Spring 2018

Olympic-Level Craft

For Alma Har'el, the notion of 'Love Over Bias' is personal


Director Alma Har'el, with megaphone, on a set resembling a Winter Olympics ski course. (Photo: Courtesy Hoffman)

When director Alma Har'el was approached by Wieden+Kennedy to bid on directing the "Love Over Bias" spot for Procter & Gamble's "Proud Sponsor of Moms" Olympics campaign—the first woman to join a roster of directors that includes three-time DGA Award winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu—she jumped at the opportunity. It's "pretty much the dream campaign," Har'el says in an email, noting that witnessing her own mother's hard work as a child gave her a personal connection. "I always tear up when I see these commercials." The resulting spot earned the Israeli-American director her first solo nomination for the DGA's Commercial Award in 2017.

Though the seeds of the story—which focuses on athletes overcoming biases due to gender, sexuality, religion, economic status and disability—were already in place when she joined the campaign, Har'el had a slightly different slant: "I wanted to… capture a moment that takes us out of reality and into the mind of the child and their imagination," she says of the scene where an aspiring skier imagines jumping on her bed on top of a snowy mountain, which then becomes the site of her Olympic debut.

During the rigorous casting process (which lasted more than a month), she looked for both actors interested in sports and "real people who went through similar situations" for authenticity's sake. "It was very important to me that the kid with a disability will be a kid who really did live with that bias and was an athlete," says Har'el, describing how she and her producer cast a young Japanese skier with a prosthetic leg. "We wanted to make sure… the details speak to the people who live with those realities."

Because the commercial filmed before the Olympics, Har'el and her production designer, JC Molina, were tasked with building a set resembling the ski course in Pyeongchang "six months prior and under all their regulations," she recalls. She also worked alongside P&G to create sets that could tell a story with a glance even while advertising P&G products such as Tide, Always and Pampers.

"I feel like the product is almost seamless and hardly seen or featured in the spot," notes Har'el. "The focus was on the actual stories, and [P&G] fully supported us."

The truncated filming schedule for a commercial can make rehearsing difficult, but Har'el found time with her actors whenever possible—during callbacks, costume fittings—and turned the first few takes on set into a makeshift rehearsal, making sure that screens and monitors were down.

To create the Olympic skiing sequence at the end, Har'el "would watch hours of documentary films and alpine skiing competition" as research, since this was her first time filming a competitive winter sport. "I was adamant to figure out a moment that would stick out and feel dramatic even after all the prior commercials," she explains. "I wanted to do the leap from behind so we could reveal all of the Olympic crowd as the camera goes up, and to have the skier come very close to the camera in full speed when she reaches the finish line as if we were in the event.

"Women are usually not trusted with big sports commercials of this kind, so when we get the chance, I think it's a high," she adds.

Har'el, currently in the process of casting her first narrative feature, knows the impact that both her directorial work and her Free the Bid movement, which seeks to increase the number of women directing commercials, have on others. "I was the first woman to direct a commercial for this campaign," writes Har'el, "and I wanted to make sure that it left the brand with the same feeling of 'Love Over Bias' that they were advertising."

Scenes from the "Love Over Bias" commercial. (Screenpulls: Courtesy Procter & Gamble)


Feature stories about the craft and challenges of directors and their teams in episodic television, movies for television, daytime drama, reality, sports, news, variety, childrens, commercials and other television genres.

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