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Keeping It Real

by Derek Doyle, Head of Production 

At Cannes 2018, seasoned veterans seemed to be relieved that the main attraction was not another launch or tech announcement, but rather, a return to focusing on creativity. Speaking in AdAge this week, PHD Media worldwide strategy and planning director Mark Holden said he thought it was beneficial that Cannes was “a bit smaller this year,” with “a refocus on what’s really important, which is creativity. You felt that focus on creativity was getting quite marginalised,” and “that the creative element was there but was just getting buried under everything else.”

Thankfully, there now appears to be an understanding that new tech works best in the guise of ‘as well as’, rather than ‘instead of’. That it is best used as a device to tell that great story, not be the great story in itself. The best work I saw relied on the time-immune attributes of great heart and great craft. Yes, sometimes, great tech helped achieve the end goal, but it wasn’t the achievement in itself.

Most of the conversations around production were on the themes of collaboration and credibility. Authenticity seemed to be the word you just could not escape from watching the work and listening to the talks. Of course, wanting to appear credible or authentic is not new, but there appeared to be a genuine belief among brands and filmmakers that this would be a more rewarding pursuit.

My favourite talk of the week was held on a small stage on Wednesday morning. ‘Execution and the Auteur’ focused on collaboration and executional excellence in content creation. Milak Vitthal, a director from The Corner Shop in LA and one of the contributors on stage, discussed his film ‘The Talk’ for P&G.


Produced as part of their ‘Black is Beautiful’ campaign, it’s a delicately judged film which explores the history of racial bias in the US, by showing how black parents explain to their children the difficulties they may face growing up in a world of prejudice.

‘The Talk’ went on to win a Grand Prix in Film for Malik. What I loved about this was how the filmmakers did not dance around the issue or ignore the political landscape. One of the scenes, showing a learner driver and her mum, when talking about being stopped by police, includes the line, “This is
not about you getting a ticket, this is about you not coming home”. No swerving there.

Also scoring big, winning a Grand Prix in Film Craft for the director James Rouse, was the film ‘Hope’, for the International Committee of the Red Cross, which was produced to raise awareness of the attacks that hospitals and health workers suffer in areas of conflict.

The EP of the film, Pablo Garcia Acon, in discussing authenticity in the film said: “We ensured all of the production elements; the location, the actors, their acting, the car… oozed reality from all their pores. If at any point in the film there was something that took the audience out of that reality, we would have failed in our job.”

Shooting this from the point of view of a father rushing his wounded daughter to a hospital for treatment takes this to another level. I won’t spoil it. I defy you to not be moved by this story.


Thunder Road, directed by Jim Cummings. A 12-minute short, directed by Kim Cummings, that is brilliantly described as ‘an American police officer eulogises his mother at her funeral by singing and dancing to the Bruce Springsteen song’.

Yes, it is that bonkers as a premise, but beautifully bonkers. It’s all done in a single shot, which gives you an insight into how the wonderful casting, script and performances elevate it into something very special.

So, the good news. We don’t need the new shiny toy to make great work. New tech may help us get there, but it shouldn’t be the point of the journey itself. However, we do need to be bold and brave in holding true to our belief in the power of creativity.


Read the next article:

Transformation at Speed

by Sarah Sherry, Business Director

Or see all our articles from Cannes Lions 2018