Legendary Networks to Humorous Hounds: The Eclectic Scope of Producer Shirley O’Connor

Shirley and onscreen talent for Be More Dog

Producer is a title which understates the role of professionals as extraordinary as Shirley O’Connor. From conceptualizing with her collaborators to navigating constantly changing script changes, O’Connor is known for delivering some of the most ambitious and heartfelt commercial productions of the modern day. Eclectic is perhaps the best way to describe the creations which she is a part of; emotionally moving would be the counterpart to that description. Those who work with Shirley often describe her as thriving on the challenge of materializing the seemingly unachievable within a less than ideal set of circumstances. She’s quick to heap praise on those who comprise her crew and cast, reinforcing the adage that talent recognizes talent. Creating commercials is its own brand of skillful storytelling and the productions of this sort which are found in O’Connor’s resume populate a body of work that is as beloved by the public as it is heralded by praise and awards. Quite simply put, producer Shirley O’Connor is one of the absolute best in the business. 

  The O2 “Be More Dog” commercial for Caviar Content is sublime in its simplicity but leaves one wondering, “How did they get that cat to exhibit so much stereotypical dog behavior?” The answer is “With a lot of skill.” Winner of Campaign Magazine’s “Campaign of the Year”, this advertisement was the result of Shirley O’Connor and director Keith Schofield’s (director of Joywave’s “Somebody New” music video) brainstorming about how to elicit canine actions from the famously strong willed feline mindset. O’Connor employed a talented Photoshop expert to experiment with some fusing of dog bodies with cat heads and was convinced of the possibilities. Live and green-screen footage allowed the melding of dog body and cat head but required the need for a prosthetic cat tail on the hero dog to be convincing. Some stereotypes are well founded as Shirley confirms, “Everyone on set was in love with Woody our hero dog during the shoot but even though our cat was the best trained feline I’ve ever seen, it was still incredibly difficult to work with.” “Be More Dog” is a perfect example of how magnificent visuals can be achieved without CGI software, as long as you have the right skilled professionals on your team. 

  One might instantly think of the BBC as quite serious but “This is Our BBC” utilizes the British television institutions own creations to lovingly present the network in a humorous light. Created by Academy Films to to mark the centenary of the BBC, this two-minute production reminds one of the breadth and impact this network has had on the public. Producing this spot offered Shirley O’Connor the opportunity to revisit many grand cultural moments of news and entertainment. Of course, it also required a team of twenty researchers, four editors, and edit assistants to properly comb through the vast BBC library. The sheer size of work by the BBC as well as the involvement of network heads meant that the “script” was a constantly shifting set of pieces, making the possibility of maintaining a unifying tone almost inconceivable. Adhering to vision while the components are changing is atypical for commercial productions but “This is Our BBC” was far from a standard endeavour. Shirley stipulates, “The commitment to make sure we always only used archive and never filmed anything to fill in the blanks made this extremely difficult but we always managed to find a way to make it work. Another challenge was delivering the most impactful film while also keeping the feeling contemporary. We found a swathe of amazing clips that worked for our messaging but overall brought the film into too much of a nostalgic space, so we had to leave them on the cutting room floor with great regret! That being said, this project was truly a labour of love, spanning 7 months of research and editing. Every time there was a small breakthrough and a section finally worked, there was a real rush.”

  It’s not easy to connect a domestic Frankenstein pet to a UK institution as revered as the BBC. Upon inspection it’s clear that the professionalism and passion offered by Shirley O’Connor is behind so many creations like these; the work that grabs our attention even if for only minutes. This is the gateway to further inspection and perhaps new discoveries. It’s a grand perspective on commercials but thinking grand is what Shirley O’Connor has built a career on.

Writer: Arlen Gann

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