Edge Updates

Forms of Storytelling in Film

We’re all shaped by stories: we love telling them, we love reading them – and filmmaking is an incredibly powerful tool for sharing them.

Film is also an incredibly diverse medium. It’s home to a variety of methods, all bursting with potential, which can help tell any story, whether you’re an independent filmmaker, a major Hollywood studio, or indeed a corporate film company. (Luckily for us!)

As such, we treat every film we make as telling a story, whether it’s a 10-min health & safety documentary or a 30-sec product launch. For us, it’s all about turning your key message(s) into a film that’s effective, memorable, and stays with the viewer long after the final frame.

With this in mind, we wanted to explore the different styles that help film producers like us tell stories in the world of corporate film. We’ve also included examples to show the diversity within each style – you might be surprised at the possibilities….

Drama

 

Right out the gate, we’ll kick off with a favourite: Drama.

Of course, we love all styles of film, but there’s nothing quite like a good drama – it’s very much chef’s-kiss territory for us. The whole process gets our juices flowing: the scripting, the pre-production, putting the set together, the tension of filming, seeing it all come together in the edit, the audience’s reaction… we live for it.

Dramas are demanding productions in terms of input (money, time, logistics), but as it’s said, you get out what you put in – and great dramas reap great returns.

It’s a very versatile format, but generally speaking, the core of any great drama is a strong script, a production team run like a tight ship, a fantastic director, and talented actors. (The Edge in a nutshell!)

Dramas are also one of the most recognisable forms of storytelling available to us. This familiarity helps make them a great addition within any campaign, whether as the centrepiece of a campaign launch or as a supporting element within the wider framework.

If it’s the right route for your project and you have the budget available, we feel you can’t do much better than choose the drama approach.

Possible Uses: Health & Safety, Training, Charity, Diversity & Inclusion, Internal Comms, External Comms, Brand

Pros:

  • Familiar format ideal for evoking emotion, engaging, persuading, creating context, entertaining
  • Your audiences will feel like they’re watching a short movie & are likely to engage
  • Whatever your message, drama can bring it to life and help make it stick well after the final credits

Cons:

  • Generally speaking, one of the more expensive forms of production
  • Can be time-consuming depending on complexity of production e.g. required number of locations, actors etc.
  • If language is a barrier, you may lose some of the nuances through subtitles

 

Network Rail – Crossing Over

 

Shelter – Louise’s Story

 

Stock Footage

 

Stock footage, aka. B-roll / purchased/ library footage, can be the answer to your needs if getting out on set is not an option.

It can also be a cost-effective & time-efficient solution if you have a strong overarching message that can be told through voiceover, graphics, or subtitles, and the footage requirements can be generic in nature – especially if you’ve got an urgent deadline and need something simple produced with a fairly short turnaround.

Stock libraries have worked hard to enhance the quality and range of their content in recent years, meaning there’s plenty of material available to create something from the comfort of an edit suite without having to leave your office.

The main caveats here are that creativity can be limited by having to work with pre-existing material shot without any specific purpose in mind. Library footage is generic by nature, so if you need something authentic/bespoke, it may not be the right option. Costs are also dependent on where the footage is sourced from and the specifics of the footage sourced.

It can also be used to supplement a film, blending the bespoke with stock footage to create something no less effective and memorable than other approaches.

Stock footage lends itself to some requirements more than others, but always presents great options for maximising your budget (whatever its range) and telling your story.

Possible Uses: Internal Comms, Training, Interviews, Brand, Product/Service Showcase

Pros:

  • Works well in a pandemic – no one leaves their computer!
  • Fast turnaround if you’re time-poor
  • Great for supporting strong messages/scripts, e.g. using generic shots of colleagues in an office environment
  • Environmentally friendly – no travelling to different locations required, internationally or locally
  • Can be budget-friendly if your film brief is extensive
  • Wide availability of industry-specific footage that may be difficult to film, e.g. agriculture, perhaps the crops available to film aren’t the ones required or perhaps the seasons aren’t right to film at the time
  • Can help you obtain ‘that shot’ you don’t have the time or resources to acquire otherwise
  • Can fill gaps in your film & help give clarity to the story

Cons:

    • Unique shots can be expensive; if budget is limited, the film could end up looking very generic
    • If you have a unique product/ message/ offering that needs said uniqueness emphasised, this probably isn’t the best option!
    • Films composed solely of generic stock footage can lack authenticity
    • Different shots can vary drastically; an over-arching visual style is needed to bring a film together, and this can be difficult using stock footage alone
    • Always the possibility that a competitor could purchase the same shots!

 

Curious – CWT Brand Film

 

Deloitte – Impact Awards

 

Nokia – 150th Anniversary

 

Animation

 

We love making animations – the creative possibilities for storytelling are truly endless.

