Filmmaking Lessons from David Fincher

Back when DVD’s were a thing, it was always a joy to rent anything directed by David Fincher. Whether or not you enjoyed the movie itself didn’t really matter because every Fincher DVD came with the director’s invariably intelligent and thoughtful commentary track. If you paid attention, it was like a grad school class for filmmaking. You’d learn why he set up shots and edits in specific ways, the character development motivations for holding on to a long take or creating an elaborate, circling camera move. It was always my favorite part of the DVD experience.

Sadly, this piece doesn’t include any Fincher commentary, but it does show the amazing focus to detail he brings to pursuing his vision. Truly remarkable. The green screen sections starting around 3:47 are breathtaking…

 

The visual effects company behind this spectacular work is Artemple Hollywood. Creating a fantastic alien or a futuristic city on a distant planet is a true challenge, but creating visual effects that appear seamlessly invisible? Those are truly special effects. Wow.

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Why Video Content? It’s Simple Neuroscience.

Seriously. Our brains process video imagery differently than text.

While researching this piece, a number of remarkable statistics popped up repeatedly. A particularly amazing one claimed we process visuals 600,000x faster than text. The problem is, like so many things on the internet, this claim wasn’t corroborated by any credible sources. Actually, they were compellingly argued against here. Oh well, live and Google. And Google again. Repeatedly.’

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A Nine Page Argument for Video Content

“He Shares His Slides On SlideShare.” Try saying that three times quickly…

Or just take a look at this short deck. It asserts the critical relevance of video content, as our marketplace continues moving away from text-based communications. It’s intentionally short because apparently, all these modern digital distractions have left us with the attention span of tree frogs.

For years, I loved making television commercials. Today, I’m genuinely excited to make all sorts of other video content for all sorts of other platforms and audiences. It is, in the words of the immortal Sammy Davis Jr., ‘a gas and a giggle.’

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Photo credit: Ray Hennessy

Five Reasons Why Every Brand Should Be Using Video…Presented on Video

Okay, so it’s a wee bit longer than sixty seconds, but the points remain…

For anyone who prefers written lists, here they are:

  1. Four times as many people would rather watch a video about a product than read about it. Source: Animoto
  2. Viewers recall over 90% of a message after watching it on video, as opposed to 10% from reading text. Source: insivia
  3. Embedding video on landing pages can increase conversion by 80%. Source: Eyeview  (Self-imposed time constraints prevented me from sharing the other big number: video makes your site 53% more likely to show up on Google’s page one.)
  4. Visual content–particularly video–is forty times more likely to get shared.  Source: Buffer
  5. Marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users.  Source: Aberdeen Group

As you may have noticed, I’m particularly fond of number five. That’s basically a mic drop for video…

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Photo credit: Jakob Owens

Shoulder to Shoulder with Mentors

Two weeks ago, Joe Sciarotta, the CCO of Ogilvy Chicago who was recently made co-CCO of Ogilvy US, asked me to film a video. Since I was in Chicago on business, I stopped by their office at the end of the day. Producer Mike Diedrich and CD/DP Peter Angus Medlock filmed my bit in under a half hour, most of which we spent laughing.

Candidly, I thought the project was to congratulate Joe on his big promotion. Instead, it was for the 4A’s 100th Anniversary celebration, held Wednesday night in Chicago.

When I saw the roughcut, I was knocked back. To be in the same video as Lee Clow, Shelly Lazarus, Jeff Goodby, Ari Helper, my old bosses Keith Reinhard and Bob Scarpelli, and a host of other cool people was the nicest compliment I’ve received in ages.

The clip also proved I can’t talk without using my hands.

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PS: The commercial I reference is over twenty years old but remains a favorite. This marvelous spot for Black Currant Tango soda inspired me to go bigger and sillier whenever possible. It is, quite simply, flawless.

In Praise of Gentle Giants

Many of us struggle with life on social media these days: the bickering, the artless insults, the escalation of every disagreement to defcon 1… I find myself spending more time on Instagram, surfing the brighter parts of friends’ and relatives’ lives.

For my father-in-law, the brighter part of his life has always been his big dogs. Actually, anyone’s big dogs. So this morning when I checked my email, I wasn’t particularly surprised to see he had forwarded another one loaded with adorable dog shots.

