Behind the scenes

The new Visit Wales TV was shot in an epic location, with an amazing actor, and a supporting cast of legendary names from Welsh folklore and history. So how did we do it? Here are 10 facts from behind the camera.

The concept

In our Year of Legends, we wanted to celebrate the legends of our past, but also all the new legends that are being made here and now in Wales: people, places and experiences. So the TV ad is as much about the present and future, too. Creative director Dylan Griffith explains: ‘We have such a rich vein of legendary stories, starting from the Mabinogion, running all the way through our history into the present. We wanted to embrace those fantastic legends but in a contemporary way. We wanted to make something that’s nothing like any other tourism campaign – a film that’ll stand out, and stop people in their tracks.’

The star

Luke Evans has played Hollywood heroes and villains in roles that span fact and fiction, fantasy and reality, from ancient gods to present-day characters. This makes Luke the ideal actor to portray the hero of our TV ad, an enigmatic everyman who is both otherworldly and utterly contemporary. As well as being a nice Welsh boy from the Valleys, Luke  - talk about excellent timing - stars as Gaston in the forthcoming Disney remake of Beauty and the Beast. He also garnered international acclaim for his starring role in the recent hit thriller, Girl on The Train.

Luke Evans

Luke Evans

The legends

Luke’s poetic monologue lists a pantheon of legendary names from Welsh folklore and history, from princes to pirates, magicians to mysterious maidens. Some of them – like King Arthur and Merlin – are familiar; others - like Bendigeidfran and Rhiannon – are less known outside Wales, but are an essential part of who we are. For a complete who’s who, there’s a handy guide here.

The location

The advert was shot on location at Llyn Llydaw, a glacial lake that lies in the ‘Snowdon Horseshoe’ beneath the summit of Wales and England’s highest mountain. Apart from being stunningly beautiful, this whole area is steeped in Arthurian legend. King Arthur is said to have died in battle at Bwlch y Saethau (‘the pass of the arrows’) on the high ridge above the lake; his knights threw Arthur’s sword Excalibur into the waters, and then retreated to a nearby cave where they are still awaiting the call to rise again. 

Llyn Llydaw, Snowdonia

Llyn Llydaw, Snowdonia

The causeway

In the advert, Luke Evans strides across the causeway that spans Llyn Llydaw, summoning up Welsh legends from its waters (if you’ve ever climbed Snowdon via the popular Miners Path, you’ll have walked this way). Early copper miners carried the ore across the lake by raft; the causeway was built in 1853 to make their job easier. When the water level was lowered to make the causeway, a prehistoric dugout canoe, carved from an oak trunk, emerged from the mud. 
 
Llyn Llydaw, Snowdonia
Llyn Llydaw, Snowdonia

The weather

The advert was filmed over two days in December 2016, the only slot available in Luke’s tight schedule. The crew deliberately chose a location above the treeline, so that the landscape wasn’t obviously wintery. The Welsh weather was less easy to plan around. As it turned out, Day 1 was a glorious day of perfect cobalt-blue skies. On the morning of Day 2, a thick mist descended. ‘You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face,’ says creative director Dylan Griffith. ‘We had mountain guides looking after us, and they know everything about the weather systems. One told me, “Don’t worry, you’ll have a window of an hour-and-a-half.” And sure enough, the mist cleared and we had a few hours before we lost the sun behind Y Lliwedd – just long enough to pull it off.’

The double

See that bit where a distant ‘Luke Evans’ walks across the causeway? That’s actually a body double, the actor Rhodri Miles. Rhodri was drafted in to make sure the crew could be certain of capturing all the wide shots they needed, on a perilously tight schedule. Rhodri, incidentally, is a fine actor in his own right. He’s appeared in epics like Atlantis and Game of Thrones, and in 2017 is touring the UK in a one-man show about Richard Burton. 

Llyn Llydaw, Snowdonia

Llyn Llydaw, Snowdonia

The crew

All the principal crew were drawn from a rich pool of talent in the Welsh TV and film industry. The director Marc Evans (Resurrection Man, House of America, Hinterland) oversaw the location filming; cinematographer Luke Jacobs is a veteran of music videos and TV ads; the rest of the crew have worked on countless BBC Wales projects including Sherlock, Doctor Who, Torchwood and Casualty. 

The CGI

In the past, our TV ads have used real people in beautiful locations. But bringing legendary stories to life presents a different challenge: basically, how not to be cheesy. The answer lies in cutting-edge computer-generated graphics, which were used to create slightly abstract, but very modern depictions of images from our past. Motion graphics allow Luke Evans to summon up a hail of slate arrows, murmurations of magical birds, and eruptions of water – without breaking his stride.

Luke Evans

Luke Evans

The music

The ‘Legends’ campaign is a continuation of the ‘Epic’ theme that ran through our 2016 Year of Adventure. So it made sense to use music that was specially written for ‘Epic’ by the composer John Hardy. But this year John’s musical palate has been handed over to Wevie, a music and sound design studio, who’ve given it a thoroughly modern reimagining.