Animations have previously had a perception of being a back-up or a simple, cheap solution to live filming – but the reality is that animation is as fine an art as any other we have available. Depending on the level, detail, and amount of animation required, it can be as labour-intensive and expensive as any other production, or it can be as compact and cost-effective as any other; quite simply, the content is key.

A skilled animator can create a whole new world, using graphics within which virtually anything can happen. As every animation is unique and constructed from the ground up, we have complete creative control about what to create or incorporate.

We can integrate external content such as stills and video, create elements that interact with the animated world around it, or design the graphic environment to be totally aligned to your brand identity. We can even create elements that don’t exist in the real world yet; we’re mainly thinking about new offices or products, but if you want a unicorn wearing cowboy boots sat a desk outside the Sydney Opera House, we can do that too. (It may be pertinent to ask why you want said Australian unicorn cowboy, but that’s another matter.)

Simply put, if you want to bring a topic to life – perhaps with a unique user experience which simplifies complex information while staying true to your brand – animation is a great option for telling that story.

Possible Uses: Product Explainers, Product Launches, Training, Health & Safety, Promotional, How-To’s.

Pros:

  • Almost infinite creative possibilities – if you can imagine it, we can create it (even unicorns)
  • You can showcase offices / products that don’t physically exist yet
  • Visuals can be tailored exactly to your message
  • Everything on screen can be on brand
  • Can be cheaper than live-action and faster to produce
  • Complex information can be conveyed easily
  • Animations are engaging, entertaining & memorable – if done right!
  • Tough subjects can be tackled head on, still employing emotion, but a little removed from reality

Cons:

  • Lack of the human presence may not work so well in certain situations e.g. CEO’s message to the company during a tough time
  • If you really need to engage emotionally & you are asking the audience to connect – you may need to employ some more realism

 

BITC, The Missing Million

 

Syngenta, Good Growth Plan

 

MTR, Don’t Walk By

 

Immersive Storytelling

 

360-degree filming. Augmented Reality. Virtual Reality.

In a nutshell? Immersive storytelling.

Unsurprisingly, we find it all incredibly exciting, and so have been steadily working it into our offering over the last couple of years.

These creative avenues allow for the delivery of a completely different user experience to anything available previously. They let us essentially place the audience inside a film, and – depending on the technical route taken – allow for ranging levels of interaction within the film’s environment.

360-degree filming allows us to create content which allows the user to view the action from entirely different perspectives, previously not possible, making it a great tool for content such as training videos, where you can study a situation from all angles.

Augmented Reality allows us to adapt a real-world environment by incorporating interactive elements that enhance or respond to the environment. (Think of phone apps like Pokemon Go.)

When it comes to Virtual Reality, it’s pretty cutting edge. Some of the technology available isn’t dissimilar to the latest in video game technology, where we are able to create an entirely new environment within which the user can almost fully interact with the projected reality through use of headsets, voice commands, hand-held controllers etc.

Of course, this is a very top-level overview, and we can’t really do justice the full potential and use of such technology in corporate film with just a few short paragraphs! We appreciate that these can easily seem like daunting prospects or flashy gimmicks, but neither are true – it’s simply about establishing where such approaches would be best applied to what you’re looking to deliver.

They are expensive, so we’d advise they only be used where maximum value could be gained, but as with all filmmaking options, the creative approach is essentially the messaging service: the message itself is the most important thing. Content, as always, is key!

Potential Uses: Training, Product Explainers, Experiences

Pros:

  • Training colleagues in real-world scenarios
  • Gives a high level of interaction
  • Allows you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes
  • Enhances mobile experience
  • Showcases products, countries, experiences
  • Give virtual tours

Cons:

  • Costly
  • Time-consuming
  • Require tech/hardware not widely used by most clients
  • Important to ensure substance takes precedence over style – avoid it simply being used as a flash gimmick without serving a clear purpose to communicating the message

 

Qatar Financial Centre – 360

360 Tour of Doha

Interviews

 

Talking-head interviews have been the bedrock of corporate film since as far back as we can remember. They’ve always been an effective method for communicating messages and stories to audiences, so are always worth consideration as a creative option depending on what you need.

A well-constructed interview can affect the viewer in a way few other mediums can; after all, it’s coming from ‘the horse’s mouth’ (or indeed the unicorn, if you’re still that way inclined), and the way a person speaks can add as much value as the words they’re saying. A sincere interviewee with a compelling message can affect an audience through that sense of personal interaction, a demonstrable sense of authenticity, and that indefinable human touch.

This said, a interview film can become dull if it’s not treated properly, so there are a number of factors to consider, e.g. if it’s a conversation, a rallying cry, a serious message, or a lengthy address, but there are ways to supplement the interview where suitable, whether it’s incorporating additional footage, graphics, or captions etc.

