Every so often, a filmmaker will work really hard on a video that is never released. So much $ spent, so much time invested and it can seem like a huge waste. The reasons can be anything: Client doesn't love the video, the Director shelves a passion project - unhappy with the work, client switches ad agencies or CEO kills the entire marketing campaign just prior to launch. Regardless, this can be a frustrating nightmare for all involved.
This is NOT a post to complain about an inevitable part of PROFESSIONAL filmmaking. This IS a post to discuss our creative process and our thoughts & reaction when this happened to us on a spot we were very proud of way back in 2011 called "Fear Is Fun".
As filmmakers we try our hardest to control as many variables as we can, but this is almost impossible: budget limitations, unexpected weather, last minute client requests -- we become very good at reacting to these wild card factors without negativity. But this can be very hard when a project get's shelved.
Look at any part of professional filmmaking: Unless we financed the project, we are working FOR someone else servicing their goals. We do not have legal control of the property, script or say over the final cut. Often, we do not control the editorial or post production and almost never have any say in the placement and/or implementation.
As long as the client pays all the filmmakers a reasonable rate and unless the filmmaker's usage rights are addressed in the contract, the client deciding to shelve something should not elicit our public scorn or contempt as filmmakers. If you are worried, we strongly suggest adding in a line in your contract and/or deal memo covering how you and other filmmakers can use the footage and finished videos.
We are hired to come up with and/or execute an idea. The company, brand or client who writes the checks have many smart people making tough decisions around roll-out and implementation. And when something is shelved many professionals in those organizations are experiencing the same frustrations as the filmmakers. Marketing Directors, Brand Managers, the Writers at the agency who were super excited too. Everyone is doing the best they can with a tough situation and some will often be concerned about losing an account, relationship or even their job.
Although it's disappointing to have a piece of work you we are proud of just sitting idle on a hard drive, it's very important to remember that properly navigating this situation comes with the territory. Our reaction as filmmakers interfacing both in person and on social media after a video gets shelved will define us as professionals.
1. Do not pout or post anything negative to social media.
2. If it's not part of your agreement, or you don't own the rights, ask written permission to use the video on website or social media.
3. When explaining the tough situation to collaberators, remind them that it's frustrating for EVERYONE and they need to stay positive as an extesion of the production.
This happened to us recently. We produced a FANTASTIC commercial Directed by Dan Huiting featuring great agency writing, amazing special FX makeup by Oscar winner Crist Ballas, stylish cinematography by TJ Schwingle & the edits were pretty damn good too. The spots elicited laugher and many compliments from Agency, Client & those in our filmmaking network who we asked for notes on the rough cuts. However, we were informed that the spot would likely never traffic due to unforeseen circumstances out of everyone's control.
We'd like to post the spot referenced above, simply to showcase the amazing work of so many great filmmakers and creatives and to give more insight, but that's not possible. I'd like to think we handled this situation in a way that we can be proud of but the whole process reminded me of another great commercial that was never released that WE CAN post highlighting the same scenario.
The year was 2011 and one of my favorite clients (Buck Hill) had just unveiled a new seasonal business endeavor meant to bolster their seasonal recreational offerings. Each fall a series of creepy haunted attractions called Frightmares would be set up at the base of the ski area. We had been hired to create an ultra low budget spot in year one (2010) and it was very well received allowing for a bigger budget in year 2.
We set to work on ways to achieve the clients goals for year 2 pitching 6 unique concepts that would communicate the offerings and elicit the desired response from viewers on TV and social media platforms.
The marketing lead loved several of the concepts, especially the "Red Carpet" & "Fear Is Fun" concepts but were only able to move ahead with the "Hector" spot which more closely matched the tried and true "see and say" ad format the marketing team had used in year one.
Our pitch for this updated commercial matched that exact ask -- a feature benefit spot featuring the main character Hector Cromartie defiantly describing all the fun things to do and see over the course of the evening. The main idea to communicate was that Frightmares offers full night of fun, food and entertainment. We were happy to do this but typically these "see and say" spots do not elicit an emotional reaction that is linked to viewers taking action, but are good for keeping brands top of mind and simply making sure people know the core offering or value proposition of a new entity or business. i.e. Nike sells quality shoes. Our version would add in some fun humorous writing & visual flourishes and package it with dynamic design conscious motion graphics.
We also pitched several spots that had WAY more production value and higher end concepts but were designed to elicit an emotional response.
The Red Carpet spot also included much of this bullet point marketing info but in a less salesy way using an organic POV news video concept, complete with fun unexpected train-wreck ending.
The final spot was a stylish high end slow motion spot expertly crafted by ultra talented writer Jon Nowak showing the value proposition that you could stay all night experiencing scare after scare and the fantastic tagline encapsulating this perfectly "Fear Is Fun."
The concept pitches were appreciated but unfortunately were cost prohibitive. A few days after the pitch session, we got a call saying that since the meeting, they client couldn't stop thinking about how great the concepts could be for business and after a breif negotiation decided to pull the trigger on all 3.
Reviewing the spots with the marketing team, they decided to traffic The see and say "Hector" spot and "Red Carpet" spot years 2 & 3 and save the "Fear is Fun" spot for a future campaign.
The spots did well on TV and social media and later we were informed that the Red Carpet spot was used as a great example of advertising as art in one of the classes at world renowned art school MCAD.
The the following year, the business was sold to company in Texas and we were informed there was obviously no need for the "Fear is Fun" spot to air. We contacted the new owners hoping to sell them the ad but was unable to make a deal and this great little ad has sat dormant on a hard drive for 6 years.
We were certainly disappointed that the spot would never air, but intrinsically knew our role in supporting our clients decision. Because of our arrangement with the client, we could use the spot and footage in reels and pitch sessions or whatever and it's a perfect example the client needing to do what was best for their business.
So anyway, just in time for Halloween here is the previously unreleased "Fear Is Fun" commercial.