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High Five: USA

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Co-directors at The-Artery, Austin and Westin Ray - AKA RAY SISTERS - choose five powerful projects that have recently stood out to them

High Five: USA

At the start of 2022, in what feels like round five of the pandemic, the skies may be dreary but the work is vibrant. These picks of ours are connected by their expert attention to sonic storytelling and elevation of simple yet powerful concepts. As sisters and co-directors, we know you’re only as strong as your team, and in these selections, every single department brought their A-game...



HP - 'Printing Trees'

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland
Production: ICONOCLAST
Director: Megaforce
Music: Ben Salisbury

We’re immediately intrigued when a concept utilises sound in its storytelling. The familiar sounds of a printer are universal, similar to a Xerox scanner or dial-up internet, so this spot creates a moment of instant recognition within the first five seconds. The perfectly in-sync and VFX-aided growth of tree saplings, branches and roots is beautiful, and blends well into the live action forest footage. The shot of the train headlights in the middle was a bit random, but overall the ad is charming, impactful and inspiringly creative for an HP ad. Plus, Megaforce made our favourite fashion spot of 2021 - Burberry’s 'Open Spaces'.



Apple - 'Apple Watch: 911'

Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab

This spot is a gripping and powerfully executed ad that makes your throat tighten. By providing ample emotion through off-screen dialogue, it lets the audience fully use their imagination. Also, we can’t help but notice how pandemic-friendly it must have been to produce, with its landscape drone footage and real 911 Apple Watch calls. Something we found memorable about this ad is that each element (visual, sound, script) is streamlined to its simplest form. It would have been adequate to just use the voice-over on top of dramatic aerial wide shots, but the precisely-timed captions which appear on the screen in single word bursts add a sense of urgency and franticness. Even the simple use of italics for the 911 operators makes it easier for the audience to comprehend quickly. And Apple is the master at that: designing content and products with cutting-edge capabilities that are still surprisingly user-friendly.



Apple - 'iPhone 13 Pro: Detectives'

Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab

Here’s another piece by Apple for the win! This one is clever and stays with you. Surprisingly, several of our non-filmmaker friends and family have referenced it...one being our grandmother. We’d just attempted to re-explain 'rack focus' to her for the 16th time when she pipped in and said: “Oh, just like in that Apple commercial on TV!” This strikes us as important, because ultimately these ads are created for the general public, not solely for fellow creatives. Not only is Apple highlighting the new iPhone camera’s capabilities, but it is also banking on the intelligence of an audience to learn something new. It shows the power of a single scene, and how a filmmaking technique (which lets you shift focus between foreground and background in a shot) can be enlightening, entertaining and play homage to shows like 'True Detective' in a humorously dramatic way. Also, in a world where commercials with edgy montages, esoteric narration and no storyline have become the trend, it’s refreshing to watch a well-acted and dialogue-heavy scene as an advertisement.



WhatsApp - 'It’s Not New Year Until You Get the Message You Are Waiting For'

Agency: BBDO San Francisco x BBDO Berlin
Production: ICONOCLAST
Director: Niclas Larsson
Post: Slaughterhouse Berlin
Music: Universal Music

We were hoping to feature a New Year’s Eve commercial in this batch and we found it with WhatsApp’s most recent campaign. Artistically shot (by none other than Oscar-winning DP, Linus Sandgren) and featuring riveting visuals of Mexico, Nigeria and Brazil, it weaves together global vignettes of its international community on New Year’s Eve. The addition of WhatsApp-green-coloured fireworks was a sublime touch. We love an ad that gorgeously demonstrates actual, realistic use of the product / service. Anyone who has used WhatsApp has stared hopefully (and perhaps impatiently) into the glow of a phone screen, awaiting a response or a message from someone special. This moment is heightened by the VFX flurry of incoming texts at the strike of midnight. For us, the ad’s only major missed opportunity was that a kiss emoji wasn’t used, when the smiling woman looks up at the end of the ad. We know of so many real-life occurrences where this has happened and it would have been a clever twist on the kiss at midnight tradition.




Short Film - 'T'es Morte Hélène' / 'You're Dead Hélène'

Production: Daylight Films x Formosa Productions x Canal+
Director: Michiel Blanchart
Music: Victor Fournier-Novak

As filmmakers, we have seen a million and one short films, and every once in a while one grabs you - much like a zombie’s hand coming out of the ground - and doesn’t let go. This terrifying, poignant and incredible short film walks a breathtaking tightrope between the genres of drama, horror and romantic comedy. It’s a stunning portrayal of grief and living with undead memories. Okay, okay, we know the director is Belgian, but we’re making an exception to include this Oscar-shortlisted narrative short. And keep your eyes peeled; it’s set to be adapted into a feature with Sam Raimi attached as producer...

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The-Artery, Thu, 20 Jan 2022 11:15:59 GMT