When Cinema Meets Corporate & Commercial Video
“Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.” ― Robert McKee
Last year we were approached by Sky TV to gauge our interest in producing television commercials. At this stage, we had made the decision to take Trett Films forward and develop it a full-time profession. I was still balancing Trett Films work with a managerial position at another company. We expressed our interest but wanted to stay true to what we sought Trett Films to become.
We were not passionate about creating ‘BOGOF’ style commercials that clients often ask for. This isn’t to say we will never create this type of content, or even lack the capability of making it, but are in the process of branding Trett Films as cinematic storytellers – we want to use the Sky Adsmart platforms to bring our story-driven content to live.
A project for Norfolk County Council, the ad aimed to encourage adoption in the area whilst ‘myth-busting’ false assumptions about the process. We spent several nights putting together a keynote; crafting a story point-by-point that ‘tugged on the heartstrings’ while also ticking boxes in the client brief. We studied previously provided adoption adverts and decided what we felt worked, what didn’t.
We were limited to thirty seconds to tell our story – we had to break down the story in very basic steps. We had to think about character journeys and developments as well as their obtaining or discovering. It was important to keep the pace, all within the time limit.
The quality of a good story comes from the script. It’s vital that a quality script has been finalised before cameras ever start rolling. If you’ve ever watched a film and thought the pacing was off, questions were left unanswered or you just generally didn’t enjoy it, it’s likely the script was unfinished, rushed into production or just poorly written. The saying goes ‘you can make a bad movie from a good script but you can’t make a good movie from a bad script’.
At university I studied Film and Moving Image Production, opting to place a big focus on narrative and documentary filmmaking, refined by a particular interest, in theory, genre and technical ability. There are courses that offer a more ‘production company’ approach to the curriculum but these were not available when I was assessing my options. While running Trett Films as a corporate and commercial company has been a dream since high school whilst continuing to run is as a side-hustle throughout college and university, there had always been a sense of disapproval when chasing something that could be deemed ‘sell-out’ when all those around you are fantasising about becoming the next Mike Leigh. However, our whole stance at Trett Films is changing the corporate video scene. By taking the writing and directing techniques I learned at university and applying them to videos that are normally unengaging and uninteresting, I felt we could offer something unique and personal. With the rise and accessibility of technology, there is certainly a lot more noise in the videographer scene than ever before. Attractive looking shots aren’t enough anymore – story will trump production value and time again.
One of my favourite films is Kevin Smith’s Clerks. Smith made the feature at the age of 23 as a film school dropout. Clerks was funded with maxed-out credit cards and was filmed during night shoots in a convenience store where the director worked at the time. Despite obvious low production values – they filmed in black and white as they lacked the resources to light effectively for day time– the film found its audience, launched Smith’s career and still has an avid fan following to this day. The creative restraints give the film it’s own unique aesthetic and never distract from the plot or characters.
Having said that, I am not disregarding the importance of production value or cinematography – both are vital to the formula at Trett Films. However, it’s having the skill to be able to marry all the ingredients together and create a genuine piece of engaging content that will set you apart. Constant communication and planning over how these fit together should never be overlooked, as they feed into each other. As much as we focus on storytelling, we enjoy exploring the possibilities of the latest technology, colour grading, sound design and the use of music. We don’t see these as excuses to show off what's in our utility belt but as essential tools to create stories.
Content which uses cinematic language and storytelling techniques helps videos and commercials stand out in the crowd that does nothing but sell on the surface. Companies with open minds, that are willing to take a risk in marketing and work on building trustworthy relationships with their customers, are going to have more strength in the long game.