Director Rollo Hollins and Producer James McLaughlin teamed up with NCA to host a party both on and off screen for Habitat

You’d think that curating a fun party scene on camera is easy. Get some good-looking people together in a decent-sized space, add random music and fake drinks and off you go… But director Rollo Hollins, New Commercial Arts creatives Charlotte Prince & Loriley Sessions with producer Olive Andrews and the Armoury production team led by producer James McLaughlin beg to differ! They certainly had their work cut out for them in the making of their new advert for Habitat, ‘The Party’. Filling a space with shuffling extras never translates well to an on screen party,” says James M – “It kinda always feels a bit lame,” echoes Rollo. 

“The goal from the beginning was to create a tribe, a gang that exists past the camera cutting and then add the whizzy camera moves,” says Rollo, offering up his magician’s secrets. Casting was a huge priority, led by the “amazing” Tree Petts, to ensure that the ad remained authentic and inviting. It was genius to have all the background cast come to the physical castings to workshop in groups. “This really allowed us to build a genuine, fun crowd,” says James M. “Basically, we created loads of mini parties in a casting room to create that gang, way before set…AK, Eugene, Tamara, Louis, Rose, Chino, the list goes on – I love them all,” says Rollo. 

Instrumental to the success of this ad was a careful consideration of the brand and client and a well-oiled agency-production company relationship. “All the groundwork had been done by the creatives (and personal heroes) Charlotte and Loriley,” says Rollo. “They’d got the creative to a real deep point of understanding with both the client but also themselves as to how far they wanted to push the brand, so it became a case of authentically bringing that to life, rather than re-inventing anything,” he adds. 

Thanks to the chemistry between Rollo and the creative team of Charlotte Prince and Loriley Sessions no obstacles were enough to derail the production of an energetic ad that is no less than a visual treat – and one that will no doubt put Habitat on the map across London and the UK at large. 

Olive Andrews agrees that team work made the dream work. From the get-go Rollo was just a shining light of goodness with the amazing team of Armoury behind him. And what a dream team Rollo and James are, a force to be reckoned with”, she says, “not only a joy to work with and both super talented but now very good chums of mine”. Rollo similarly expresses his gratitude for the producer duo, “Mr James McLaughlin – producer, hero, champion, brother, saint, and Olive Andrews, our Producer at NCA and now a dear friend, made this 2-day party happen with their trust – making a fun ad was just the cherry on top.” Executive producer, Matt Hichens proudly states “This one has been amazing from start to finish. NCA and Habitat have been a pleasure to work with and I am immensely proud of our team and the finished film.”

Bringing Josh Tarn on board for the photography was also a blessing, “he and his team worked so beautifully in the very busy and occasionally fluid shooting landscape,” says James M. It seems that whether jumping in between complex, gripping changeovers, or whilst carrying on with stills at the end of long shooting days, Tarn was able to maintain a calmness and positivity that is clear in his immersive and inviting imagery. You can catch them out in the wild now, both warming up the underground and online.

Another production power move was having on-set DJ Roberta Cutulo on vibe patrol – and it sounds like she never let the vibe die even during non-shooting moments. “We had a DJ for two days in this real house with our cast of stunners, whom I danced with in between calling action”, says Rollo. This allowed for an intimacy and energy that is palpable in the final product. It was a party outside of the frame, according to McLaughlin who claimed he could get used to this: “Any non-shooting moment was filled with a perfect Cafe Mambo undercurrent… And no, Roberta did not take requests.” Andrews echoes this sentiment, asking for DJs to be a permanent feature on set. She says “It might actually be my personal highlight as it meant that our wonderful first AD James Dyer became an on-set MC to the cast and crew”.

When Dyer wasn’t moonlighting as a ‘party announcer’ he was beautifully bringing together the cast amongst the skilled handy work of production designer Max Randall, who seems to have become part of the furniture as far as Habitat shoots are concerned. For the client, the products and the home had to do most of the talking and Rollo and Randall understood this, and remained “very zen” even faced with the last minute challenge of building a new wall to safeguard an immovable family heirloom or an “unavoidably staccato set of prop deliveries”. “In a party scene nothing wants to be overlit – so the way to draw the eye is with saturation, rather than exposure, making sure hero props and hero outfits sit at the top saturation-wise and then work everything back from that,” explains Rollo. Layers that become apparent when the “very resourceful”, “incredible” costume designer Florence Jones enters stage left to tie the cast together into a stunning group of friends. A special shout out to the HMUA team led by Nic Paskauskas is also due for their long days, dewy looks and for kindly painting Rollo’s nails. 

You can catch the ad here (LINK) or in the wild in your usual spots.