05 May 6 Case Studies

Our Changing City

Problem: Olivia Chow, running for mayor of Toronto, had approached me early on about working with her campaign to produce video content that would help tell her story. The campaign was interested in a video that was shareable.

Solution: I recognized that a video just about her and her story—originating with her campaign—wouldn’t itself be particularly appealing and wouldn’t encourage sharing. I believed a hook was needed that appealed to Toronto’s fascination with itself and could be featured in news media as a way to get traction. My idea was to conflate the story of a developing Toronto with that of her: the developing social activist, politician, and mayoral candidate. I would have Olivia tell her story on camera, and use a process I had developed of using motion graphics to combine historical photography of the old city—during times she references—with photography I would shoot of the new city.

In this way, viewers could be captivated by the “wow factor” of the photographic transitions, meanwhile listening to the candidate tell heartfelt stories of her time living and loving the city.

Result: The video was a viral success. Becoming the most popular video of the entire mayoral campaign, it was reported on in national newspapers; the National Post called it “the very best of her campaign” (Robyn Urback, National Post, October 1, 2014). I had hoped to capture the spirit of Olivia and her campaign, and succeeded:

Her vision for the city is romantic, idealistic and maybe a tad over-the-top, but it is very much in keeping with what many Torontonians hoped to see from Chow when she filed her papers in March. If we saw more of that (…) this mayoral race would look very different leading up to October 27. (National Post, October 1, 2014)

Patient Process

Problem: The CONTACT Photography Festival was commissioned a short-form documentary celebrating John Bladen Bentley, a Toronto-based photographer who is one of the last people to use a time-consuming carbon-transfer printing process for his art photography.

Solution: As the cinematographer for this project, it was important to me to capture two elements of John’s photography; his use of a mammoth large-format camera which he carries and uses on a time scale that contrasts the busy city streets around him, and the craftsmanship of his development process. The project was screened  in a downtown Toronto cinema during the festival.

Result: The festival, viewers, and most of all John himself, were extremely positive about the short piece, which gave a depth and dimension to John’s featured works that viewers could then appreciate with a new understanding of the photographer and his process.

ONE Network: an Introduction

Problem: The ONE Network had a big problem. What is it? As a massive, province-wide resource and support system for entrepreneurs and small-to-medium sized businesses, they had never been able to capture their identity succinctly. They approached me for help to develop a video that would help them do that.

Solution: Rather than film people in suits shaking hands and smiling around a boardroom table, I suggested the use of an animated explainer-style of video would make information more engaging and could be branded more thoroughly. I researched the organization, conducted interviews, and wrote a script that I believed captured their essentials, using examples and graphics to drive viewer understanding of how the system works. All motion work and animation was done myself, along with hiring and recording voice talent.

Result: The client loved the video, and it became the centrepiece of their web site, featured on their landing page. It is also used at conferences and trade shows, and in-person with business owners, as a way to concisely explain the organization.

Accessibility Directorate Film Festival Advertising

Problem: The Accessibility Directorate—a government agency responsible for accessibility issues—was given pre-show advertising time during a Toronto film festival. They didn’t know what they should do with the 30 seconds they had. They came to me, hoping I could deliver something. They were also on a tight deadline.

Solution: I developed and pitched a concept that made of the context—a film screening—to play with the ideas of accessibility and barriers, but in what I thought would be a slightly more fun way. Best of all, it wouldn’t require too much time to create. I wrote a very bare script and presented an idea that uses self-reference and mystery. Using subtle style cues from film and cinema—slightly blurred text, flicker, the sound of a classical film projector—the audience is placed in a theatre which has a message onscreen. This message is obscured by film production equipment; as though the very theatre they are in is having a problem in the projectionist’s room. Since the action takes place using silhouettes, the 3D—all created and rendered by me—was important for the accurate rendering of shadow in order to convey depth on the 2d stage. Footsteps move throughout the room (in 5.1 surround sound) and an unseen custodian labours to move equipment from the path of light. The message is revealed slowly, allowing deep-engagement of the content by inviting viewers to solve the riddle themselves. As the last piece of equipment moves from view, the message is finally revealed: “Removing barriers benefits everyone.” The idea of the “barrier” is important in discussions of accessibility, as many disabled people find barriers which are unseen by others. An important aspect of this piece was to give an able-bodied person the experience of encountering of a barrier. What would it be like to watch a movie this way?

Result: The client was extremely pleased with the simplicity and wit of the idea. This simplicity invited viewers to contemplate the content as it unfolded, as it stood in stark contrast to the other advertising content presented.

Collingwood Whiskey Series

Problem: Collingwood Whiskey noticed that their customers didn’t know that Collingwood was an actual place, and it was important for them to define Collingwood the town, in order to strengthen their brand.

Solution: I worked with the client to produce a series of 5 short-form video pieces exploring some of the businesses in the town and the the people behind them. I developed the format of the pieces; as these were to be socially shared, I began each video with an interesting fact related to the featured business which would capture viewer attention and drive engagement.

Result: The videos have not yet been shared publicly, but the client was pleased with the set as a whole, believing they captured the spirit of the community and would help inform viewers of the city behind their brand.

10 Years of Accessibility

Problem: The Accessibility Directorate was throwing a gala party in celebration their 10 year anniversary, and the progress they’d made since their inception. An evening was planned with speakers, luminaries, even olympians, but the directorate felt that they needed something more to set the tone of the evening. They approached me for ideas on what they could do.

Solution: I didn’t think a video that simply catalogued achievements would connect with viewers, many of whom would have a personal connection to individuals with accessibility issues. It also would have left the evening flat to suggest that there is much work left yet to be done; instead, I decided that an effective video would tell three stories of individuals with accessibility concerns and build a case for accessibility, which would appeal to stakeholders and to the general public.

I wrote a script that makes a simple argument: By helping one person, you help an family. By helping a family, you help a community. By helping a community, you help everyone. I produced the entire piece and it screened for an audience of some 500+ people at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

Result: The video was a universally celebrated by those who watched it; many of those viewing it beforehand and at the event itself cried, and for me—in this case—tears meant success. Event organizers said that it perfectly captured the spirit and optimism of their work and set the tone for the evening in an ideal way; and, it lives on as a video they may continue to use and share.

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