation was starting to escalate that we needed to document what was happening in our cities by self-shooting around the areas we live and remaining responsible to the government guidelines,” explains Christopher Ringsell, creative director at Engine. Using bikes and a ride-on Dolly, the team gathered footage and reviewed it daily, each time learning and fine-tuning the creative direction. “This helped to determine the style of shots we were after and the narrative arc the film was taking, from the usually busy hub of central London, to the more residential areas many people and families reside.”

The team used Zoom for video calls every morning and evening, sharing files, ideas and thoughts as the project developed. “Whatsapp became a continuous stream of alerts as we shared shots, ideas and frames on the fly,” Ringsell tells us. “We were constantly being herded by the producer trying to keep some sort of order. We skipped parts of the usual process, buoyed by a passion to tell the story and land the idea, such as storyboards (no time) and shoot boards (it was shot live).” Other collaborators such as post-production companies Cut+Run and The Mill, and sound designer Ben Leeves also chipped in to make the final campaign a reality.

Compared with a very recent job that involved a team flying to South America for a £1.5 million shoot, this project not only shows the capability of creative ideas to find a way through any blockade, but that it’s possible to make an impactful ad with zero emissions. “It's humbling that so many talented people from adland saw the potential and rolled up their sleeves,” Ringsell says. “It’s incredibly galvanising when a group of creatives and makers come together, all behind the same idea with a passion to get such an important message out there. I tip my hat (or cycle helmet) and raise a really full glass of vino to you all! And not a flat white or Poke bowl consumed… just evening beers and virtual high fives.”

GalleryEngine: The Lockdown for Women's Aid

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Engine: The Lockdown for Women's Aid

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

After five years as It’s Nice That’s news editor, Jenny became online editor in June 2021, overseeing the website’s daily editorial output.

Jenny is currently on maternity leave.

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