Unusual Places – Narrative Fiction Promo Film

“Sometimes beauty and strength can be found in the most unusual places.” Those are the words that struck me when I met Aline Bloch, a Parisian wife and mother living in Seattle who makes furniture out of cardboard. This is the power of narrative fiction to tell your brand’s story.

There is so much noise on the internet these days that when you create a film or video to help communicate or promote your brand, you need to do something that can grab the viewer’s attention in seconds. One way to do that is to bypass a traditional documentary or voice-over expositional approach in favor for a fictional narrative (i.e. make up a cool story). This method for marketing commercial brands certainly isn’t new. Even back before there was YouTube, BMW did it excellently with their “The Hire” series starring Clive Owen.

This was a series of 8 short films directed by world-class directors. Each film was centered around Owen’s character being hired to drive someone somewhere in a BMW. The films were thrilling and excellently illustrated the power, handling and beauty of the cars.

For this project, I wanted to create something that went beyond the usual cinematic documentary style where we hear the artist talk about the passion of her craft. I’ve done that many times with photographer promos. I do it now with traditional commercial work. I will continue to do it. It’s a perfectly fine strategy for communicating a brand. But there was something about this project that begged to do something special.

Beyond the Usual

I thought about what it is Aline does. She takes discarded pieces of cardboard and makes them beautiful works of art strong enough for an adult to sit or stand on. I thought of the slug line: “Sometimes beauty and strength can be found in the most unusual places.” EUREKA! That would be my angle.

I wrote a poem about the feeling we all have at times. That feeling of low self-esteem, self-doubt and self-loathing. That feeling that you don’t amount to anything. But all it takes is one person to see something special in you. It could be a teacher. A coach. A doting mother.

Americans love the sound and cadence of the French language. Comedians joke that even the most crass sentences when said in French sound like poetry. So I knew I would have Aline and her husband translate the poem so she could recite the voice over in her native tongue.

Four Tips to Make A Narrative Fiction Promo Film

At the end of the day, if you’re producing work like this to promote your business, it still needs to do its job. It must be more than just a “cool” video. So here are four things we keep in mind whenever we produce work like this for our clients.

  1. The Features Should Star. The video must rise above product placement. We don’t just arbitrarily drop the client’s product or service into the film. The features of the product or service should play a key role in “the journey” your main character takes. (“The Hire” series did this excellently for BMW).
  2. Grab Attention (Quickly). One thing about the BMW films that worked back in the early 2000s that may be a harder sell today is their length. Most of them are 8+ minutes long. We prefer to make these kind of films short (ideally in the 2- to 4-minute range). Grab the viewer’s attention right away. I attempted to do this with the image of the little girl at the beginning combined with the subtitles.
  3. Go For Emotion. The film should elicit emotion from the viewer. Make her connect to the film at a deeper level. Apple’s “Misunderstood” teen angst iPhone commercial last Christmas did this brilliantly. I hope I did it with this piece. But that emotion could also be laughter. Adobe’s “Click, Baby, Click” video for their cloud marketing service is a great example.
  4. Start with a Great Script. Don’t underestimate the power of a good script. My traditional filmmaking background and training serves our clients well in that arena.

This film led to Aline getting a featured story for King 5 news, one of Seattle’s most popular news programs. We’d love to talk to you about how we might use the power of narrative fiction to communicate your brand’s message. Contact us today.