Dreamy and slightly surreal, Ice Skaters for Ikea from CZAR Brussels

Ice Skaters shows the dreamy and slightly surreal spectacle of a middle aged couple spinning and gliding on the polished wood floors of an elegant, high-ceilinged apartment in their socks. With the tagline 'Bring life into your living room' it is a beautifully crafted advert creating a warm, nostalgic mood for the brand, Ikea. It won Bronze at Eurobest in 2018 for production company CZAR Brussels. Director, Joe Vanhoutteghem and producer, Lander Engels talk to Eurobest about the experience of creating the work.
Dancing without ice: Katrien Pauwels and Alexander Riccitelli reunited for the shoot

The casting

The first challenge, Lander Engels notes, was to find a suitable ice skating couple and a location that fitted the director and agency/client’s briefing. The couple had to be of a certain age to fit with the target audience and, of course, skilled enough in both ice skating and inline skating to be able to do the required skating manoeuvres in a limited area – and without real ice. 

Joe says: “First we cast Katrien Pauwels, the best female figure skater Belgium has ever known. She was a gift from heaven for this project. When we couldn’t find her a matching partner in Belgium she suggested her old training buddy, Alexandre. We had to bring him over from France but it was definitely worth it. Katrien and Alexandre grew up together on the ice. They were best friends and went to the championships and Olympics together.” So the skaters went back a long way and in the ad you can spot old photos of them as teenage skaters. “The fact they found each other again for the prep and shoot was special, and we tried to convey that emotion as much as possible throughout the film.” adds Joe.

There was close collaboration between the director and the ice skating couple to devise a choreography that would work within the location’s restrictions, explains Lander. There also needed to be confidence between all parties involved, and especially from the client and agency towards the director and crew when it came to the predetermined aspects of the set. With regard to the furniture and overall setting, there needed to be enough space for creativity and improvisation. 

Katrien Pauwels, the best female figure skater Belgium has ever known

The shoot

With a one-day shoot planned in the budget, it was always going to be tight and it didn’t go quite as smoothly as they might have hoped, “We lost a big part of our footage due to a technical problem: we had to start over on all the skating parts and it was already 3pm. I was sure we were heading for a re-shoot. But luckily everybody kept their cool and we pulled it off.” says Joe.

The film

Lander believes the superb balance between sound and image, matched with an unexpected visual style for a brand like Ikea made the work such a success. Joe adds, “We also think that we have the client to thank for this. It was initially only supposed to be a 30-second film but when I showed them the long version, they loved it so much they went all the way. They bought the music and even screened it in the cinemas. The track by Charles Aznavour was very important because it gave the film the back story and the nostalgic feel.” Poignantly, Aznavour died later that year at the ripe old age of 94. 

Choreography that would work within the location’s confined spaces

On winning

One of the benefits of winning at Eurobest is that it allows the film to reach an even wider audience than what it already had, which was beneficial for everyone involved in the project, says CZAR Brussels. For anyone thinking about entering Eurobest 2020, their advice is, “Enter something that was challenging to make and challenges what you normally see.” 

On the impact of the pandemic on the industry, CZAR Brussels is sanguine, “Today’s world of producing commercials has changed quite a bit due to Covid, there are ways to make it work although it’s not the same. Thankfully we are in a business where you have to expect the unexpected and find solutions.”