Possible Uses: CEO messages, telling real/ personal stories, documentaries

Pros:

  • Adds a sense of realism
  • We see and hear a real person – creating authenticity & transparency
  • Engages audiences
  • Gives senior leaders the opportunity to convey messages in their own words
  • Personal stories can feel genuine and free-flowing

Cons:

  • The interviewees need to be comfortable, relaxed, able to take direction – the wrong choice of interviewee can limit the film’s effectiveness
  • Ideally (with a few exceptions) the content is semi-scripted to allow for the subject matter to ‘breathe’ in a natural, conversational fashion – again, an interviewee who’s comfortable in with and can work in this manner is vital
  • Talking heads can be boring! Bar very few exceptions, the content needs to be visually engaging through use of footage, graphics, captions etc.

 

Deloitte, One Milllion Futures – Moses

 

Amgen, See Life

 

QSTP, Vision

 

User-Generated Content

 

User-Generated Content/UGC is another personal favourite of ours. Indeed, we’d say we’ve been one of the most prominent exponents of UGC in the world of corporate film since its inception – that’s how much we love it.

The joy of UGC is that, by switching roles between audience and producer, it inverts the perception of ‘top-down’, ‘we-know-best’, ‘ivory towers’ communication. As a result, it provides a novel platform allowing for an authentic, more diverse range of voices to be heard: the final audience hearing from ‘their own’.

We like to see it as handing the audience the keys to the car of content creation. The nature of UGC creation is, in itself, a great way to engage the target audience even before the final film is delivered. It gives everyone a hand in the process, and the story of the film’s creation becomes as much a part of the experience as watching the final film.

As with all film styles, UGC is better suited to some requirements than others, such as team-building drives and competitions rather than HSSE dramas. Its unique means of production is also beholden to factors that other solutions don’t have to account for. It requires strategy and planning to ensure you have enough participants to allow for enough content to be created that we have flexibility once we reach the edit suite.

Ultimately, it’s a very cost-effective option as well as being the ultimate remote filming solution, negating the need for studios or external locations: if you have a smart phone/tablet, you can get involved without leaving the house. This makes it ideal for unique, authentic content creation – particularly during the difficult times we’re living in.

Possible Uses: Training, Team-building, Competitions, New Products, Charities, Internal Comms

Pros:

  • Authentic: gives employees a direct opportunity to be involved and have input, and share experiences that are out of the reach of professional film crews
  • Perfect remote filming solution, ideal for challenging times; with expert help and direction, people can shoot incredible, real material which we can use to create personal, genuine films.

Cons:

  • Strategy, planning, and execution is essential: can be time-consuming depending on amount of contributors needed, and need enough material to allow for flexibility to choose best material in the edit
  • Won’t look as polished and professional as material created through standard filming material, but this can also quite easily be a positive!

 

IRC – 8 Asks for the 8th

 

Be The Business, Emerging Stronger

 

 

Documentaries

 

In many ways, the humble documentary is one of the most versatile formats available to us as it allows for the integration of many, if not all, of the other forms that we’ve discussed above. (Hence we left it ‘til last on our list – clever eh? Well, we thought so.)

There isn’t a hard-and-fast rule about how you construct a documentary, which also makes the style a great option for creative storytelling in its own right. The creative process of the final film can be shaped by the story in hand as the production goes on. It can be enhanced and affected by ongoing local and global events in ways other formats cannot: even once you’ve finished the story of the documentary, the story itself continues.

It’s important to note that they are often labour-/time-intensive productions given the nature of the beast. They generally require content obtained from a wide range of sources, e.g. multiple interviewees and/or capturing real-time footage, e.g. time-lapses or accessing restricted locations like heritage sites, all of which can often be spread across a range of locations (local and/or international). Once production’s finished, you’re also likely to need to spend a fair bit of time siphoning through hours and days of content in order to find the best pieces that help bring the story to life.

In short, we love documentaries. They can be time-intensive and fairly costly, but they’re a great option for in-depth storytelling, either in their own right or as part of a wider campaign.

Possible Uses: Landmark / Milestone Celebrations, Health & Safety, Training, Charity, Diversity & Inclusion, Brand, Internal Comms, External Comms

Pros:

  • Popular format familiar to all viewers
  • In-depth explanation of subject matter
  • Allows for authenticity: innately grounded in real world, allows for voices from all across a company / organisation
  • Very flexible, allows for wide range of creative possibilities and incorporation of varied content

Cons:

  • Rarely a quick-fix solution – usually time-intensive to produce
  • Can be costly depending on logistics of required story/messaging, e.g. multiple locations
  • Generally long-form, not suited to time-poor audiences

 

JOUD

AIDS Alliance, Someone’s Mother

 

NHS, Finding Patience

 

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