The Psychology of Film
It won’t surprise you to hear that we – the team at a film production company – love making films!
But it’s not just the films themselves; the films we deliver are the final manifestation of the process that drives us, and we love the process.
We love getting stuck into every aspect of filmmaking, from ideation to delivery, mulling over creative concepts and getting to integrate the latest filming/ editing tech to bring the ideas to life – but there’s more to it still.
At its heart, the thing that drives us is the story, because we’re storytellers – and it’s key to how we’ve become one of the leading producers of high-quality learning content for clients around the world.
Our Learning Philosophy
When we started out over 30 years ago, far too many corporate films were drab, uninspiring, and – worst of all – ineffective.
We believed in the power of film to communicate ideas in engaging ways, but also in the vast creative opportunities available – and that employees deserve better than what they were being served up.
We adopted a philosophy that put the audience first: to make internal training and communications content that were as good as the stuff you see on TV and in the cinema – because it was more than possible. Suffice to say, it’s served us well ever since!
We’ve honed our craft over the subsequent decades. We know how to use film to tell stories that successfully change behaviour within organisations: to prepare them for significant change, introduce new procedures and technology, and show them how to conduct themselves in an ever-evolving world.
We also apply this same insight to learning, combining the power of film with the latest technology and thinking – and it’s allowing us to deliver exceptional results.
Given the chance to prove our insights generate results – and they do, as we’ll discuss later – we’ve created a band of loyal clients, senior learning leaders such as BT, HSBC, Network Rail, and many more.
No matter the film we produce, whether it’s a drama, a talking-heads piece, or learning content, we’re telling stories and using film to drive them home…
…because stories are integral to the human experience, personal and communal, and film is one of the most powerful storytelling mediums available to us today.
The question is:
Well, we’re glad you asked – because it’s core to what we do and how we do it!
The Neuroscience of Behaviour
Simply put, there’s science behind everything – and storytelling is no different.
We believe storytelling is how to drive behaviour change because the human brain encodes experiences as ‘event models’.
When we’re in a situation where the choice is an unfamiliar one, our brain scours through the memory banks to find an event model that comes close. It then uses that model to help us plan for what will happen next based on the choices we could make – with all that occurring at the subconscious level in the space of a nanosecond.
(Brains really are incredible things.)
Where it gets even more fascinating is that neuroscientists can’t find any difference in how our brain encodes lived experiences versus the stories we’re told. We use stories to help make sense of the chaos around us without necessarily having to live something in real life for our brain to process responses to them when something similar happens in future.
Indeed, psychology research suggests that ‘facts are 20 times more likely to be remembered if they’re part of a story.’
When you take a moment to think about that, it’s quite astonishing!
It’s why the stories we learn in childhood are so crucial to helping shape our morals and our worldviews, and why humanity places such stock in fables and parables as a learning tool.
They work as templates for real life: the more emotive the story, the more potent it is, and the easier it is to recall from memory.
Knowing how important stories are, how do we use them to help change behaviour through learning content?
Changing Behaviour, Making Change Stick
Behaviour, and promoting behaviour change, is a fascinating process, but we think there’s a golden rule: telling is overrated.
You can probably think of discussions and debates you’ve had that left both sides unmoved, unchanged. Simply telling someone how to behave rarely leads to the desired change nor does providing a rational argument for a course of action.
We measure our behaviours and beliefs by assessing them in comparison to those around us. By showing the learner how behaviour fits in, or doesn’t, we can create a template for them to follow.
It’s why we’re passionate advocates of showing rather than telling – we seek to use the power of film to role-model the behaviour our clients want to see or by showing the consequences of poor decisions in credible ways.
The key is to make sure the experience isn’t reduced to that of a passive watcher. Whether the film is for a round-table discussion or an online course, effective learning content actively builds in decision points, dilemmas, moments when characters ask for guidance, wrapping interaction around the stories. It’s about closing the gap between learner and behaviour, immersing them in the world we want them to inhabit – and the behaviours we want them to take away from the experience.
