In the second instalment of ‘Production Outlook 2023’, we tackle the big problems of the world. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, it’s not coming up roses right now for anybody. We have some managing directors, executive producers and founders from both Europe and the States talking about the parallel issues in the two geographies, with a raging crisis in the European continent and an ever-deepening political divide in North America, both of which are great reasons for brands to invest in better and smarter creativity. There seems to also be a push for opening the floor to less experienced, but more energetic new faces, that are ready to tackle any crisis in the production field, by creating their own opportunities for exceptional work.
With new talent comes even newer tech, which we spoke about in the first instalment, but today we tackle the question of how exactly that technology can help adverts tap into bespoke creative tailored for each platform. That also means a lot more care put towards meaningful work. With an audience that is educating itself by the minute and becoming even more connected, brands are expected to continue their pursuit of meaning and honesty, this time with the help of great filmmaking.
Of course, we also have more of the very necessary talk about how DE&I can be improved in the production area, some talk of casting and music. For this and more, read below.
Managing director commercials, Pulse Films
I don’t think anyone would argue that 2022 was an exceptional year for creativity or craft in advertising. Still feeling the fallout from the pandemic, many brands didn’t know what, or how they should be communicating with the world. Whilst there are many indicators that suggest 2023 could be the same, with contributing factors, such as the global economic slowdown, a cost-of-living crisis and the ongoing war in Ukraine, there are reasons for optimism too.
2022 proved that ‘appointment to watch’ television is back, with shows like Traitors, The White Lotus, and Gangs of London dropping weekly episodes that had huge audiences and created lots of chat across socials and around watercoolers too. Netflix introduced their ‘Basic with ads’ subscription and we will see other streamers follow this model. This creates an opportunity to produce great work, with brands needing to fight ever harder for our attention and the argument for truly entertaining advertising content is stronger than ever.
This doesn’t mean a one size fits all approach to the work, but instead an uptick in originality - creating ‘bespoke-to-platform’ content that engages the audience, generates buzz, and creates new-found affection and loyalty for brands. That means clients and agencies not always taking the ‘safe’ route, being provocative and embracing new voices and emerging talent that can authentically tell these stories, and who often have a perspective that is fresher and more exciting. We need to move on from the same tired, over-stretched names that are seeing most of the opportunities and breathe life into new talent, who may come with less experience but bring bold ideas, a fresh perspective and energy.
The creative process has become increasingly transactional, so I’d like to see the return of in-person script meetings between agency creatives, producers and directors, with Zoom / Teams / Google meets being the exception as opposed to the rule. These initial creative meetings are vital to get an understanding of each side’s perspective, ongoing collaboration and building trust in the relationship. Nothing beats doing in-person meets, rather than online, when half the participants are distracted or are desperately trying to look like they’re listening as they answer emails. The best, most engaging work comes from working collaboratively, making space for curveballs and left-field ideas. Let’s embrace this in 2023 and remember how great this process can be when we work together towards the same goal.
CEO and executive producer, Believe Media
While I am very excited for 2023, I am also very concerned. The political divide in the US has created fear in brands and agencies and the intense scrutiny of our industry has led to a very boring, safe creative state. It’s sad that disaster seems to be the only thing to get anyone to speak out about what matters to humanity and our planet. The commercial film industry, as well as other US industries, has become so heavily regulated by unions that it is impossible to shoot in the US without an enormous budget. It’s never been more difficult to create opportunities for new talent. A producer’s role is now about adhering to and following rules. We are no longer the land of opportunity unless a company is non-union, and then the crew suffers. The unions have become very aggressive and seem to pursue their longstanding good members for constant increases while letting newbies feed off our inability to be nimble in the workplace.
The flip side is that there is amazing new talent and new technology in the market. I just hope they will be given a chance to work within the US film community. The market is so competitive, it is very hard to convince anyone to use new talent as every A+ director seems to be available to work at any price.
I am afraid that the trend to shoot offshore will continue. While Believe Media has always been an international company, I do worry for the US crew. On a positive note, our UK office is prospering. We purchased a building for life/work in London to further our commitment to the European market.
As Believe grows with our talent, our relationships have never been stronger and our work never better. We plan to take advantage of the slower market to further diversify into TV, documentary, and films. All new and exciting things are to come this year.
