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The best ideas are simple — how directors crafted brilliant film narratives

The 2022 D&AD Awards showed that a strong idea, well executed, is still the path to winning a Pencil

Little White Lies Editor at Large Adam Woodward hosted the first of our 2022 D&AD Awards Jury Insight sessions, with panellists from the Direction Jury. He was joined by Jules Chalkley, Chief Executive Creative Director at OgilvyCharu Menon, Partner and Executive Producer at HecklerSerena Abi Aad, Creative Director at Havas Middle East, and Karien Cherry, Director represented by Giant Films and Outsider

Together they discussed how this year’s winners responded to the post-lockdown mood with whimsical, escapist narratives, as well as good old-fashioned storytelling and craft. Watch the video above, or get the quick need-to-know in our takeaways below. 

The sheer delight of it

Burberry’s Open Spaces by Megaforce, entered by Riff Raff Films, is described by Charu Menon as “a unanimous favourite” of the Judges. Craft, casting and its whimsical aesthetic reminded the Jury that brilliant work is an exercise in sparking delight. 

“It had such joy,” says Karien Cherry. “It had such feeling. Outside of all the technical reasons why it was amazing, and why it’s a flawless piece of work, the top thing that stood out is that it just transports you in its emotion, and that’s the pinnacle of why we do what we do.”

“The sort of work that seems to win big things like D&AD tends to feel iconic, changes the category, and after that film it’s going to be very hard for another brand to come out and beat it,” says Jules Chalkley.

Not the same old story

Apple’s Shot on iPhone - Life is But a Dream, submitted by Apple MAL, was another Jury favourite, described by Chalkley as a piece of work that “not only lifts the product up but raises the category”. The 20-minute short was director Park Chan-wook’s first new film in six years, and received over 10 million views during its release month. 

“It’s an amazing Korean story of the afterlife … part beautiful music video, part Korean tale, and 22 minutes of raw entertainment,” said Chalkley. 

“The thing we loved about the film was how it embraced an authentically Korean style of storytelling, which is so refreshing to see in the mainstream commercial and largely Western style of storytelling,” agrees Cherry. “It’s so refreshing to be exposed to a much more spiritual style of storytelling - structurally it’s different, the performance is totally different, and to break out of the homogeny of what we see in advertising is so lovely for us.”

Simple still works

The simplicity of the idea won the Judges over to ITV’s Poison, submitted by Smuggler and telling the story of actor Jason Watkins attempting to poison reality star Kem Cetinay.

“It’s easy to dismiss that kind of spot because it’s so simple, but we recognised the elegance in the directing - it was perfectly executed, it feels like the beginning of something much bigger and in that sense tapped into true entertainment,” says Cherry. 

“It’s that restraint the director opted for, which I think was so beautiful because it’s all about doing the simple things well,” agrees Menon. “Direction boils down to all those decisions you make about cast, wardrobe, set design, art direction. When you look at [Poison] it’s doing all the simple things right, and just that is pure joy.”

The boldness of creative evolution

Pencil-winning work isn’t just about single, standalone ideas, and Channel 4’s Super Human - Paralympics film, submitted by Serial Pictures and Somesuch, shows the value of an evolving ad campaign. 

As well as being a masterclass in craft, Serena Abi Aad describes the film as an impressive follow-up to two other hugely successful spots. “The 2012 and 2016 [ads] were all about celebrating [Paralympians] as superhuman, and this one goes, alright, how can we do something beautiful and fresh and impactful but not repetitive?” she says. “I thought that novelty was bold, knowing they had a successful recipe from 2012 and 2016.”

“To be surprising a third time, and hit the heart like it does, is testament to the team,” adds Chalkley.

Post-lockdown hope and whimsy

If anything connected this year’s Pencil winners, it was the underlying influence of Covid and lockdown. After a raft of relatively sentimental creative work, this year Pencil winners were more whimsical, more escapist, and less prepared to adopt half measures. 

“The delivery of all of these things is emphatic,” says Chalkley. “There’s no pulled punch. They’ve really gone for it and made it the very best. There’s no edges cut, there’s no quarter given in the storytelling, and they’re all delightful for it.”

This is the first in our series of Insight Sessions with Judges from the 2022 D&AD Awards. More insights from across the creative disciplines will be published throughout the coming weeks.

Production: 90Seconds

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