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  • Originally published on
  • Friday, Dec. 14, 2018
Ad Council's "Rising"
SHOOT’s Picks For The Best Work Of 2018
Mix includes a nearly hour-long Cannes Grand Prix/Gold Lion winner, an Emmy nominee, a Super Bowl spot, and work from promising new directors

With 2018 about to fully enter the proverbial rearview mirror, it’s time for reflection on varied fronts, including assessing what work was among the year’s most worthwhile creatively.

Determining any year’s “best” is a highly subjective proposition so SHOOT staffers looked to at least narrow the field by first culling through our weekly Top Spots as well as our “The Best Work You May Never See” gallery entries throughout 2018. We then added to the field select pieces of work that might have fallen through the cracks and not earned weekly Top Spot (perhaps beaten out by another piece in a given week) or “Best Work” distinction yet which we had covered extensively in other stories during the course of the calendar year.

We also reviewed our quarterly Top Ten Tracks and VFX/Animation charts, ultimately choosing a Top Five from each.

So here are SHOOT’s selections for the Best Work of 2018 divided into Top Spots, The Best Work You May Never See, and our Top Music/Sound Tracks and Top VFX/Animation entries.

Top Spots of the Year
SHOOT has plenty of validation for its pick for the number one content slot of 2018--including a Cannes Health & Wellness Grand Prix and a Cannes Entertainment Gold Lion. These and other honors were bestowed upon Corazón, a John Hillcoat-directed, Serial Pictures-produced 48-minute film about organ donation for Montefiore hospital out of agency JohnXHannes, NY.

Corazón depicts the real-life story of Elena Ramirez (portrayed by Ana de Armas whose credits include Blade Runner 2049 and Hands of Stone), a young Dominican woman living in Santo Domingo who as a sex worker is selling her body to provide for her family--only Ramirez’s body is failing her. She has a bad heart and has been given months to live unless she gets a new heart. After fainting, Elena meets a U.S.-based cardiologist, Dr. Mario Garcia (portrayed by Demian Bichir, an Oscar nominee for A Better Life), who is volunteering in his native hometown of Santo Domingo. Ramirez is past the point of help from conventional medicine, but Dr. Garcia gives her a fighting chance to live via a mechanical heart surgery that he and his colleagues can only perform at Montefiore in the Bronx. Ramirez sets out on a journey from Santo Domingo to New York City, facing challenges along the way, but always motivated by her conviction to live. This is a story of chance, hope, courage, friendship, love and generosity.

Lensed by Oscar-nominated (Arrival) cinematographer Bradford Young, ASC, and scored by Oscar-winning (The Social Network) composer Atticus Ross, Corazón carries a tagline, “Give Your Heart,” which serves as a call to action designed to prompt people to register with Donate Life America, a short process which applicants can initiate by pressing their phones to their hearts. 

The fact that our Top Spot for the year wasn’t even a commercial further underscores the new frontiers that continue to open up in advertising/entertainment content creation. But most importantly, cementing our selection of Corazón is its impact. Director Hillcoat shared, “The last time I checked, the film had initiated 4,000 new organ donors—that’s equivalent to saving or improving 30,000 lives in that one person can donate eight vital organs,” said Hillcoat. “One donor can save eight lives. My hope is that the film continues to gain exposure. I’m proud of the work and what it’s doing.”

A short film with a legacy to live up to rose to SHOOT’s number two position for 2018. The Ad Council’s Rising, a film that’s a powerful extension of the iconic Love Has No Labels campaign from R/GA, debuted last month and figures to be prominent on the awards show circuit in 2019. Rising was directed by Game of Thrones’ David Nutter via Great Guns and written by Lena Waithe--creator of Showtime drama series The Chi and Emmy-winning writer for Master of None--and Azia Squire. The short features the immediate aftermath of a massive storm and challenges viewers to consider why it takes a disaster to bring us together. The film pays tribute to real moments when people from different backgrounds have come together following natural disasters. Rising hopes to encourage all Americans to connect and ultimately inspire people to act inclusively every day.

“We live in a time of tribalism. Rising is a story about shifting the way we communicate,” said director Nutter. “Through this film we want people to go from being defensive of those who are different to accepting and embracing our differences.”

Finishing third is Nike’s Colin Kaepernick-starring “Dream Crazy” which marketing students will likely be studying for some time to come in terms of whether a brand should willingly attach itself to controversy--and if in this case, it made sense or not. A two-minute spot, “Dream Crazy” features star and not so prominent athletes striving to excel. It also touches on the controversy of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and instances of police brutality. Kaepernick was the first player to protest in this manner during NFL games, leading to his, some contend, being banished from playing professional football.

Kaepernick first appears on camera midway through the commercial. As his face is revealed, a reflection of an American flag is visible on a building facade behind him. At the start of the ad, Kaepernick says, “If people say your dreams are crazy, if they laugh at what you think you can do, good. Stay that way because what nonbelievers fail to understand is that calling a dream crazy is not an insult. It’s a compliment.”

