Sunday, March 18, 2012

Less is more

Erin and I recently have started watching ONCE UPON A TIME. Actually, we both started and she cruised on ahead, logging in all the episodes before I knew what hit me. As I've been playing catch up, it's become a running joke for me to imitate Robert Carlyle as Rumpelstiltskin. He does a fine job, but it's quirky in just enough ways to have some fun mimicking. Well, tonight she was telling me about an interview she saw of him and she mentioned his full name and IT HIT!!

I quickly pulled up YouTube to show her this fascinating video. She was ready to head to bed and asked, "How long is it?" to which I replied, "Just watch." She watched the video in its entirety and I marveled at it again and decided I wanted to share the video, but it almost felt wrong to just do so simply by posting a link to it. I then found myself googling the story of it and was even more impressed.

Back in September, I was invited by good friend and fellow deal finder, E-Kan Soong, to attend a Johnnie Walker tasting event.

Having been to a similar event in the past for Dewars, I was excited to check it out, mainly because of the free food that usually accompanies these things. I also was interested to see if I'd get to taste (on someone else's dime) the famous Blue Label. These types of things are fun and if you ever get a chance, you should definitely check one out. I couldn't really handle the Dewars, but it taught me a lot, even if it was simply, "if I don't tough that stuff again, I'll be ok."

We showed up, with mutual friend, John Park, and make our way in, and of course head for some hummus and olives before being brought in to the tasting room.

I got excited...would my JW Blue surface? Would I finally get the famed Johnnie Walker Striding Man Pin? Would they have MORE olives inside?

We sit down and see a few glasses placed before us with labels ended at green. Uh oh...not to worry, I hide my concern once I spot a projected screen of some sort of twitter feed. Johnnie Walker had plugged into their twitter hashtag of #johnnieWalker and if you tweeted, it would pop up for everyone to see. I refrained from tweeting, "I drove here from Jersey for #JohnnieWalker Blue. Get it together." I settled for "#johnnieWalker knows how to party" or something equally lame.

Well, in comes the MC of the event and in with him comes his glass of what we could only assume was some Blue JW Juice (or at least I was). Of course he is flanked by a couple of promotional models. Ok, no need to flaunt... See you have more Whisky in your glass than we do in our little tasters in front of us...

At this point, I realize the olives didn't make their way into this room's too late to get up, surely the staff cleared them all out. Sigh. Back to having fun on the twitter screen, "@Mistakan doesn't want anyone to know he is here. Keep this a secret." It flashes on the screen and disappears before E-Kan notices. I laugh.

So the MC, who i was disappointed to discover wasn't Scottish, or at least faking an accent was starting in (Dewars had a Scott in a KILT MC).

He says a few things, but I sense he is holding back. A smirk creeps across his face as he directs our attention to the screen for a movie. The lights dim.

You hear bagpipes and then for the next 6 minutes, I'm completely in awe. Robert Carlyle is on screen in a video that is simply incredible. I hear the guy next to me say, "That steady cam is incredible!" to which I am reminded we are in LA and probably surrounded by people that are appreciating this short film for many of the same reasons I am.

It finishes and I'm hooked. I'll never order another Whisky in my life. I'm then struck by my previous thought of people enjoying this because they are, "in the business." I realize how untrue that would be because not only was I impressed by the single take, the production design, the direction, the SCRIPT, the director of photography, steady cam-op and Robert Carlyle's master class I just witnessed...I was engaged by the entire ad and REMEMBERED everything. The whole thing was a master class!

In a time where our attentions spans are growing shorter and we're adopting, "Less is more" in many ways aside from 140 characters-- this video rises above and succeeds because of the very same sentiment. It IS a six minute video, but I find that just like Erin didn't bring it up again while watching, most people can watch this and just be engaged. I also think that the Johnnie Walker people would be happy to know, their product is also being featured well and the promotion is effective. Kudos to them for taking a risk above a 30 second commercial. It works because, "Less is more." They didn't need fancy editing or any of the other tricks we've grown hip to, and we all have, regardless of profession. It's the reason why you can see something playing from the 30's and point to how, "bad" the special effects are. We've just all grown smarter with technology advances.

I just love everything about this video because of its simplicity. Don't be fooled, it was no easy feat. They shot for two days and did 40 takes of it. The once you see is the very last take of the second day, no probably the last one the fleeting sun would allow. I read a few articles about the shoot and the first day they were having issues with timing of when Robert approaches the wall of TV's. They were in a wrong position and it was forcing him to slow down his walk, while speeding up his dialogue which left him with a very unnatural read during that section and threw off the proceeding parts of the film. They realized and because it took hours to assemble, they had to call the day early to rebuild, losing valuable time. Every prop had to be placed perfectly to time out Roberts speech. The next day Robert showed up and on the very first take, he nailed it in one shot to kick off the day. Every little thing could throw off the entire take, because they committed to not having any cuts/edits in the film. The cow in the short happened to look in the right direction on ONLY that take. It ended up being up there as one of the longest single takes in cinema. There was also apparently a bad case of midges (which I had to google) which are essentially little flies that gather in clouds and bite humans frequently, drawing blood. The crew had their clothes pulled over their heads, but obviously Robert had to carry on without any indication of the swarming pests. So many stories.

Again, it worked because it is simple(not from a technical standpoint), GOOD STORYTELLING. I mentioned the writing earlier and again, it needs to be given another round of recognition, because none of the things I mentioned earlier would make any difference if their goal of selling their brand and giving its backstory wasn't effective. I can't think of many companies that could promote a 6 minute video about the history of their company that would have people lining up to watch.

Well done. When something isn't working...simplify it.

TiLL NeXt TiMe..

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