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"Storytelling Has Always Been the Focus, but How It Is Conveyed Has Changed"

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Great Guns USA managing director Oliver Fuselier on how technology advances have impacted advertising and what needs to change for the future

"Storytelling Has Always Been the Focus, but How It Is Conveyed Has Changed"

The growth of film and episodic content over recent years has resulted in a rise of cinematic quality across advertising. As craft in filmmaking continues to push the boundaries of commercial content, Dublin-based post production powerhouse Screen Scene partners with LBB on the Meet Your Makers channel for a new series exploring the ever blurring line between entertainment and commercial film.

Speaking with heads of production, agency producers, production company owners and executive producers, ‘Craft Where Worlds Collide’ will discuss how entertainment and commercial trends are reshaping the quality of content that consumers expect from advertising, and what this means for production.

In this interview, Great Guns USA managing director Oliver Fuselier chats to LBB about how storytelling has been - and will always be - key and how technology is fueling new ways to engage audiences.


LBB> How have you seen film craft evolve over recent years and how has it impacted the advertising world?

Oliver Fuselier> I don't think that film craft itself has evolved. What's evolved is the technology - the tools in which people are telling stories that enhance the craft. The talent that has entered the advertising community over the past four or five years and the way that they see fit to use this technology in an innovative, interesting way has evolved. 

It’s technology that allows you to tell a story in a more economical, fantastical, interesting way. It’s all about thinking outside of the norm of filmmaking. Maybe it's talking to AI specialists or AR specialists that can bring a different slant to the creative process, even though it's not focused on that technology. It’s about working with somebody who does a different type of art that may look at something and go, “Oh, my God, I think this would be kind of interesting” and by accomplishing that, the craft is elevated. It goes back to the team or the people that are around you that are the craftsmen along with the director. 


LBB> When you first joined Great Guns in 2020, one of your goals was to strive to keep “creative first” - why is this so important to you and how does it play out in the work produced by the company?

Oliver> From the beginning of my career, it was always instilled in me that if you do really great work - if you think about the best way to craft the creative content - the money will come. Consequently, I always thought about the creative first, and it's what I try to instil in the young directors on our roster as well as the directors that may see something that they really love creatively, but there may not be a budget for. There’s a focus on how to creatively tackle a project first, but then working on how we can find the money for it whether it’s trying to convince the agency to give a little bit more or an agency going back to their client to rethink the budget. 

It is also about collaborating with creatives. The director of the production company and the agency are finding ways to creatively maintain the integrity of a project while coming up with different solutions that could potentially help the budget in the back end. That’s been the mantra from day one and it’s worked for us. Directors are very savvy today. Whether they're young, new, or they're experienced, they know budgets. 

If you think about things creatively, there's a way to do everything for the most part. I think it’s been a great mantra for us and I'm going to continue to maintain that.


LBB> There has been huge growth in film and episodic content over recent years which has raised the bar for craft in advertising too. Have you seen a change in consumer expectation and demand for cinematic quality commercial content?

Oliver> Storytelling is now key. Visually, everybody wants a cinematic piece, whether it's a documentary or a million-dollar production. Everybody wants their content to look great. But I am seeing a lot more attention paid to the story of spots. 

Lululemon recently did a spot that I thought was interesting. It spoke about the quality of the brand and the people that are willing to part with money to buy their products, but it was told in a way that made me feel like I'm one of those people. 

I think most consumers care about what the message is, what the brand is, and what the brand stands for. Whether you have a small budget, a large budget, or a medium budget, agency creatives want beautiful, cinematic content on their reel. Creatives pay attention to that first and then we really start talking about the heart of the story which is more important to consumers.


LBB> Have you seen storytelling evolve in any way?

Oliver> Storytelling has always been the focus of advertising but what has changed is the way the content is conveyed and received. Creating great content has elevated and changed with content being so readily available via your phone and TikTok and every other thing that you can possibly get your hands on in a very short period. 

Messaging and how people’s attention is grabbed by the first few seconds has changed. Consumers ask themselves how an ad makes them feel and they really stop to consider it. If I saw something that was poorly shot, but the story was about a little dog out in the rain who was brought in by a family, I wouldn’t care about how it looked visually because it's an amazing story.