He later declares, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Lance Acord, Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki and Christian Weber of Park Pictures directed “Dream Crazy” for Wieden+Kennedy.

Finishing fourth in our 2018 countdown is Procter & Gamble’s “It’s A Tide Ad” for Tide detergent from Saatchi & Saatchi NY. The Tide work in essence hijacked the 2018 Super Bowl telecast by turning seemingly every ad into a Tide commercial. It kicked off with actor David Harbour establishing that whenever the viewer sees clean clothes, it’s a #TideAd. He then appeared six more times in stereotypical Super Bowl ads, send-ups of several infamous past Super Bowl spots, and even as part of the broadcast. #TideAd trended on Twitter immediately, with people even generating their own #TideAd content.

For the Tide campaign, Saatchi turned to directing collective Traktor who at the time was with production company Rattling Stick. Traktor has since signed with Stink for global representation. The centerpiece “It’s A Tide Ad” earned a primetime Emmy Award nomination, marking a stellar year for P&G which won the Emmy for “The Talk” (which debuted in 2017).

Rounding out our Top Five is another piece--which like Rising relative to Love Has No Labels--had a legacy to live up to, albeit one of a bit shorter duration. Last year, BBDO NY turned out the Monica Lewinsky anti-bullying PSA “In Real Life,” which earned a primetime Emmy Award nomination in 2018. The follow-up piece is a candidate for the next awards season conversation--a #DefyTheName PSA which disarms the most common type of bullying behavior, name calling, by featuring an all-star cast acknowledging the hurtful names they were called as young people. We now see them in situations that highlight their success and achievements. 

A supered message read, “These were real names they were called growing up. They didn’t let it define who they became.”

The campaign further encourages supporters to change their display names in social media to include an insult that was used against them as bullies.

“Best Work” gallery
There’s an up-and-coming directorial bent to our best of “The Best Work You May Never See” in 2018. Three of the top five were helmed by filmmakers acknowledged to being among the year’s most promising talent--Caitlin Cronenberg who was covered in SHOOT’s Up-and-Coming Fall Directors Series; Matteo Mosterts who earned a slot in SHOOT’s 2018 New Directors Showcase; and Maya Albanese, who made the final cut for the Commercial Directors Diversity Program (CDDP), a joint venture of the DGA and the AICP. Albanese, Cronenberg and Mosterts took the second, third and fifth place entries, respectively, in our “best of” rundown.

BBDO NY scored first place with its Cure Alzheimer’s Fund PSA “Daughter and Mother” directed by David Shane of O Positive. In the piece, we see a young girl serving as caregiver for her youthful mom. The stress on the youngster is palpable. At one point, the girl frantically searches for her mom who is missing from the house. The pursuit leads the youngster outside in the pouring rain where she finally finds her mom standing in the middle of the street, causing a car to stop.

Then, there is a transformation as the young girl becomes a young woman and her confused, out-of-touch mom is now elderly.

Supered messages appear on screen which read: “You wouldn’t put your daughter through this when she’s young”; “Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen when she’s older”; “Help us find a way to spare your children the devastation of Alzheimer’s.”

Nestling in second place was a Georgia-Pacific spec spot titled “History” in which Albanese introduces us to a gay couple, a high school student with Down syndrome, and an immigrant to the U.S. who each receive a letter in the mail bringing life-changing news. The couple reads that its adoption of a child has been approved. The student is notified that she has been accepted to Syracuse University. And the immigrant is informed that he has been granted permanent residency status in the U.S. 

A supered tagline reads, “History is written on paper. Which is why paper will never be history.”

Albanese has since been signed by production house brother for commercials and branded content in the U.S.; brother was the shop that mentored her as part of her CDDP experience.

Via Untitled Films in Toronto, Cronenberg directed our third place entry, “Oxygen,” for The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada. The :30 shows a woman who’s seemingly in a hospital bed speaking about her illness. Gradually, though, it’s revealed that she’s not in the hospital receiving treatment but rather at home alone dealing with her mental illness. The scenario underscores the campaign mantra “Mental Health is Health,” designed to address the disparity in the way people with mental illness are treated compared to those with a physical illness.

BBDO NY surfaced again in this countdown with a fourth place finish for nonprofit Day One’s Sunshine, a powerful animated short which uncovers the subtle ways young love can turn into pervasive torment. The film shows a budding young love moving from the blissfully early stages of carnival-won stuffed animals and selfies to a gradually more jealous, controlling and abusive rapport. The piece shows in what forms abuse can rear its head in dating, from an aggressive barrage of texts to deliberate physical assaults and everything in between.
Sunshine was directed by Guilherme Marcondes via Lobo, which maintains studios in New York and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

And coming in fifth in our “best of” ranking was Mosterts’ tongue-in-cheek short film Literally in which two adverb patrol officers, members of the grammar police, arrest a hipster for improper use of the word “literally.”

The cinematic comedy short comes at a time when the English language is often butchered to fit into a tweet, when semantics are irrelevant, and when the word “literally” is literally not used correctly. However, it’s not only the hipster in this offbeat Mosterts-conceived world who’s guilty as charged; it seems that the lovable law enforcement officers also grapple with the same language issue.

