January 23, 2013
We are constantly faced with problems. Both in life generally and here at Fast Horse. We are faced with mountains to climb or obstacles to overcome and most often, we manage them deftly. This is no different than anyone else, taking things head on as they come. However, taking a step back from the problems we encounter and the way we had to solve them can tell us a lot more than we think.
Case in point, the documentary “Reclaiming November.” It is a piece we are extremely proud of and one that tells an important story. We made it for a non-profit client of ours called Jefferson Action and we did so because they were faced with a very real problem themselves. After almost 30 years of doing amazing non-partisan political work, they still had almost nothing to show for it.
That’s not completely true, they had plenty to show for it, but no visible document that told their story. That’s because, by its very nature, the process they utilized was effervescent. They put normal citizens in a room together and educated them on a set of issues in a non-bias, professional way, thus making them more informed citizens and better voters. Yet, they were finding it difficult to communicate that narrative.
So when faced with a problem, we came up with a solution: Tell the story of the work Jefferson Action did in the run up to the 2012 elections, in Ohio’s 16th Congressional District. But do it in a way that is engaging, compelling, personal, and emotional. Something that tells their story in a way that doesn’t feel like an outright commercial, but rather a cinematic portrait. So we did just that. We made a pretty picture.
And lest this seem like mere self-aggrandizement, I come to the point where we take an even further step back, to admire the view from atop the mountain. Because what this piece also illustrates is the solution to an even broader problem we are tackling: How can we become better storytellers? And be “we” here, I mean “The Royal We,” as one Jeff Labowski would say. As in creators of content on the whole. Some people question weather “branded content” is the way forward or whether it’s just advertising dressed up in new clothes with the cynical notion that consumers are too dumb to know the difference. But I would posit that both of these assertions miss the point entirely. Which is (*gets on soapbox*):
We are bad storytellers. We can do better.
Again here, royal “we.” Content on the whole is pretty bad. OK, awful. It’s crafted solely to sell, rather than engage. It is made with the sole purpose to get consumers consuming, as opposed to simply being entertaining. And lest I beat the drum too loudly, the only thing that matters in any content, branded or otherwise, is how good the story is. How much someone connects with it, how much they are moved by it.
So, with this documentary we are not placing our flag in the branded content world. That is something we have done and will continue to do. But it’s also nothing new. All the cool kids are doing it. However, what the below is a flag-planting statement of is simple, “We are upping our game.” The way forward for any and all content is that it has to be produced at the highest possible levels of narrative quality. We have to craft things that are different, exciting, visceral, funny, tear jerking, and human. While the documentary below is not a perfect attempt, we believe it to be a few sure-footed steps in the right direction. As we craft more content, we will continue to push the envelope of quality and we will always, always tell great stories.
February 11, 2013