INTERVIEW | Wesley Phelan, ‘ORIGINAL is never finished’ creative director talks fears, South Africans and Snoop Dogg

Last week the world saw the release of the 90 second film 'ORIGINAL is never finished'.

With Originals lead global agency, Johannes Leonardo and an inspiring collaboration of creatives including many from South Africa (agency Creative Director's Wesley Phelan and Matt Edwards, Terence NealRSA Films, Deon Van Zyl, Egg films and cast from Cape Town agency My Friend Ned to name a few) were the force behind an unrivalled piece of film, making adidas even more relevant and truly Original in just 90 seconds.

We talk to Wesley Phelan about his craft and the vision for 'ORIGINAL is never finished' and the future of the adidas brand.

wesley phelan interview

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Jozi. Spent 28 years of my life in that rad place.

Where and when did your creative career start?

My creative career started at The Jupiter Drawing Room, Johannesburg

What influences your thought patterns and ideation process? With that, what do you aim to show through the work that you do? 

Travel and seeing the world is the only way to truly be afraid and inspired at the same time. Travel also allows you to tap into different cultures, which then ultimately drives the type of work you do. I personally am the most fulfilled when the message in the work I create is culturally relevant.

As one of the Creative Director's behind the newly released adidas 90 second film, 'ORIGINAL is never finished', what provoked the concept and meaning behind the film?

My creative partner Matt Edwards (South African) and I have been working on the originals brand for three years now. The original campaign is just the latest component of the much broader long term idea - strikethrough campaign. In year one of directing the account we pushed up against the notion of what it means to be a superstar using the iconic three stripes for the iconic sneaker - the superstar, the next year we pressed up against the idea of a dystopian future for the launch of the new NMD and this year we are looking deeper into the brand by questioning or starting a conversation around the meaning of original - tied directly back to the launch of the much hyped EQT sneaker, which like the commercial is also inspired by the past. The past empowers the future is something we really believe.


What were your high’s and low’s during the making of the film? 

The highs were most definitely introducing our US clients, celebrity talent and production team to the unrivalled beauty of South Africa, it was really amazing to see how they fell in love with the place we call home. Another highlight would most definitely be the interaction with some of the celebrity cast in the spot. Dev Hynes and Snoop Dogg are phenomenal professionals. There were really no lows, other than the usual goodbyes once the set wrapped.

The question so many are asking; What is it like to work with Snoop Dogg?

Ha ha ha ha working with Snoop is an absolute pleasure, what a gentleman and professional. On adidas we have been lucky enough to meet a whole range of people like Pharrell, Beckham, Joey Badass, Pusha T to name sling a few, but Snoop was the most amazing to work with. When we showed him a rough cut he said 'Dope, I Fux with this shit!!!"


There is an interesting list of South African creatives that have contributed to the film. Being based in the States, what made you decide on a South African production team?

Terence Neale and I go way back, when our careers where just starting we created one of our first commercials together. It was terrible but both of us will never forget it. 

So when we began creating the future spot for adidas we decided to call on our old friend to see if we could better our debut commercial. The aesthetic Terence achieved in 'future' was most definitely the reason why when it came to treat on this new board, it had to be him again. South Africa is really world class in terms of production and we wanted to show the world what a team of South Africans can do on the global stage. Even the post production, which was done by Blacksmith is run by a South African currently based in NYC. Honestly it also felt good bringing a big job back home.

Lastly whats next for the adidas brand?

Adidas being a fashion brand, which is seasonal - means that we are already finalizing what 2018 looks like. Lets hope we can achieve something we just as proud of.


Socialise with Wesley Phelan
Instagram handle @escobarber

Follow just some of the creatives from the project on Instagram
Creative director Matt Edwards @matt_j_edwards

Director Terence Neal @t_r_nc_

CT Casting agency @myfriendned

adidas originals @adidasoriginals

NY Creative agency Johannes Leonardo @johannesleonardo


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