Directorial duo The Libbey Brothers on working with the Ad Council and various celebrities for World Suicide Prevention Day
Three in four suicides in the US involve men. In the UK, suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45. A major factor behind these stats is the traditional expectation of what it means to be masculine - to be a man. Historically men weren't meant to show emotion and the knock-on effect is still being felt today. Men are incredibly hesitant to open up about their feelings which in turn can lead to mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, festering untreated.
A series of new PSAs for men's health charity Movember launched on Tuesday to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10th). Created collaboratively by the charity, Ad Council Edge (the Ad Council's strategic consultancy that advises companies on how to engage the public on social issues) and directorial duo The Libbey Brothers, the films involve digital creators, actors and musicians relaying personal stories of mental health issues and encouraging others to open up when they feel the need to.
LBB's Addison Capper chatted to The Libbey Brothers - first names Chris and Nick - to find out more.
LBB> What were your thoughts when the opportunity to work on this project came in? And why was it something you were personally keen to get involved in?
TLB> We, like many men, have our own history and networks filled with mental health challenges so this was an exciting opportunity to get involved in the larger conversation. We were able to work with Ad Council and Movember to develop the creative concept itself, having a hand in the project from start to finish and letting us work together to shine a light on a critical issue.
LBB> What was the process like of getting the different men involved in the campaign? Was this a process you were involved in?
TLB> Through Ad Council’s Creators for Good programme (their in-house talent engagement initiative, run by Lina Renzina) they were able to cast and recruit talent partners who fit the creative idea really well. This project had a short timeline so while I wasn’t as involved in the casting we were aware of the subjects coming in and their stories. We focused a lot of our energy on the structure of the interview orchestrating how to combine all their stories once they were confirmed!
LBB> What was your experience like of hearing these stories from these men? And, from a directorial standpoint, how did you go about making them feel at ease in front of the camera to open up about the subject at hand?
TLB> The best part of the director’s job is when you get to sit down and try to have a meaningful conversation. Luckily we had such amazing men to work with so making them feel natural wasn’t a huge issue - the focus was on how to keep the interview unique to their story while finding common threads between the other four subjects.
LBB> Despite the emotional topic that the films are dealing with, you've still approached it in quite a positive, approachable way. What was the thought process behind that?
TLB> Our aim is always authenticity. When it comes to discussing mental health we find positive messaging and humour can be extremely helpful to make space for vulnerability (this seems especially true for men). Movember shared the goal to keep the messaging positive so everyone was aligned.
LBB> How much of what each man said was scripted? Or was it more about letting them tell the story that they wanted to tell?
TLB> We asked the men a few pre-interview questions to get the ball rolling and help us prepare but everything they said was unscripted, real conversation. Each interview started with a story in which their outside image reflected a very different story than what was really going on inside, giving them a chance to literally ‘Be a Man of More Words’ mid-interview. We discussed the stories they shared and then expanded the conversation to big picture thoughts on mental health as a whole.
LBB> From an aesthetic point of view, what were your main aims and ambitions here?
TLB> We started by looking for a setting with strong, stereotypically masculine elements - things like brick - and then bringing in some nice bold colours and warmth with a soft, natural-looking lighting setup.
LBB> How closely did you work with Movember and the Ad Council on the campaign? What was that relationship like?
TLB> We work with Ad Council all the time so we have a very strong relationship with them. This was a first with Movember. We all had to work very closely; checking in daily to get this job done in the tight turnaround we were faced with.
LBB> What were the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
TLB> The biggest challenges were first getting everyone there (props to Ad Council) and then finding a way to bring five separate and unique life experiences together into one piece. Ultimately, we found that the similarities outweigh the differences and so the narrative came together nicely. After that it’s just the challenge of cutting out all your favourite parts to get the run time down.