“Times they are a-changin’…” Bob Dylan sang way back in 1964. Just over half a century later, his folk song rings truer than ever — especially in the way we view, experience, and record our everyday lives. YouTube, by definition, offers an entertaining — if not sometimes disturbing — reflection of the current state of our existence.
Much like music production, video production seems to be in everyone’s hands these days. For professionals who still dare attempt gleaning an actual living from it, it’s a brutal industry. Why? Well, one of the reasons is that as consumers, we’ve all become too accustomed to getting our kicks for free. For the pros out there, the reality is simple: at this level of competition, you adapt or die.
Impactful and vividly visual storytelling will always be an art. Nonetheless, reaching out and touching the consumer market is becoming more complex. While many production companies have been swept away by the ongoing digital tsunami, others have been able to leap on surfboards and ride the waves successfully.
So which are the agencies that are leading the pack and producing compelling content in 2018? There are many, of course, but let’s take a look at five ones that caught our eye — in no order of preference:
Arts & Sciences
Arts & Sciences has not only been riding waves but, more importantly, making them. It boasts a roster of forward-thinking and sassy directors. Named after the organization founded by John Hancock, John Adams, and John Bowdoin in 1780’s Boston, the company aims “to take up wild, difficult, culturally relevant tasks with their same unmasked enthusiasm.” A female stereotype-smashing spot for Julep beauty products got people talking enthusiastically about the brand. It became a huge hit.
The Directors Bureau
Likewise, The Directors Bureau has caught viewers’ attention with quirky, eclectic storytelling. Even the way they’ve designed their website embodies their highly original thinking. They produced a series of commercials for Mailchimp that imagined what mixed-up versions of the brand name would look like. ‘MailShrimp’ is a great example of their work.
Epoch Films solidly advanced Procter & Gamble’s long-running ‘Proud Sponsor of Moms’ campaign. The ‘Love over bias’ spot to promote the 2018 Winter Olympics had a visual subtext that cleverly tackled various forms of discrimination and was widely lauded for its emotional impact.
Stink has done much to live up to its name by delivering a body of work that definitely doesn’t. Their moody, creepy commercial for Oxfam is a case in point. Featuring sinister, masked men sabotaging a hospital, ‘The heist no one talks about’ starkly reveals that when big businesses don’t pay their taxes, innocent people in poorer countries suffer: they’re stripped of funds that would go toward supporting their most basic needs.
Tool of North America
Tool of North America emphasized its storytelling prowess across most digital platforms by producing some fine ads. One for the ‘Love Has No Labels’ campaign is a heartwarmer. It hacked the kiss cam at an NFL game to home in on the emotional connection between a variety of people-pairings — such as homosexual as well as multi-ethnic couples and elderly partners.
Armenian-Russian author of fantasy fiction, Vera Nazarian, insists that the world is shaped by two things: stories told and the memories they leave behind.
Most of us are led to believe the art of storytelling is difficult. We’re forced to accept that it’s reserved for those with a required and revered skill set. Many a talented director, however, will tell you that storytelling skills can be acquired through practice. With the right toolkit, everyone can become a storyteller — and that toolkit includes vision and a voice, whether the narrative is visual, musical, sung, or spoken.
As far as storytelling goes, maybe the more things change, the more they stay the same: a good story cleverly told will always be remembered.
Sure, it’s tough out there — and it’s getting tougher — but perhaps competition is the best thing that can happen to not only the video production industry but the storytelling industry as a whole. As boutique video production agency director and voice actor, Michael Goodheart, says: “If we don’t get forced to push boundaries, we’ll never get ahead.”