Producer, NERD Productions
2023 will be a year of continued change and growth in the industry, particularly regarding the range of representation that's progressively expanding across all platforms. As a result, we're seeing (and practising) a much more careful approach towards considerations for diversity and inclusion to have meaningful depictions that look and feel genuine. We see, hear and feel this movement across all content, be that traditional mediums like television but most especially on personalised channels such as TikTok, where coincidentally, all age segments are spending more and more of their precious time and finding a deeper level of affinity.
This era of deep personalisation, bespoke media and on-demand content have made people much pickier about the products and services they buy and the media and content they consume. As a result, people are practically begging to feel like their personal stories matter. This sentiment is true across the board, be that in representations of daily life seen in out-of-home displays that use photography (a big push this year at NERD Productions, by the way!) or the stories they see lived out in traditional Christmas adverts. And a massive part of that personal story everyone wants to see is a representation that feels real, as how can one immerse oneself in a story that panders on the most basic level?
Audiences can tell, whether it be explicit or subconscious, when casting and portrayal are just ticking boxes or whether the stories are authentic and created by hands and minds who care. So this year, we'll see a significant push towards diversity and inclusion that goes beyond the tokenistic. And that's a great thing! It's about time we shake things up, embrace the unfamiliar and see what magic we can make when we're not playing to the same old scripts.
Co-founder, Untold Studios
Untold Studios is, by design, a creative studio and community, operating in three distinct areas of activity, originals, production and VFX - areas that can operate co-dependently and independently. We have always believed that the strength of Untold is our passion for collaborating with diverse, interesting and creative people to tell great stories.
Our portfolio of clients and talent is diverse and that is key when navigating a somewhat uncertain market. The advertising work we see falls generally into two categories - youth oriented, culturally relevant work and more complex VFX projects. You see this in the projects we did last year for Budweiser, Nike, and On Running, and then again in projects like Estée Lauder’s ‘Desert Eden‘ and Emirates ‘Fly Better’.
Advertising always comes down to great ideas and great directors, and equipping them with all the tools to tell great stories. In our diverse team of directors like Charlie Sarsfield (performance and narrative), Olivia Emes (observational, docu-led), Diarmid (VFX and narrative) Gabriella Kingsley (talent and music), Meeks & Frost (visually striking and instinctively cool), FILFURY (design-led big ideas and big visuals) - we are fortunate to work with some of the best emerging and established talent. Our production team is energetic and solution-oriented, and we enjoy finding ways to make entertaining work within the parameters of each project.
The exciting part of having such a prolific music team is we get to play a role in shaping culture, and work with some of the most acclaimed musicians in the world. Highlights from the last year include collaborating with Yungblud, George Ezra, Mabel, Rita Ora, Stormzy and many more. We were recently nominated for a Grammy, for our creative director Phil Lee’s work with Adele.
This year we think more integrated real-time shooting techniques will play an even greater part in creative storytelling. We were born out of the technological revolution - as the world’s first cloud based studio we consistently look to the future. We intuitively understand the power of virtual production and by blurring the boundaries between production and post-production we have found innovative ways to shoot and new ways for our clients to tell stories.
Whatever 2023 brings we’re here for it.
Founder and executive Producer, Lief
I’m excited in 2023 for us creators to play a key role in making brand involvement in culture meaningful. Through dialogue with different artists, specific artists, the political, and the contemporary, we add their lived-in experience in the world, and invent a unique link to make each project stand out.
When working with creative agencies, I believe there needs to be more trust in the level of culture that gifted filmmakers can bring, aside from having vast directing experience. To contribute meaningfully to society and culture, you have to start focusing on this cultural framework, rather than being blindsided if a director has shot a car ad before, or a vignette ad or whatever the very specific ask is.
Agencies (and brands) that understand this will outperform those that do not.
Another beautiful opportunity is for the advertising industry to lead the way when it comes to sustainable production and what that means. Besides being made with the environment in mind, we must create more content that can be treasured, has a longer life cycle than an Instagram story, and is useful and beneficial to society.
Film production adapts to new technologies faster than the speed of light; to problem-solve and journey the many unknowns is our job, and like any top production house, by now we have mastered navigating virtual production, learned about AI & copyright and turned a downturned economy into an innovative opportunity. I wish for us all to continue to get the space in 2023 to keep pushing forward advertising.