"The Making Of" Don't Text and Drive PSA Behind the Scenes

Don't Text and Drive "the making of" the car crash effects and how they were put together for the British Text and Drive PSA from Wales that has made headlines throughout the world.

By Christine Clarke on September 3rd, 2009 via: BoardsMag
Ad exec Donny Deutch called it the most powerful PSA ever made, while US broadcasters are debating whether it is too graphic to be shown on TV. The Gwent Police Department’s curiously and assertively titled, “Cow - The Film That Will Stop You Texting and Driving” is making headlines worldwide, and all of the press is focused on the film’s intensely violent depiction of a road accident - initiated by a trio of distracted girls, one texting while driving - that leaves many of the involved motorists dead and the survivors’ severely traumatized.

The project began around 14 years ago when Tredegar Comprehensive School in Wales asked director Peter Watkins-Hughes to make a PSA called Lucky Luke, depicting the consequences of joyriding. Watkins-Hughes, who also lectures on the subject of documentary film and television for the Newport School of Art, Media and Design, was tasked by the school with updating Lucky Luke for a contemporary audience. Soliciting input from students, and bringing the Gwent Police Department on board, he realized that joyriding was now replaced by texting as the biggest issue facing young drivers while on the road.

The four-minute clip, part of a larger half-hour film which will be broadcast on the BBC, is unrelenting in its depiction of the crash. This isn’t a glossed-up, Hollywood-ized version of a crash, however. Filmed on a shoestring £10,000 budget and only a few thousand pounds allotted for the effects work (completed by Welsh company Zipline Creative), the PSA is no-nonsense grit.

As is par for the course, the “concerned adult” sector is questioning the level of violence, but in actuality it was the students the director worked with who pressed him to depict the brutal truth.

“With the crash scene in particular, we were taking the edit back to the youth and they were consistently telling us, make it more realistic, make it more graphic because that’s how to reach the audience,” says Watkins-Hughes, who auditioned 300 Welsh youth for the film. “It’s interesting, this debate about the shock factor, because actually you have the young generation saying, ‘We don’t know the realities of car crash. If you show us the reality it’d actually have more impact than trying to be clever.’”

In attempting to authentically construct that reality, Watkins-Hughes consulted emergency services workers who noted that a nightmarish situation they consistently face in a collision is the serious injury or death of parents, while their child is left relatively unharmed in the backseat.

“That stayed with me and I was determined to have that in the film,” explains Watkins-Hughes. “The little boy crying, ‘Mummy, Daddy please wake up’ in that scene is my own son Henry. So whenever I see the clip it has a particular emotional resonance for me and my wife has to leave the room whenever it plays.”

Watkins-Hughes says it’s that emotional resonance coupled with the shock factor that has made the PSA successful. It’s racked up more than one million views on YouTube, despite the over-18 viewing restriction, and Watkins-Hughes has fielded calls from media outlets in Europe and Australia, as well as The New York Times and The Washington Post. The US military’s driving schools unit has even requested the clip to show to its personnel.

Still, the main target was young British drivers.

“Road traffic deaths are the biggest killer of young people in the UK aged 13 - 35. Increasingly mobile phones are involved in these accidents,” says Watkins-Hughes. “Why give up your own life just to tell somebody you’re going to be 5 minutes late? It doesn’t seem like a fair contract for me. In this country driving while using a mobile phone is illegal, but most young people don’t understand why that is. What this film does is it makes the rationale behind the law much clearer.”

Here is the PSA Texting and Driving Advert Master Original Video in HD quality.

Client: Gwent Police Department
Title: Cow, The Film That Will Stop You Texting and Driving
Director: Peter Watkins-Hughes
Writer/Director: Peter Watkins-Hughes
Executive Producers: Mark Warrender, Andrew "Shinko" Jenkins
Producers: Joanna Micklewright, Rhys Waters, Peter Watkins-Hughes
Associate Producer: Alex Ashman
Editor: Richard Jon Micklewright
CGI: Zipline Creative www.ziplinecreative.co.uk
Director of Photography: Nathan Mackintosh
Physical Crash Effects: Dean Davies, Mark Brooks
Production Design: Stephen Thomas
Main Actors: Jenny Davies, Amy Ingram, Laura Quantick
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