By reaching out to learners as human beings and affecting them emotionally, we’re able to raise the stakes. This is innovation in action, and our approach here is rewriting what clients expect from learning. By putting the learner’s experience at the heart of everything we do, we’re disrupting, creating new and better opportunities, and helping to raise the bar in Learning for everyone.
Why Does Film Work?
There’s a quote we like that gets to the heart of what makes storytelling so key to the human experience:
‘Around 150,000 years ago, we passed down the rules, values, and beliefs of the tribe, which held it together. We sat in front of the campfire telling stories, with the flickering images: the first movie theatre. That experience allowed the tribe to work together, to outsmart their prey, become successful and climb up the food chain.’
(Peter Guber, American business executive)
Our experience of sharing stories has always drawn on imagery and emotion – and that’s what makes film so powerful, because it’s the ideal visual, emotional medium.
Film sticks in our brains. It changes the way we see the world – and so lends itself to being incredibly useful as a learning tool for promoting positive behaviour change.
Film’s a great leveller too. We’re at point in in the journey of humanity where everyone is familiar with film. Young and old alike can relate to it regardless of background or ability, making it a brilliant medium for exploring complex ideas and showcasing new ways of looking at the world.
Using film as a learning tool allows you to build familiarity and trust through what you’re depicting. As a learning instructor, you want to present situations that ring true with the learner, that feel authentic and realistic, so their focus isn’t on trying to believe the situation.
You don’t want them to have to suspend disbelief, but rather be able to focus all their attention on immersing themselves in the situation being portrayed, and understand the actions and responses as a result.
Of course, we’ll talk with great confidence about our work and its effectiveness, but it always helps to have some stats to back us up, so we work with our clients to continually assess the effectiveness of the learning content we deliver. One of the most significant measures of success we’ve found is by comparing courses with and without films – and the results are telling.
We collaborated with a client on an in-house course, providing several film stories and case studies to enhance the user experience.
A highly data-driven organisation, the client undertook a round of A/B testing, with 2,000 pilot learners being randomly assigned the course with the case studies in text outline only or in film.
The comparison of the feedback between the two group was striking:
Learners were asked to rate the relevance of the course to their role: both scored 90%.
The learner’s view of the course’s effectiveness jumped from 87% for the no-film version to 98% with the films added, and engagement scores went from 85% to 93%.
Good results, but perhaps to be expected.
The statistic that stopped us in our tracks was that 55% of learners found the shorter course without film to be the right length. For the version including our films, with a duration increased by 10 minutes, the percentage of people who said it was the right length increased to 92%.
On top of this, the Net Promoter Score for the non-film version in the pilot is +22. Now that the course is live with film, its NPS is above +70.
Need we say more?
Our Work in Action
We believe we’ve made a compelling case above for why film is an ideal learning tool, how we integrate our in-depth knowledge of the neuroscience of learning, and how we draw on our expertise as filmmakers to create engaging, effective learning content.
We’d happily continue to talk shop all day, but we’re not ones for just talking the talk, we walk the walk too – so what better way to end than showcasing a few examples of our work in action?
We hope you enjoy exploring the content below, and if you’re looking to create similar learning content for your own organisation, please get in touch – we’d love to chat!
OpenReach: Is It OK?
Openreach look after the fibres, wires, and cables that connect the whole of the UK. They work on behalf of over 620 service providers to maintain the local access network that’s available to 31.8 million customers, supporting 300 million telephone calls and 350 million Internet connections every day.
This project looked to revamp the annual compliance training that every field engineer must complete. The old annual training took half a day and was un-engaging and unpopular – the 2018 basic compliance mandatory training was a 19-page, 7,000 word document which learners were supposed to read. Suffice to say, it wasn’t overly popular…
Our brief was to provide a breath of fresh air and bring 22 topics to life – everything from how to introduce yourself to customers, to conflicts of interest, data protection, disposal of hazardous waste, physical security and diversity. We had to make it engaging, relevant and make it all fit inside 45 minutes.
Videos form the heart of the learning programme so we wanted to make them fresh, relatable, authentic, and surprising. Variety was a high priority too, as the course proceeds at such a pace that it was important to engage learners in different ways as it unfolded.
