Project:
Transformation Awaits
Client:
Better World Books
Year:
2013 - 2014
Ambition:
Create a 30-second commercial that emotionally connects the transformative power of books with a television audience.
Services:
  • Concept
    • Stakeholder interviews
    • Treatments
  • Pre-Production
    • Casting
    • Locations
    • Crew
    • Gear
  • Production
    • 2 days of shooting
  • Post-Production
    • Editing
    • Color grading
    • Music
    • Voiceover direction

When our own Alex Lee (Business Development) sent a text message late one night to say our studio had been selected to create a 30-second commercial for Better World Books, two reactions ensued. One was excited high-fives and celebratory. A second reaction came from Kenneth Chu (Director) knowing that, as director, he would have to step out of his comfort zone:

“Given my training in mostly non-fiction filmmaking, I felt beneath my feet the fire of directing a 30-second piece of fiction, for a very trusting client, and for the first time. How would I respond to the challenge? Little did I realize then that by moving beyond my comfort zone, I would enter into one of the most creatively in-sync and collaborative executions I've yet to experience.”

Transformation awaited us in more ways than one.

We first met the Better World Books team on the heels of having been embedded within Ben & Jerry's, another social enterprise with a deeply rooted "triple bottom line." To already come with this headspace was helpful, but every story is different. Instead of transforming the world through ice cream,  Better World Books harnesses the power of any book, used or new, to transform literacy and libraries around the world.

With a tape recorder in hand, we came prepared to interview every type of Better World Books stakeholder before diving into a creative concept. Through candid conversations with members of their community — parents, teachers, librarians, literacy advocates, and lovers of books in general — could we really understand, empathize with, and find a universal sentiment from all those people touched by Better World Books?

At the library

Over the course of a week, we arrived at an emotional insight: Some of the most memorable books in our lives are the ones that helped us to respond to life's inevitable adversities, especially during adolescence. This key insight would then lead us to Camelot and a creative vision inspired by T.H. White's young adult fantasy classic The Once and Future King:

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it.”

The Once and Future King

What followed was the relentless scouting of real-world locations, casting for all walks of life, and storyboarding of every scene to map Merlin's words onto our world today. As always, we were fortunate to team up again with Director of Photography Eric Ryan Anderson who channeled his naturalistic look from a Canon C300, Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera, and all sorts of clever objects in front of the lens.

Riding the train

The Better World Books team, beyond scheduling all of the stakeholder interviews, pushed us in the best way possible: to have the courage of our creative convictions. While their trust in us was genuine and immense, they challenged us to stay true to every detail of our 30-second story about the transformative power of books.

Afternoon light

Meet the finished product