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Patrick Milling-Smith on the “Instinctual” Nature of Judging Film Craft

Awards and Events 202 Add to collection

The Cannes Lions Film Craft jury president and co-founder, global CEO of SMUGGLER speaks to LBB’s Addison Capper about the process that is picking apart the numerous finite details of filmmaking

Patrick Milling-Smith on the “Instinctual” Nature of Judging Film Craft

The Film Craft category at Cannes Lions actually boasts something like 13 different categories, as it celebrates the best of the best in fields such as commercial cinematography, editing, direction, music and visual effects. For Patrick Milling-Smith, Film Craft jury president, and co-founder and global CEO of SMUGGLER and co-founder of division7, the process of judging details like that is "instinctual". 

As he gears up to round out the judging process and announce the winners on Tuesday 21st June in Cannes, LBB's Addison Capper chatted with him about the process, the joy of unearthing hidden gems, and the first in-person festival for two years being an opportunity to celebrate the advertising community. 

LBB> How are you preparing for the jury room this year?


Patrick> I’m excited to be digging deep into the work with this jury. As much as I don’t love the idea of being locked in a windowless room in the south of France, I’m very much looking forward to doing a deep dive into the best work of the year. It’s an exercise that will undoubtedly be so worth it and I hope it will be encouraging. I'm definitely a fan of people with strong opinions and our group is stocked with character and taste. It’s going to be very interesting. Smart conversations and debates are always energising.

LBB> What are the current big debates within the Film Craft category - or more generally across the industry - that you expect to see coming through in the judging?


Patrick> The needle to thread seems to be the balancing act of what makes the craft category unique. How is it distinct from the Film Lion category, etc.? We are looking for examples of how an idea or story is elevated by the command of craft. Great craft is timeless, inspiring and universal.  

Great work always has to start with a strong conceptual footing. The foundation of a good spot needs to be built on an idea or insight that is worthy of a pitch-perfect execution.  Nothing is more underwhelming than a huge visual feast built on an empty idea. No one wants to think ‘so what’ at the end of watching something, or see a spot collapse under its own weight of spectacle. 


LBB> I feel like the previous Lions had a lot of pandemic work, where the industry was still trying to figure out things like remote shooting, etc. How do you think the work in your category will differ this year and why?


Patrick> I think in the past the challenge of putting on any sort of production amidst the pandemic was a feat in itself. I’m hoping we’ve moved on to a new footing now. I don’t think Cannes is a ‘participation trophy’ type show and it feels like the bar is firmly back at a high standing and expectations are in place.



LBB> Film Craft actually incorporates something like 13 categories, including cinematography, editing, etc. How do you tackle picking apart and judging each element of a film?

Patrick> This is an essay unto itself. It’s all quite instinctual. You know what work is good, and what’s just fine, and then you start to dissect it. The Cannes work of previous years has created a benchmark. There is a legacy that will always be a clear standard-bearer and we want to build on that and not undermine it. 

On a more granular level, sometimes when technique stands out and doesn’t feel woven into the fabric of the spot, it’s less successful and not done in concert with the other filmmaking tools. Is this clever camerawork or did the cinematography make you feel something distinct through the lensing? Do you feel the decisions in the editing or is it effortless? Is this just a good song or did this song really make this piece of work stand out? I believe the jury wants to reward form and function over flash.



LBB> Virtual production use in commercials has really picked up in the past year. Firstly, what are your thoughts on the technology’s potential and what are your thoughts on it when it comes to judging a piece of that work at an award show like Cannes?


Patrick> I think virtual production was out of necessity because people couldn’t travel, but it’s no one’s ideal way to get things made. The alchemy on set and in the moment can’t be replicated. It can be approximated and technology helps but it can not be replaced. Ultimately, how the film was produced is less important than if it was good. Like most things in life, I feel that the best results come from people rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands on the work or the process. Ultimately this category is a celebration of craft, not technology.  



LBB> Last year's Grand Prix was ‘Womb Stories’ - is there anything in that entry that you'd like to see in entries this year?


Patrick> It’s always satisfying to discover work that somehow sneaked through the year unnoticed. The global nature of Cannes makes the chance of unearthing some hidden gems all the more likely. Historically, there has often been that standout piece that wasn’t necessarily on the industry’s radar that turns heads. The Blaze music video from a few years back for instance. I’m excited for these discoveries. 


LBB> Cannes is also a time of celebration. What will you be celebrating this year?

Patrick> I hope to celebrate our community, friendships, and resilience. Nothing like a global shutdown and deadly pandemic to make you smell the roses. I mean... we are going to be in the south of France celebrating creativity… Life is precious, I hope everyone allows themselves to have a good time.

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SMUGGLER, Mon, 20 Jun 2022 16:19:00 GMT