But this one felt different. It was a collection taken by Andy Seliverstoff, a photographer based in St. Petersburg, Russia. His work features small children playing with very big dogs.  According to the email, Andy got into this subject later in life after taking family portraits for friends that included their Great Dane. He was fascinated by the relationship between the large animal and the young children. This dichotomy became his signature subject, to the point where early this year, he released a book called “Little Kids and Their Big Dogs.”

You can see a lot of Andy’s work on this page on 500px, a social network for photographers. I apologize that it’s not curated more ruthlessly, but if you are having an off day, or if you just like big dogs and play and smiling, click on the link and start browsing.

Some might find this work the canine equivalent of Anne Geddes‘ baby portraits; a little too adorable, too saccharine, too too. If so, I get it.

But compared to the sturm und drang of our political circus or the thought of Ted Cruz’ indiscrete habits, a healthy dose of gentle charm feels exactly right.

Happy Thursday.

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The Best Goodbye I’ve Ever Read

The following is the final essay from “A Book of Uncommon Prayer: 100 Celebrations of the Miracle and Muddle of the Ordinary” written by poet, editor, and novelist Brian Doyle. He graduated six years ahead of me in college, spent a rich lifetime writing, and died this past May from brain tumor complications. It takes a special gift to describe the tragic or maudlin with humor, but Doyle’s essay on death works as an inspirational, life-affirming, guide to living. I never met him, but I stand in awe of his remarkable talent…

Dear Coherent Mercy: thanks. Best life ever. Personally I never thought a cool woman would come close to understanding me, let alone understanding me but liking me anyway, but that happened! And You and I both remember that doctor in Boston saying polite but businesslike that we would not have children but then came three children fast and furious! And no man ever had better friends, and no man ever had a happier childhood and wilder brothers and a sweeter sister, and I was that rare guy who not only loved but liked his parents and loved sitting and drinking tea and listening to them! And You let me write some books that weren’t half bad, and I got to have a career that actually no kidding helped some kids wake up to their best selves, and no one ever laughed more at the ocean of hilarious things in this world, or gaped more in astonishment at the wealth of miracles everywhere every moment. I could complain a little right here about the long years of back pain and the occasional awful heartbreak, but Lord, those things were infinitesimal against the slather of gifts You gave mere me, a muddle of a man, so often selfish and small. But no man was ever more grateful for Your profligate generosity, and here at the very end, here in my last lines, I close my eyes and weep with joy that I was alive, and blessed beyond measure, and might well be headed back home to the incomprehensible Love from which I came, mewling, many years ago. But hey, listen, can I ask one last favor? If I am sent back for another life, can I meet my lovely bride again? In whatever form? Could we be hawks, or otters maybe? And can we have the same kids again if possible? And if I get one friend again, can I have my buddy Pete? He was a huge guy in this life—make him the biggest otter ever, and I’ll know him right away, okay? Thanks, Boss. Thanks from the bottom of my heart. See You soon. Remember—otters. Otters rule. And so: amen.

“A muddle of a man”? Hardly. Thanks Brian. Godspeed.

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Ryan Grewell

Why Vertical Formatting Matters for Social Video

It might have something to do with their primary audience’s age, but in a small bit of irony, I couldn’t maintain this video’s native vertical format when editing it in iMovie, or posting it to Vimeo, Youtube and LinkedIn.

Still, when it comes to the giants of social media platforms–Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram–vertical is the way to go.

By the way, if you need some expert social media strategic advice, connect with Kate Miller; she’s pretty amazing. IG & TW: @LetsReallyLive.

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Brands and “Authenticity”: When the Hackneyed Becomes Crucial

If you read a strategic brief at any point over the past five years, you read the word “authentic.” Whether yogurt, beer, or casual wear, brands fell over themselves in their rush to assert their ‘authenticity.’ Frankly, most protested too much and overuse diminished the word’s impact.

But this week, GoDaddy, the purveyor of web addresses that spent its early years lobbing embarrassingly sexist and sophomoric ads on the Super Bowl, did something genuinely authentic: they pulled their web-hosting services from the white supremacist site The Daily Stormer. It was a strong, very public move and truly embodied authenticity.

But that’s not how the story read Monday morning on Facebook…

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