Top Spot of the Week: Melina Matsoukas Directs Amazon's "The Show Must Go On" For Lucky Generals


Robert Goldrich
Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020


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Director Melina Matsoukas via production house PRETTYBIRD gives French ballerina Taïs Vinolo the spotlight in this uplifting two-minute Christmas film for Amazon from agency Lucky Generals. The timely ad demonstrates the determination of a highly trained dancer in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and sends a message of hope for the arts whilst capturing the community spirit which is guiding the world through this crisis. 

Amazon’s global Christmas TV ad campaign follows a talented young ballet dancer as she prepares for the role of a lifetime. This being 2020, things don’t go according to plan, but with the support of friends and family, and her own tenacity and optimism, she delivers a spectacular performance for her awestruck neighbors.  Amazon’s 2020 Xmas campaign launched on TV on Nov. 2 with a :60 version. The full 120 second spot aired today (11/3) during the first ad break of The Great British Bake Off on U.K.’s Channel 4.  

Simon Morris, VP global creative at Amazon, said: “Our TV ad is inspired by, and pays tribute to, the unbeatable human spirit and the power of community that we have witnessed so often this year.” 

The TV ad, created by Lucky Generals for Amazon, shot on 35mm film by cinematographer Rina Yang and presented in 3:2, the format of 35mm SLR imagery, is centered on French ballet dancer Vinolo, in the starring role after a global casting search by Kharmel Cochrane. The production design was created by Jahmin Assa (Mid90s and Seberg).

We follow her powerful story as her dreams of dancing a lead role are jeopardized due to the pandemic. As her ballet school closes, she continues to train regardless, in and around her neighborhood. However, later in the year, her hopes are dashed, as the end of year performance is canceled. Devastated, she loses hope. However, her sister and the community around her secretly pull together to give her a stage and an audience after all, in an emotional finale.

The film features custom costumes designed and created specifically by Matthew Joseph and Ed Marler, and was edited by Andrew Morrow  (Black is King).

PRETTYBIRD UK co-founder and executive producer Juliette Larthe commented: “The set was fully inclusive, and the crew matched the cast in terms of representation, which was very important to fulfill for comfort and performances required by the on screen talent. The commercial production also had the client agree to pay for the trainees to attend and learn on the shoot. PRETTYBIRD worked with Lucky Generals and Amazon to include 5 trainees, 3 of whom came from ELAM the Arts and Film Academy in East London.”

Vinolo shared: “When I was growing up in the French countryside, there were no young Black girls studying ballet with hair like mine, or even on TV, meaning I had no one to identify myself with. Being on this shoot helped so much with this, enabling me to own who I really am, who I want to be and what I represent. I am so proud to have been part of this project since the message of it means a lot to me and even more so in this very difficult time that the world is going through.”

The dance for Vinolo was created by artist, dancer and choreographer MJ Harper, who worked closely with Matsoukas and Larthe on the casting and choreography. The film features a unique arrangement of the song “The Show Must Go On” by Queen.  The Amazon Christmas film is titled “The Show Must Go On.”

Matsoukas’ previous directing credits include music videos for Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ in 2011, which was inspired by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and  led to Matsoukas being the first director to be awarded the Music Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions. Matsoukas also received great acclaim for directing the Rihanna “We Found Love” music video, becoming the first solo female director to win an MTV award in the Best Video category and also win a Grammy for best long-format video.  The Amazon spot was lead produced by Larthe who was also producer on Matsoukas’ “We Found Love” for which she also picked up a Grammy Award. On the feature front, Matsoukas’ Queen & Slim was released in 2019 to critical acclaim.


Client Amazon Agency Lucky Generals Joe Bagnall, head of film; Lee Smith, Nick Bird, creative directors; George Allen, creative; Camilla Hempleman, assistant producer. Production PRETTYBIRD UK Melina Matsoukas, director; Juliette Larthe, exec producer/lead producer; Ted Thornton, exec producer; Marian Mikhail, line producer; Benji Landman, production manager; Jess Glaus, production coordinator; Rina Yang, DP; Yazz Anderson-Moore, director’s assistant; Tina Fratnik, 1st AD; Jahmin Assa, production designer; Barbara Ayozie Fu Safira, art director; Matthew Josephs, costume stylist; Ed Marler, costume designer; Row Seward, seamstress; Olivia Kaiafa, stylist assistant; Neil Cunningham, postproduction supervisor; Kitty Rajakulasingam, 3rd AD; Mata Mumvadi, makeup artist;Isaac Poleon, hair designer; MJ Harper, movement director; Brittany Young, movement director assistant; Yssis McKen, camera trainee; Victoria Lawal, Lucia Ritucci, trainees; Berhan Medhaen, art department trainee. Services Company Division Rok Burkovec, exec producer; Benjamin Begovic, line producer; Alenka Protic, production manager; Ida Uran, production coordinator; Dragan Mladenvic, location manager; Tina Fratnik, 1st AD; Nika Drakulic, 1st AC; Natasa Rogelj, art director; Valter Kobal, stylist. Editorial Andrew Morrow, editor; David Belizario, edit assistant. Audio 750MPH Sam Ashwell, sound; Peter Mauder, music composition. Color Company 3 Tom Poole, colorist; Alexandra Lubrano, color producer. Lab FocusFox. Casting Kharmel Cochrane Cast Tais Vinolo, Tamsi, Yasmine Holness-Dove, Anthony Aris Asola, David Anthony, Paris Kelly, MJ Harper.

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