The Shining Girls

We were asked to create a film promo and advertising campaign for South African author Lauren Beukes’ latest novel The Shining Girls, which would reflect not only the brilliance and integrity of her writing, but also her transition from highly-respected sci-fi writer to bonafide mainstream superstar.

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In the summer of 2012, our friends at HarperCollins approached us with one of the most exciting briefs we’ve had through the door in a long time. We were asked to help create an ‘HBO-style’ promo for South African author Lauren Beukes’ latest novel The Shining Girls, which would reflect not only the brilliance and integrity of her writing, but also her transition from highly-respected sci-fi writer to bonafide mainstream superstar.

Due to the relatively complex narrative structure of the book (teenage girl tries to escape through the years from a psychotic, time-traveling serial killer, no less), it was decided pretty quickly between HarperCollins’ in-house creatives and ourselves that an animated trailer wouldn’t represent the exhilaration and peril in the book well enough on screen.

So the challenge was set: cast actors, create a set, hire Directors, hair and make-up and create a piece of cinematic collateral that would have people asking ‘Is this a promo for a book or a TV series?’. With very un-cinematic budgets at our disposal, we started thinking of ways to create an A\V masterpiece that would create major online buzz around one of the year's most anticipated sci-fi thrillers.

With a project of this type needing to have a genuine feeling of authenticity about it, a day of casting at a London agency bore fruit in the form of the excellent Barry Ward (the villain, Harper), and Anna Lucas as the effortlessly vulnerable Kirby, desperate to escape his murderous clutches.

Our most challenging task of the project was convincingly turning our East London design studio into a derelict, Chicago house. This would represent the setting serial killer Harper uses to travel through time - and the home of his ‘totems’ - the objects he leaves on his victims just before he slaughters them.

After successfully sourcing our totems from various online sources (and enlisting the help of some seriously talented set designers), we were able to transform the place we usually call our home for meetings into a dark, sinister lair that would convincingly set the scene for the cinematic showdown between Kirby and Harper.

The video and image assets created for the shoot where used as a foundation for a Website and a range of advertising including digital 6-sheets, online banner campaigns and a 12 metre wide digital billboard in Westfield shopping centre.

On 25th April 2013 the book was released in the UK, and author Lauren Beukes quickly took to her personal Twitter account to promote the piece - receiving over 70,000 views on YouTube in the next three days as a result. Mainstream media coverage followed when BBC News 24 showed a segment of the trailer during an interview with Lauren Beukes, and more social media praise followed.

As of September 2013, The Shining Girls, five months after release, is still riding high in the Top 5 of the Sunday Times bestseller list, has been selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club list, and if rumors are to be believed, the rights to the film have been bought by Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company, Appian Way.

Our friends at HarperCollins have said it is the most ambitious piece of A/V collateral they have ever attempted, and are extremely pleased with the results.

“I was blown away. It's so dark and atmospheric, there are wonderful hints of the story, enough to intrigue without revealing too much. The casting is brilliant, you nailed the tone and I can't believe the level of detail on the props. The fake newspaper articles include the actual text from the novel! You've done a phenomenal job.”

Lauren Beukes, Author