The Kia Superbowl spot with the robotic dog was interesting because it really used everything in the arsenal of making film. It was technologically innovative. The robotic dog was CG, it was digital, and there were live-action elements, but it also tugged at your heartstrings. From the moment that I saw the dog, I knew that there was some story I had to follow through. That was all about the consideration of how the story was told. I think that spot really speaks to a lot of what I'm talking about, even though it is technological. It all goes back to the team putting together the craft to tell an amazing story.

LBB> How has this demand evolved the way in which you approach your work as a production company?

Oliver> At Great Guns we pay attention to every aspect of an ad. We painstakingly talk about each script that comes in no matter what level it might be. We really pay attention to the details of how we talk to an agency about the director's vision of a particular story. It really is all considered. It is hard to close jobs these days, particularly when you have young talent like we do, who aren’t as experienced as most of the directors that we bid against. But what we do have is talented people that are willing to talk about every aspect of an advertisement and look at it from every angle so that we can put our best foot forward when we're bidding a job and talking to agencies. 

We stay in line with creative first. We tell the story in the best way so that people can consume, understand, and feel it since emotion is so important in storytelling. 


LBB> As the line between ads, art, and entertainment blurs, do you think creatives need to approach projects with a multidisciplinary perspective?

Oliver> What's happening right now is that there's a lot of jobs and opportunities out there, but there's also an enormous number of directors available and an enormous amount of production companies. I don't think creatives need to approach projects with a multidisciplinary perspective. I think it's on a job-by-job basis. If you happen to be a young director who did a short and it won at various film festivals, I think people look at you a little bit differently with respect, but at the end of the day, they really look at your work and if it aligns with the content they want to produce. 

It’s a hard question to answer because that's always been a part of this industry. Going back to music videos before commercials became big, there were some that would want to do, say, a great spot for BMW films because they wanted somebody at a studio to look at them as a film director. So, it's always been a part of the conversation. I used to tell young directors to go to the most obscure newsstand and find the most obscure art magazines and look at them. Learn them. Study them. I wanted them to live with art that was different and challenging. 

I think now, because of various technologies, even seeing installations that are out there can affect the way that a young director or creative thinks about the work they create. It’s all evolving. I don't think it's something extraordinary or a terrifically new conversation. I think it's just a conversation that just keeps evolving.


LBB> At Great Guns, you place great importance on having a very diverse roster of directors - how does this help elevate creative and do you have any advice for other companies looking to diversify their ideas and work?

Oliver> Great Guns has always considered diversity. It began with Laura Gregory who started the company 29 years ago, and we followed it through. However, I have a couple of talented, young, diverse directors on my roster who have very young reels, and yet, it's hard to get them work because their reel is not as experienced. 

It starts with agencies first. When they are looking for a more diverse pool of creatives, they must be willing to look at the actual talent instead of the number of spots they’ve done previously. They must look at the work and then put it in context of the talent within those three spots compared to somebody else who has 10 spots. When the industry starts pushing that they don't care about the quantity of reels, but instead care about the quality of the content, I think that's when diversity is going to be seen across the board. 

People are going to start allowing more diverse talent in various companies to move on to a bidding process where they're going to learn and get experience to be able to build their reel one spot at a time. Let's keep talking about talent, but also expose and give opportunities to diverse creatives that are not getting seen or given opportunities right now.

When you see somebody that is like you, who is obtaining a level of respect and success, it makes you look at your abilities and capabilities a little bit differently. It's important for young people of colour and people of different cultures to be able to have these opportunities to grow. It can expose other young people to the opportunities and the possibilities that they too can be a director, art director, advertising agency creative, stylist, or whatever they want to be. 


LBB> Any last points to add?

Oliver> There's something to the saying “everything old is new again.” We just keep refining and having more and more interesting conversations about the same old things. I think it's how we put together the team of talent that's going to produce the next new thing. 

There’s nothing wrong with having that conversation and applying new technologies and new disciplines to telling stories in a more interesting way than it has been before. There are some spots that were done 20 years ago that still stand alone today that are brilliant and apply to what's current. It’s okay that sometimes everything old is new again. Have that conversation. Don't be afraid.

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Screen Scene, Tue, 22 Mar 2022 09:40:00 GMT