The feedback and approval scores for the course were unprecedented, and it directly and measurably affected engineers’ behaviour positively.
One key message in the course is about how engineers must report any instances of being offered cash by customers as thankyous or to persuade them to do extra work. Comparing the four months after the course launch with the same period before it, reports went up 400%.
To top it off, BT’s Ethics and Compliance Learning Specialist appeared on an industry webcast recently and told the host that the course saved approximately seven hours training time per engineer per year – equating to roughly £1.9m – and reduced the amount of travel time by 90%!
The course was so successful that we’ve now been engaged to deliver sister courses for the entire cadre of managers in the BT Group.
Openreach: Workplace Violence
Openreach asked us to look at how their Safety Training could be made more impactful so that critical messages stick with their engineers.
Workplace Violence is sadly a very real issue at Openreach. Engineers can be subject to abuse and violence from members of the public and customers. We needed to avoid blaming engineers but help them see how much difference their behaviour and body language could make in these situations.
Commissioned pre-pandemic, violence has since become significantly worse, with increased stress levels, growing importance of Broadband, and 5G conspiracy theories unfortunately adding to the mix.
Early indications on our story rich approach are promising: ‘the best training we’ve ever had’ and ‘one of the best CBTs I’ve ever seen’.
The two Openreach safety leads who were asked to sign off the course said:
‘Love it. Can we get this scheduled to all our people field people ASAP.’
‘Seen it, completed it myself. Love it. Service Delivery are super keen to have this available for completion ASAP. We had an all manager call today and flagged this specific course given all the issues with 5G activists at present. Please get this scheduled to engineers and managers as promptly as possible so we can start to work through it’
- GOLD: EVCOM London Film Awards – Learning & Development
- GOLD: EVCOM London Film Awards – Internal Communications
- SILVER: New York Festivals – Employee Engagement
- BRONZE: New York Festivals – Attitudinal Training
WARNING: CONTAINS EXTREMELY STRONG LANGUAGE
PwC: Ethics & Compliance
Our relationship with PwC is nearly two decades old and is still going from strength to strength.
We’ve been delivering Ethics & Compliance learning to PwC for 15 years, including an Unconscious Bias course in 2010 that was given the Chairman’s Award – the highest internal honour that a project can receive!
Current projects include Annual Global Risk training offered to 157 local PwC firms worldwide, but our excellent relationship extends far beyond risk training too. We’ve delivered ground-breaking work on Sexual Harassment & Respect and content relating to PwC’s response to #BlackLivesMatter.
We recently delivered a huge project that revamped four 1hr-long business simulations on the development of digital skills. The project involved ideation, scripting, film production, eLearning production, and translation into thirteen languages. The timescale was punishing, and we worked in perfect partnership with an international client team to deliver on time, on budget, and beyond the client’s quality expectations.
Due to confidentiality relating to internal measures at PwC regarding Risk & Compliance, as with many other clients, we cannot show specific content from the courses, but the trailer below gives you a flavour of the quality of content we produce for PwC, and other clients, as part of their internal Risk & Compliance programmes’ etc.
Network Rail: Lifesaving Rules
Network Rail required a suite of films to raise awareness of their key Lifesaving Rules, such as new rules barring people from using mobile devices, even hands-free, while driving, or trackside safety procedures.
By showing the potential consequences of contravening the rules, the series aims to get inside people’s heads and make them understand how dangerous these behaviours can be and the devastating consequences that can happen to themselves and others.
The impact that the films had within the organisation was enormous and wide-reaching, and we’re honoured to have also received multiple external awards in recognition of the series:
- GRAND PRIX AWARD – EVCOM London Film Awards
- GOLD – EVCOM London Film Awards, Script
- 2 x SILVER – EVCOM London Film Awards, Animation & Health & Safety
- 2 x GOLD – New York Festivals, Film Productions & Industrial Productions
- SILVER – Cannes Film & TV Awards, Internal Communications
Get in touch to see how we can work together firstname.lastname@example.org