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Stuck for Ideas...

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Simon RoughanStuck for Ideas...
by on Jan 31, 2012 at 12:43:20 pm

I don't really know if this is the right forum, but I'm sure I've seen similar posts here in the past, so I'll give it a go.
I've hit a wall. I'm a commercial producer and I have a customer whos a regional transport company (buses, city trains etc). They want a 30-40 second spot produced. The customers brief was so undefined, I don't know where to start. They used those hated cliches like "Young", "Fresh", and "Dynamic", that a customer parrots when they don't know quite what look they want. When you ask for a defination in such circumstances, usually they are at a loss. I was waiting for the words "Pro-active" and "edgy", then I would of had a good excuse to lean over and slap him. But anyhoo...
The spot must show the cleanliness, the punctuality, good mannered and helpful passengers, and safety of riding with this company. In 30 seconds. With a budget of around €10,000. They also want it as a cinema spot, and to play at business meetings, trade fairs etc. And the want it witty. And fresh. And young. And Dynamic.
Has anyone got any good public transport anecdotes, or ideas that might translate into a spot?
that would be great. Usually I'm pretty good at this sort of thing. Maybe it's because my dealer is on vacation...

(just kidding).

Cheers and thanks for any help.

PS. Is there a forum for idea swapping, or some sort of creative help? Perhaps, Mr. Lindeboom, it is not such a bad idea?

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Mark SuszkoRe: Stuck for Ideas...
by on Jan 31, 2012 at 3:19:33 pm

I think I get it. They want it "hipstery".

A couple of means to do this:

Kinetic-type-based spot, with bits of still or rotoscoped live action footage added in here and there. This will give a "clean" and "sharp" look, with minimal shooting costs as it's all done up in post, mostly AfterEffects compositing and animation. Re-rendering the AE file for a film-out for cinema playing is easier than up-rezzing live footage, I suspect.

A hipstery time-lapse or stop-motion animation effect, shooting your live scenes with this kind of temporal discontinuity grabs the eye well and reads as "avant-garde". You can do this out on locations,and/ or in a studio setting, with animated 3-d props or simple hand-drawn animated backgrounds behind live actors, maybe some green screen work. Amazon Kindle did a spot like this, you could look that up for hints on the look.

You can do the animated photoshop layers thing that was done so well in "The Kid Stays In The Picture". Or, see if you can rent the movie: Source Code", and look at the happy ending freeze-frame scene on the train in the last 20 minutes. This might be combined with floating text bits such as used in the movie: "Stranger Than Fiction". The camera floats around the inside of the train car or bus interior, each of the frozen passengers has a story, the text conveys some of that story, as well as a disguised selling point. Like: shot of Mom and daughter in bus seat, text floating says: "saving the cost of a car, the girls will see three museums today. And many, many shoes."

Or how about focusing on the ticket; the driver/conductor hands you a ticket, the XCU camera shot lets you read it: "ANYWHERE". Subsequent tickets spell out distinct experiences instead of locations: "The birthday party", The footy matches", "Mom's place for the weeklend", "That new pair of heels", "Lobster and wine after the show".

The look is just one part of the spot: for it to work, it still has to tell an entertaining story and tell it well, in a handful of seconds. So work out the underlying "story" that goes on while a narrator drones on with script points. Storyboard it out in pre-vis, and get that approved first. You should be able to get the gist even if the sound is off. Indeed, you might try a spot with NO voiceover or dialogue, just music and sound effects, to make people notice something's changed on the TV they're not paying attention to.

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Mike SmithRe: Stuck for Ideas...
by on Jan 31, 2012 at 5:55:06 pm

Isn't this time to brief a writer, or a writer/art director creative team ...?

From your description, it sounds like they don't want to see too much reality ... so why not do amy filming in a large studio, with gleaming vehicles and well-buffed "character" models/actors ..

You could acknowledges Woody Allen acknowledging earlier movies, with a riff on a character stuck in a grotty, scuzzy train (bus, family car - target market?) looking through a window at another vehicle / carriage slowly overtaking, where much more glossy and glamorous (so much so that it looks unreal, very attractive) people are enjoying an altogether more enviable life.

Comic details could stretch to overblowm brands, champagne and truffles, butlers ... exotic service) all in a heightened colour-palette and presented in the client's livery.

Of course a great music track: maybe a fresh instrumentation of a less-well-known but potent classical snatch of phrases.

Or you could just big up the jingly voice, spoken, chanted or sung ...

OK maybe not!

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Mark SuszkoRe: Stuck for Ideas...
by on Jan 31, 2012 at 7:56:58 pm

I must disagree from a marketing and audience psychology angle:

No bad comparisons to "grotty" trains: A, you don't have the time to waste on setting up the negative example which you then only have 15 seconds to overcome in a 30 second spot and B: that's the mental image the client wants an audience to get AWAY from.

Another way to go would be to detach a bus or train bench seat from the bus or train, and shoot the seat with people using it, in various venues a train and/or bus could take you: a theatre, a pub, a football match, your mom's living room, a sales floor at a posh shopping center, the middle of a nice park or museum, gent's private club, whatever, etc. All these location destinations have the incongruous scene of the bus seat in the middle of them, much like The Doctor's TARDIS. This visual narrative, on the semiotic level, works for print and web media as well as for motion - based media, it tells you the bus/train combo can literally take you anywhere you want to go, and you can forget about owning a car.

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Jason JenkinsRe: Stuck for Ideas...
by on Jan 31, 2012 at 11:09:47 pm

Brilliant stuff, Mark. I hope you get your cut!

Jason Jenkins
Flowmotion Media
Video production... with style!

Check out my profile.

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Simon RoughanRe: Stuck for Ideas...
by on Feb 1, 2012 at 10:02:17 am

Thanks Mark. Thats given me a kick-start.
If youre ever in Germany, you get a Hefeweisen from me. Or 7 or 8.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Stuck for Ideas...
by on Feb 1, 2012 at 2:52:54 pm

Gern geschehen.

Tell you what, you go ahead and have my portion for me, after you've nailed the presentation. I'm more of a sweet Riesling kind of guy, versus beer, if we're drinking, anyhow. And do write back with the ending of this story, when you have one. I like to see how these ideas end up in the final version.

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Simon RoughanRe: Stuck for Ideas...
by on Feb 1, 2012 at 2:04:49 pm

"Isn't this time to brief a writer, or a writer/art director creative team ...?"

Yes. Thats me, too.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Stuck for Ideas...
by on Feb 7, 2012 at 9:25:36 pm

So, Simon. How's it going?

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Simon RoughanRe: Stuck for Ideas...
by on Feb 8, 2012 at 3:44:28 pm

Hi Mark,
I find it very cool that youre so interested.
As a matter of fact, I just now got back from a pitch meeting with the customer, and it couldn't have gone better :-)
I developed 3 ideas, (and thanks for your input, I used the idea of kinetic pictures of a bus in traffic) and she (the communictions boss from the company) liked them all so much, she couldnt really decide. Although the 3 spots run along a differant line, she said all 3 somehow hit the nail on the head. She wants a costing from each spot, and get this, she wants a package price to produce all 3!!!
My boss is very pleased with me today. Ill let you know when we get into production, and naturally post a finished version (or versions) when its done.
Thanks again for your help, and interest.
Greetings from ze Fahzerland...
(I can make such jokes because Im not german...)

A picture is only as good as the glass it comes through. And the person using the camera has something to do with it too.

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