VFX/Animation
The aforementioned Ad Council’s Rising--with Ntropic as the VFX house--tops our 2018 lineup of VFX/Animation Chart entries.

It is followed by the earlier cited Day One Sunshine animated short from the Lobo studios.

Taking third place is Kia’s Super Bowl spot which helped rocker Steven Tyler to “Feel Something Again,” teaming with director Nicolai Fuglsig of MJZ with The Mill L.A. and agency David&Goliath. Tyler winds up speeding a Kia Stinger in reverse on an abandoned racetrack--with the familiar notes of “Dream On” playing backwards. When he comes to a stop, Tyler is back in the 1970s at the age of 25. With the young rock star now in his prime, a super appears which reads “Feel Something Again.” The 25-year-old version of Tyler was created by the artisans at The Mill LA.

Next up in the fourth slot is Great Western Railway’s “Five and the Missing Jewels” directed by Pete Candeland of L.A.-based Friends Electric for adam&eveDDB London, with animation from Electric Theatre Collective, London. Featuring The Famous Five--a group of adventurous young children and their dog Timmy from the series of novels by English author Enid Blyton--the ad has these youngsters and canine Timmy chasing a scoundrel in the aftermath of a jewel heist.

Finishing fifth is animation studio HouseSpecial’s scripted nature “documentary” short Armor del Amor--a combination of CG and live action--that follows the mating ritual of the nine-handed armadillo. Directed by HouseSpecial’s Kirk Kelley, the tongue-in-cheek story follows the armadillo (a CG character) as she emerges from her burrow in the lonely Texas landscape. HouseSpecial researchers captured footage of the animal’s efforts to find a potential mate until finally, after several ill-fated opportunities, a match is made via a computer dating service.

Music/Sound
The number one entry in this quarter’s Top Ten Tracks Chart also scores the top slot overall for 2018: “Espresso-Wear” for Dunkin’ directed by Brian Billow of O Positive for BBDO NY. The spot unveils a faux line of “Espresso-Wear” fashion which includes Cappu-chinos, Americano-veralls and Latte-nk Tops, which allows people to keep their hands free and their espresso drinks--whether it be a latte, americano or macchiato--close by at all times. Driving the film is a score by Bang Music, New York and Prague, to accompany lyrics penned by Talon Gustafson and Brian Pinkley, associate creative director and sr. art director, respectively, at BBDO NY. Brian Jones served as composer for Bang, with sound design from Sam Shaffer at Mackcut, NY. 

The film opens with a man going about his business. He’s wearing a pair of Cappu-chinos, trousers with two pockets large enough to each accommodate a full cup of Dunkin’ cappuccino. As our protagonist makes his way through town, performing certain tasks and errands, he sings lyrics which include, “Walking around in my Cappu-chinos. Now I can hold my coffee in my clothes. Free to go about my business where I go with my dunkin’ cappuccino in my Cappu-chinos. Doin’ stuff in my Cappu-chinos like fixing my hair and folding clothes. Free to go about my business wherever I go with my Dunkin’ cappuccino in my Cappu-chinos.”

The song then introduces us to similarly functional overalls (Americano-veralls) and a casual pullover shirt (Latte-nk Tops).

Finishing second in our Top Five rundown of 2018 is another BBDO entry, AT&T’s “Bus” directed by Daniel Wolfe via Somesuch and Anonymous Content, with music score and sound design from West L.A.-based Barking Owl. The cinema spot put us aboard a touring bus making its way along a winding mountain thoroughfare. Distracted for a moment, the driver swerves to avoid a broken patch of road, causing the bus to careen until it stops at a precarious perch, half hanging off the mountain.

The foreboding scene then gives way to a musical as passengers croon about getting to the front of the bus to shift their weight to the terra firma side, stabilizing the bus so that it doesn’t fall off the mountain. The fun, whimsical transition from suspense thriller to movie musical underscores the wide swath of entertainment that AT&T can provide through its range of services. 

Yessian Music, Hamburg, settled into the year’s number three slot with Mercedes-Benz’s “Stronger Than Time” directed by Ole Peters of Sehsucht, Hamburg, for Berlin agency antoni. The CG/live-action piece takes us through a wild ride in time tracking the legacy and evolution of the Mercedes-Benz G-Glass, right up to its newest iteration. Yessian handled both music and sound design.

Q Department provided re-orchestration and re-mastering as well as sound design for our fourth place entry: Chase’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” featuring tennis star Serena Williams, with storyline and creative spirit driven by LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out.” Martin de Thurah of Epoch Films directed for Droga5 NY.

And rounding out the Top Five was FedEx’s “Tortoise & the Hare,” a tug-at-the-heartstrings spot scored by Beacon Street Studios, Venice, Calif., with sound design from Sound Lounge, NY, and bicoastal Work Editorial. Noam Murro of Biscuit Filmworks directed for BBDO NY.

See the Best Work of 2018 here. ​

See the Top Five Music Tracks here.

See the Top Five for VFX/Animation here.

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