In one of the biggest nights of the year in the British film calendar, Sam Mendes’ film 1917 won big.
And we’re not surprised. It’s an absolutely breath-taking, visual spectacle. A film that uses a continuous cinematic POV, that feels like it was shot in one take.
It’s not a completely new or innovative technique. In fact, Mendes has previously used it himself in the dramatic opening sequence of Spectre, and the ‘Best Picture’-winning Birdman used a similar technique back in 2014.
But what he does so brilliantly in this film is to place the audience firmly in the centre of the action, combined with outstanding performances and plenty of shocks and surprises along the way.
As a film and animation team, we are constantly looking to the worlds of Hollywood and commercials to inspire our filmmaking. And there are a number of ways we might draw inspiration from Mendes’ work.
• In his own words, Mendes wanted to “lock the audience into the men’s experiences. In a movie that operates more like a ticking-clock thriller at times, I wanted the audience to feel every second passing and take every step with them”. The continuous point of view masterfully embeds the viewer in the horror of war, experiencing it more in the way we experience real life – from our own perspectives. Corporate filmmakers can use this technique to create empathy for the people featured in their films, and bring viewers closer to the action. Perfect, for example, if you are looking to change behaviours in a business.
• A traveling shot can generate a sense of progress, momentum or journey in a film. It can make your organisation feel purposeful, and inject your messaging with life and interest. A word of warning though, walking and talking (whist remembering what you need to say) is notoriously difficult, and so not something to necessarily ask of inexperienced performers – particularly if you’re planning to use your own people in the film.
• Drawing inspiration from real-life stories as subject matter is a great way to help your audiences better identify with the business challenge. Many filmmakers, ourselves included, work closely with clients to find insights or stories from within the company that truly resonate with viewers to make the best impact.
• Use of audio is crucial in filmmaking. Mendes’ use of audio places us within the story – at times overwhelmingly so. He also uses it to direct the audience’s attention towards unfolding events, and at times to wake them up. In a world where we’re making content for social channels or plasma screens, it’s easy to approach films as needing to work mute, but this is to underestimate the emotional cues we can deliver with audio. And as audiences increasingly experience brands through conversational interfaces like Alexa, it’s never been more important to consider how we use sound in communications to get people to connect with, respond to, or remember the story you’re trying to tell.
By Emily Clements, head of animation and film at RY. This article originally appeared in Televisual. To read it, click here.