Dan Francis: an apology (of sorts).

I helped create the Halfords idents that accompany this Year’s Tour de France coverage on ITV4.

Having put 3 months of hard work into them – and the attendant documentary – I’m keen to see how they’re received. The web is of course the first place to look.

Not everyone likes everything and Twitter is an ideal platform for naysayers to vent their spleen. A handful of viewers don’t like the idents at all. To be fair, much of this was down to repetition – if you’re watching 3 hours of cycling, you’re going to see the same one more than once. Unless it’s supremely bland – and many other idents are – repetition will grate specially for an event that gets 5 hours coverage a day for 3 weeks.

Some people just don’t like Dan Francis – in the idents at least. It’s interesting that people are won over when they see the full documentary here:

It’s a strange one. At no point during the production did we think, “God, he’s so annoying, what are we gonna do?” It just didn’t occur to us. He was the perfect casting. He’s not an actor. We had the Tour de Francis idea first and cast specifically for someone with Frank or Francis in their name.

We wanted to represent the everyman – the chap holding down a day job, with a family and a genuine love of cycling. We wanted to show what happens when we challenge someone to take their cycling up a level, out of their comfort zone and emulate their heroes to some extent.

Dan, ambushed by a Frenchman talking French, of all things.

And we wanted to prove that a sub-£1000 Carrera Virago wouldn’t fall apart the minute you took it out on the road.

If you want to torture test a bike and the client is sponsoring the Tour de France, tackling some of its key stages makes perfect sense.

The truth is, we had one puncture on the flat (by the big wind turbines on Stage 6). Other than that, nothing snapped, sheered or failed.

Now, you can buy much better bikes if you can afford it and for many, many people, £1000 for any bike is just out if the question, so clearly we can’t please everyone.

But if you want to give non-cyclists an insight into why you ride or just enjoy a fellow enthusiast being given the chance to live the TdF dream, you could do worse than watch the documentary.

I promise you, he’s not as irritating as the idents might portray him.

As for the apology, it’s really directed at Dan. If we made you look annoying and prompt people to put their TV screen through, I am sorry. It wasn’t our intention or indeed our impression having watched them back – many more times than any viewers will ever see!

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  1. Ab

     /  July 22, 2012

    I wasnt even aware of any hoo-harr about these adverts – I just watched the the end of the Tour and this idiot appears yet again and I googled ‘Halfords idiot advert’. It sooo annoying – don’t you ever think how this sort of fakery is received? Im never going into Halfords again..

    • pottaz

       /  July 23, 2012

      If you found the idents annoying, I can’t argue with that. You are not alone. Hence the post. But don’t let your irritation cloud the facts. There was no fakery. That’s a big assumption and way off the mark – which is why I’m happy to publish your comment and not just trash it.

  2. Vince

     /  October 2, 2012

    I’m interested, and rather puzzled, to hear you say there was no fakery. If that’s the case then perhaps you could answer the following.

    At this site about the Tour De Francis, http://tourdefrancis.tumblr.com, under FAQs, Did you cheat?, the production team say “For the climb up Madeleine, we stayed out of his way and the climb was completely uninterrupted until his path was blocked by an avalanche 3km from the top”. However, when this is shown in the 15 min 53 sec film https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmN4OF_6qMU on youtube, the on-bike camera, together with its mounting bracket, change position, or even vanish completely, several times. Firstly, at 3:45, there is nothing attached to the front right fork at all, yet, at 4:17, the bike miraculously sprouts a camera there, then, at 4:41, the camera, together with mounting bracket and cable ties, have somehow moved from the fork to the centre of the handlebars.

    Unless there are supernatural forces at work, can you shed any light on this? Otherwise it would appear to be the very thing you say it isn’t, fakery.

    • pottaz

       /  October 2, 2012

      No supernatural forces at work, just a cameraman. It’s flattering that you’ve paid so much attention, but from my experience, film-making is always stop/start. By comparison, this was a long stint without much interference from the crew. The clip of him wheeling away from the fête wasn’t the beginning of the climb. We re-grouped at the camera-van half a mile away and did last-minute checks and fitted the Go-Pro to the right front fork – hence the shots from ‘on board’ the bike.
      We did make a stop about 80% of the way up because there were rocks in the road and we were passing signs that said ‘Road ahead closed’. Dan didn’t know whether to continue or not. Our view was that we should continue until we couldn’t physically go any further. It was during that discussion that the camera-man changed the position of the Go-Pro as we had enough shots of his feet pedalling and we thought training the camera on his face might get us some good footage.
      I guess my point about fakery and cheating was that without being there, some people will want to assume that it was all a charade. Without uploading uncut footage from all cameras with timecodes etc, there comes a time when people can believe what’s put in front of them or not.
      Filming reality is always difficult. Having a film crew follow you everywhere is not reality, so you taint whatever you touch. However, I stand by the veracity of the film, that everything we portrayed is how it happened. We could go the glossy Rapha-esque brochureware route or we could tell a real human story. No point falling between two stools and fudging it. Dan was up to the challenge and so was the bike.

  1. Tour de France 2012 - Page 54 - London Fixed-gear and Single-speed

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