The idea for the spot emerged, almost by accident, just 10 days before the May 12th snap parliamentary election in Bulgaria. We were finalizing the storyboards for an animation-documentary on an IPED-sponsored hackathon event. Antoaneta, IPED’s director, mentioned in passing a Serbian trick for subverting the practice of workplace voting coercion. It was a really simple concept - show that a coerced person can put a sheet of transparent paper over the ballot to mark the required vote, snap a photo for proof and then, discarding the sheet, vote according to conscience.

The biggest challenge was coming up with an innovative and catchy way to convey the idea in order to reach the widest possible audience on the spot’s own merit, without any additional promotional budget. In short, I had to convince the client that we could make a viral video on a crucial, yet mundane subject, in less than 10 days, 3 of which - Easter holidays. IPED also told us that we’d have to do it on a less than shoestring budget.

Since I felt strongly that it was paramount to have such a spot made and seen in time, my partner and I immediately started brainstorming. Over the next 48 hours we proposed several time and resource-optimizing solutions. One was a minute long spot, showing only hands. It told the story of an ordinary person taking advantage of “gullible” vote-brokers, taking their money and then, using the transparent paper, voting as she wishes.

Another idea, also a minute long, had an attractive girl, working for the election commission, help a nervous young man by handing him a pen and a transparent sheet with a wink as he enters the voting booth.

A third option was to do a parody of a condom ad with the copy “Vote safe - use tracing paper”.

While the client quite liked aspects of our ideas, they had serious misgivings about the more subversive undercurrents, which could construe the Institute in a more callous light.

Seeing that we’re running out of time and that the spot is quickly becoming unlikely to happen, I proposed a final option — an ambitious 5-6 minute clip in neo-20s style — black and white, silent short, disguised as a long-lost Bulgarian cinema reel from the 20s. During the first election after suffrage, a beautiful girl is coerced into voting for her boss’ party, only to be saved by a Chaplinesque young man with a good idea.

The client loved the idea and so we were forced to cast, crew, and design a 4-actor period piece in 3 days, shoot in 1, and then edit, score and export in 54 hours.

You can see the resulting 6-minute spot above. Released two days prior to the election, it had a good social media run and was picked up as a news story by the biggest digital daily