As part of your pre-production protocols you’ll probably need to conduct some ‘research and development’ (RnD for short). It’s fairly straightforward stuff, but ‘research’ covers all the exploration you do for your project. This can either be fun stuff like trawling the webosphere for the most inspiring and unique creative contributions to get your juices flowing, or it might be the more ordinary but equally as important (if not more so) type of research where you learn or verify facts and figures. ‘Development’ is then anything you do with that knowledge: tests and experiments that will lead you to your final product. Kind of like ‘showing your work’ in math’s, when you have a completed film you will be able to look back at your development and see where all your best ideas came from.
A little while back we worked on a project with a group of youths in Leeton Shire, NSW. The brief was to create a television commercial (TVC) for broadcast on WINTV (regional ‘Channel 9’) that looked at the issue of underage binge drinking across Australia.
We had absolutely no idea how to make a TVC when we started. The level of polish required to get a 45 second piece of content on television seemed daunting, so we started to research and develop.
We scoured YouTube for the best and worst examples of anti-drinking commercials we could find and compiled a list of why we liked certain approaches (or ‘treatments’) and why we felt others were less than exemplary examples of intelligently persuasive information. As we watched and dissected the commercials a few truths started to become clear to us and we tried to use those findings to inform the kind of TVC we eventually created.
Ghost Chips – This is a great advertisement, pretty much top of the pile for us. It uses super sharp wit and comedy to dismantle a difficult social situation. We really wished we could make something that was this good, this creative. We tried. It was just really hard.
I Smoked Weed and Nobody Died – Another great ad, this one uses pure honesty instead of comedy but I still feel it works really well. By being honest with your viewers and being transparent the message finds its way to the brain without the usual blocks and walls in place, the: ‘this ad is lying to sell something to me’ mentality that most cynics have these days.
Communication – This ad was in a style we didn’t want to pursue, sitting celebs down in front of a camera to have them tell us how to talk to our kids. BUT what I will say is that simply the message, ‘talk to your kids about alcohol’ is a great message that we certainly agreed with; it’s just the treatment that was wrong. A sit down interview with B-Grade Australian celebrities isn’t going to convince anyone.
Superhero – Know your limits – This ad had a treatment that used fear and shock/spectacle to illicit a response. I don’t think we wanted to use fear and shock but I did like the way the message was revealed; magic realism when the bubble bursts.
No Brainer – No brains. No message. No good. No brainer.
Pressure - See No Brainer.
A look at the effects of Underage Drinking – This is our absolutely bottom of the barrel advertisement. You know it, it’s the ad that has soft violin underneath while hard hitting (read: boring) facts are displayed on the screen in slow motion, with no voice over, no real information, no hook and just dribble. We really wanted to stray away from this style, trouble was our community thought that it was really hard hitting (!) They were only fifteen and after some discussion about why this sort of thing isn’t persuasive at all and isn’t even really media had them back on our Ghost Chips train.
We also did some ‘dry’ research to discover whether people reacted well to ads that appealed to their sense of guilt and shame or not. Turns out they don’t. Seems that it’s too painful for most people to identify with shameful alcoholic losers. You don’t say?
So we thought humour would be the way to go, ‘you catch more flies with honey than vinegar’ as the saying goes. So we developed a few concepts for the TVC (which was still very difficult despite having done the research; you don’t become the next Don Draper just by watching Mad Men) and ended up shooting a test piece called ‘Reverse Vomit Man’ (as a side note, years later I finally came up with the slogan for this TVC that is the one you now see below).
The research and development phase of this project meant that although we were initially unequipped to tackle the task, we eventually found ourselves understanding enough content and information to make learned decisions about the project, and most importantly to convince the community that they were in safe hands. We brought the collected ads and our test piece with us to Leeton and used them to explain to the community what works best and what doesn’t.
Another project that was heavily influenced by the RnD phase was one of our most recent projects, ‘When Does the Light Turn On?’ made in conjunction with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and Federation Square. The project was to be a heady cocktail of poetry, dance, special effects and unique artistry merged together under the banner of film. We had absolutely no idea what we meant by that, but we were about to find out.
After identifying some of our key themes (race, power, light and shadow) we once again set out across the digital savannah to find great examples of similar works. We immediately found that in the world of light painting or face morphing techno artists, we were perhaps a little behind the curve. We had to play to our strengths.
Examples of light painting:
Painting with Wi-Fi
Making of hologram sections light painting app
Another light painting app
Water light graffiti
after effects tutorial very excellent
Michael Reynaud - Amalgamation
projecting on faces
After some bizarre experimentation and development involving digitally stitching our co-workers faces together (no kidding, see below) we decided that straight up camera effects might be the best way to use our skillset and still create an enigmatic and interesting visual tapestry.
In the end, we relied heavily on the use of slow motion photography, capturing people’s pure emotional reactions to their own stories and understandings of race and power. We found that a smile or a tear captured at super slow motion tugged at our heartstrings in a powerful way.
‘Pre-Production’ is where you start to devise some more of the specifics about your project. No longer in the world of amorphous maybes, or will we/won’t we type discussions, pre-production is your chance to start planning and getting your ideas down on paper.