Our Co-Founder and Creative Director Phil Hurrell was invited to join this year’s Film Craft jury at Cannes Lions. We asked Phil about his experiences as a judge and to share his insights about why the winning creative work stood out to the panel.
It was an inspirational and rewarding experience being part of the Film Craft jury at Cannes Lions 2022. I have been to Cannes many times over my career but for the first time I was able to fully immerse myself in the international creativity showcased at the festival.
I’ve been a judge at other awards but nothing could prepare me for the intensity of judging at Cannes Lions. In the weeks leading up to the festival I spent a lot of time intently watching and thinking about the craft and purpose of the entries in the film craft categories. Assessing trends without seeing the progression of the campaigns is considerably tougher than you think. I was blown away by the breadth of media used to showcase commercial spots, it’s not just about the 30” ad anymore.
Advertisers now have the scope to create films of any length. Very few entries were the standard 30 seconds, so many were 1-2 or 3-4 minutes and many were longer. The traditional 30 second format requires a certain skill, to convey your message effectively but the opportunity in a longer piece gives space to breathe and to develop a story, build emotion, and take an audience on a journey that draws them in. In an age where clients are asking for short-attention span 5 second social media spots, the entries that shone through were full and lengthy sequences with strong story progression. It was very pleasing to see.
The Film Craft category is an enviable jury to be on. In total we had over 20 categories to judge individual spots from direction, cinematography, original music, licensed music, sound design, grading, visual effects, animation, script, casting and more. There was a richness of entries from all over the world and the craft of storytelling really highlighted stories that can truly move your emotions. One entry told the story of surfers noticing the destruction of kelp forests in the ocean and their collaboration to save it. I felt compelled to visit their website and donate to plant hundreds of sea trees to support this vital ecosystem – if that’s not good storytelling, then what is. There were beautiful films from India, rich in texture, which were deeply heart-rending and compelling. America proved to be a powerhouse for epic film-making and so much exemplary work came from Europe, the UK, South America and Africa.
The piece that impressed me most was a film called The Wish, it literally had the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. Unassuming in its single location, it starts in a familiar and innocuous way. The film excels in so many areas of craft that elevates an idea to a truly memorable piece of work. If advertising is looking for effectiveness, then this film has it in bundles. The casting is perfection, the excellent performance that the director has teased out of the actors, the genius use of a recomposition of Bon Jovi’s ‘It’s My Life’ (yes, really), all guiding this emotional play almost as if I was watching a choreographed theatre performance with the set transforming in front of my eyes. I have studied it so many times, argued its virtues and it still gets me each time and I’m delighted that my fellow jurors felt the same. Naoko (a prolific director from Tokyo) hit the nail on the head when she said that she could “feel” the director’s touch in every aspect of the film.
After the judging was over it was time to soak up the festival, I managed to attend many varied sessions. One that really stood out for me was by self-confessed commercials fan and chief creative officer at MNTN, Ryan Reynolds. Getting in was a nightmare – it was a packed auditorium – I wonder why…
Don’t laugh too much, but I really identify with Ryan Reynolds, his philosophy about using humour to make ads or films memorable and enjoyable is how I’ve always felt about many projects I‘ve worked on. Surprise or juxtaposition too can have a similar effect but the overuse of sincerity makes for a cold experience. Humour, for example, can add a touch point for so many people and if you can achieve that, you start to craft a piece that people engage with.
Reynolds’ approach to speed sits well with me too, the idea that you need to respond to what people are talking about now; it’s pointless to sit on an idea for 6-9 months and then go ahead and make it over the next 2-3. You’ll have missed the boat. He also touched on the constant issue we face about not having enough time and money to achieve the best creativity, however, Reynolds rightly pointed out that with too much time and money, creativity dies. He was spot on when he said that when you take a topical idea, a great script, and add production, you have a gem.
His ambition to seek out the stories of the future really struck a chord with me, as often industries tend to repeat what’s been successful in the past. We hear of ‘formulaic’ film-making..but there is a diverse world out there of new and innovative ideas from multiple communities and backgrounds. And surely the source of those new stories is in the inclusion of diverse sources from all communities.
All in all this year was really special. Often the perception of Cannes is the ridiculous partying and rosé-sipping at one of the hotels, but it’s really about sharing ideas, connecting over creativity and taking new ideas home to put into practice. But the rosé is great…