Some projects hold all expectations, however more often than not, do not turn out the way one envisioned it. Clients expectations, emotions, time, budget… There are so many variables that impact on a project, the list is absolutely endless. Especially when it comes to human emotions, they are tricky and hard to predict.

When Felix Courvoisier and Marco Valpiani from Seed Communication contacted me to participate in a pitch against five other agencies for a 60 second film about Switzerland, I had doubts. However this might just have been a once in a lifetime opportunity and I had to take on the challenge. And like the saying goes… the more you practice the luckier you get… and did we get lucky!

Swiss Travel System - Behind the Scenes - Matterhorn
Swiss Travel System – Behind the Scenes – Matterhorn

Now the question was: How can one narrow this captivating country down to the top 5 things to do or see… and tell an enticing story that makes the viewer want to go to there, without the film looking like a Christmas tree? You start by identifying the number one element that defines the country of Switzerland.

After research, unsurprisingly the one element that captures and the ultimate symbol of Swissness… the mighty Matterhorn Mountain. Then one attempts to build a unique story around the icon that embodies the feeling of travel, and a sense of discovery. 

Matterhorn - Swiss Travel System Film
Matterhorn – Swiss Travel System Film

Once I figured out the story, I knew that the film was only going to be as good as its cast. So we started early. Since budget is always an issue and you can never have enough money, we simply had to put in the hours / days of seeing one model / actor after the other to find the right person for the project. Finally, 3 hours before the casting deadline expired, and having searched for a month we found the actors that could transport the message of our story. 

Graciella Huber looking at the Matterhorn - Swiss Travel System
Graciella Huber looking at the Matterhorn – Swiss Travel System

With the cast fixed, one of the biggest challenges was that we needed perfect sunny / autumn weather without snow throughout the film. Now this is really not that simple since the weather in Switzerland can change fast and without prediction.

Another request from the client was that we had to capture the Matterhorn’s reflection in the little lake positioned in front of the mountain. That with, well the Matterhorn is kind of always in the clouds. Reaching to a height of 4470 m, clouds tend to just hang around the peak.

You can easily come for a weekend visit to Zermatt in hope to make a dream come true and never get to see the monster. Also, no wind on the lake… otherwise no reflection. No snow and the lake should not be frozen and of course remember the autumn colors. I have to admit this kept me awake for many nights. 

Xaver Walser and Graciella Huber
Xaver Walser and Graciella Huber

Luckily for us, one of the best Line Producers the world has to offer Claudio Garovi was on the job, an absolute machine when it comes to remembering everything. He was key to aligning the stars and getting the weather spot on.  And when you finally get to see the Matterhorn… it’s really like no other mountain in the world. I have lived in the Alps for 10 years … but somehow when you finally lay your eyes on that monster of a mountain, it just makes sense that it embodies all of Switzerland within.

In the end, it’s about trying to put all the elements together and strive for a successful production. The cast had to be right, the location had to be epic. The weather had to be conducive. The music, the music, the music. The edit and the color. When you finally have a film that flows and seamlessly tells the story… it’s such a rewarding feeling.

Xaver Walser and Graciella Huber - Behind the Scenes
Xaver Walser and Graciella Huber – Behind the Scenes

My brother has this cool life philosophy: You have to love the process regardless of the end result. For what is life really if you are only waiting to be happy after its all over and complete. No, surround yourself with fun people. Laugh as much as possible during the process. Sure, do a good job and be professional, stay in budget and give all to deliver. You were happy along the way… and then, every now and then when the stars do align and the film does live up to expectations the rewards are… oh so sweet !