Going off the rails – Making ‘What are Great Journeys?’

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Owen Cotterell

As part of our ongoing work with CrossCountry Trains’ Employee Development & Engagement Team, we sat down in a Birmingham coffee shop back in the autumn of 2013 and talked about how we could take their mantra of “delivering great journeys across Great Britain” to another level of emotional engagement.

CrossCountry employees are great at what they do, and the spirit in which they do it is something the business are rightly proud of. But somehow the team needed to try to capture that and reflect it back to their 1700 people across the UK, while at the same time encouraging an emotional connection to the millions of customers the business serves every day – customers who many employees never get to see.

CrossCountry employees from many departments help deliver Great Journeys.

CrossCountry employees from many different departments help to deliver Great Journeys.

Another major component of the brief was to feature the wider rail industry and some of the many partner organisations CrossCountry work closely with every single day; Bombardier who maintain their fleet of locomotives, Network Rail who repair and maintain the railways and stations, through to Woodwards who supply the on-board catering.

An early hours shoot with Network Rail engineers.

An early hours shoot with Network Rail engineers.

Our creative for this project centred around the romance of an impulsive railway journey from Plymouth to Edinburgh taken by a young woman desperate to be reunited with her long-distance partner. The sheer number of people involved in delivering that great journey was impressive enough (three separate train drivers cover that journey for a start), but we also wanted to feature other sub plots in the film which would show other types of train journey undertaken by different types of passenger for very different reasons, and in doing so would portray other parts of the CrossCountry fleet and their UK routes.

This was one of those creatives where pre production planning and scheduling was critical to the success of the project, not least because the client asked us to remain narratively true to the staff logistics, shift patterns and geographies of the journeys featured in the film – and we were using actors to play passengers alongside real CrossCountry employees for whom shoots had to be scheduled around their real work shifts. The script and storyboard for the filming required a cast of over 40 staff, actors and extras.

Filming a green screen interior scene with some of the principal cast.

Filming a green screen interior scene with some of the principal cast.

Another major challenge in the project was to organise a two-day green screen shoot on a stationary CrossCountry Voyager in a maintenance depot to shoot some of the interior carriage scenes. A busy railway maintenance shed is not usually the ideal place to pop-up a green screen studio, but with the immense support of CrossCountry’s Fleet department and Bombardier, we secured access to Central Rivers, a large Bombardier site in Burton-upon-Trent that services up to 20 locomotives per night. We brought the appropriate staff and acting cast to the depot over two days to shoot a number of the interior scenes before then heading out on a 7-day road and rail trip around the UK to shoot the rest of the footage we required.

Captain Wallo's Green Screen.

Captain Wallo’s Green Screen.

That trip took our crew on an incredible journey covering over 1500 road miles and 600 rail miles. We filmed at a number of train stations including Plymouth, Dawlish, Bristol Temple Meads, Water Orton, Birmingham New Street, Cardiff and Edinburgh Waverley. We filmed with actors and staff on live CrossCountry services as well as out in a number of urban and rural locations around the country en route to Edinburgh where the shoot eventually wrapped, coincidentally on the historic day of Scotland’s independence referendum. It was some wrap party!

Over 1500 UK road miles were driven on the shoot.

Over 1500 UK road miles were driven on the shoot.

Then of course came the edit. Over three terabytes of 5k RED Epic footage to be cut down into 3.5 minutes.

The resulting film is a piece that the team at Mocha are hugely proud of. We rarely find ourselves undertaking such a massive logistical challenge as this project, but we were driven by both the passion of our client to visualise Great Journeys in such an ambitious and high quality fashion, as well as our own desire to deliver a piece of film which would engage with its audience on a new emotional level while celebrating the romance of the railway more widely.

The film is now helping making a big impact across CrossCountry’s business and beyond, with Great Journeys recently picking up the Employer Brand Award at the Employee Engagement Awards 2014.

“We have worked with Mocha on several occasions and have never been less than impressed by their knowledge and dedication. Their willingness to research and learn about our business helped us bring to life our vision of a short film which, not only engaged our employees, but also clearly presented the concept of how our great people each play a part in delivering a great journey across Great Britain.

All of the team worked above and beyond to meet the brief on all our projects, working day or night and covering great distances over the length and breadth of our network, giving our films the realistic look we desired. Their creative writing of the poem and creation of a narrative enhanced the storytelling throughout the films and allowed the viewer to feel an emotional connection with what we do, portraying the notion that its more than just a job. A belief which could also be attributed to the guys at Mocha.

Mocha are fantastic to work with, demonstrating a high standard of talent both technically and conceptually. They truly understood the brief of each individual film, engaged with our people and were dedicated to delivering our message and capturing our values.”

Kate Barnes – Employee Development and Engagement Manager, CrossCountry

Watch the final film here.