On the weekend of the 31st May myself and director Thomas Patrick made our way down to Kent to join the London Short Film Festival for their Down on the Farm Event. 3 days of networking and talks about short filmmaking, digital distribution, crowd funding and producing meant that by the end of it everyone was well and truly knackered! It was also my first experience sleeping in a tent - which isn't something I am going to repeat in a hurry.
Filmmakers on a Farm
If you didn't attend this time around I suggest you make a note in your diary for next years event. It is so rare for filmmakers to get together and have access to the speakers, writers and directors who attended. Polly Stokes, Development Editor at Channel 4, spoke about producing her debut feature 'For those in Peril' at this years Cannes Film Festival. As Candle & Bell makes its first strides to producing Thomas Patrick's debut feature, her insight and advice was invaluable. Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, the stars of Sightseers, were also in attendance and spoke honestly about their own artistic struggles in the past.
With more and more companies in the business world becoming more adventurous and experimental in their approach to online and traditional advertising, it wasn't hard to understand why so many filmmakers on the farm had extensive experience in the field of advertising. The short film form and advert present many similar challenges to filmmakers: how to condense story into a short amount of time? what visual aesthetics best sell an idea to an audience?
What have short films got to do with Commercials?
I am not a fan of traditional adverts - you know the kind that talk to you like you're somehow inadequate if you don't buy a product or can't afford the latest trend. To be blunt: they annoy me and I do all I can to mute, skip or block them from my social networks or television viewing. However there are some commercials I could watch over and over because they feel like and usually are artistically crafted stories that aren't trying to guilt me into buying this that and the other. Established brands like Chanel No. 5, BMW and Audi are recent examples of companies willing to take a risk and sell their products through cinematic - style story telling.
When in Chanel no.5's commercial staring Nicole Kidman appeared in 2005, the Chanel PR machine proclaimed that it wasn't a commercial at all, rather it was short film because it was directed by Baz Lurhmann and Mr. Lurhman "doesn't do adverts". Chanel also argued that it was a "creative first" that would revolutionise advertising. With a budget of £18 million it is, as you'd expect, quite a different animal from your run of the mill carpet warehouse style adverts.
One of my favourite examples of using a short film format and online media is the Dior website. Following Oscar Winning actress Marion Cotillard, 5 films- The Lady Noire Affair, Lady Grey, Lady Blue, Lady Rouge and L.A. by Dior - were produced (directed by some of Hollywood's finest of course) and distributed on-line.
It is now an accepted and relatively unchallenged idea that the purpose of an advert is sell something in 30 seconds. Audiences are bombarded with information and images that someone somewhere decided would be the best way to capture a person's attention. I'm of a different school of thinking. Make something interesting and creative. Push the boundaries of convention and capture a person's imagination. Selling doesn't have to be so prescriptive. Take Shape shifter for example. How many times do you see a car? And yet the experience is so enjoyable and so refreshing that you are excited about the car. Advertising is no longer confined to that 30 second slot on television. You can have long form adverts or video sites where you have the time and space to advertise your product the way you want to. Commercials once again have the power to engage audiences.