Brand Film Awards US 2021: Craft categories

The complete list of winners and honorable mentions from the 2021 Brand Film Awards US Craft categories.

The art of storytelling is on full display in this section, as auteurs and other artists command the screen with their direction and eye for perfection.

Animation

WINNER: Golden Age Karate

Zendesk and Even/Odd

Colorful graphics, energetic animated sequences and live film are interspersed in Zendesk’s Golden Age Karate, directed by Sindha Agha. The film recounts how Jeff Wall first began to develop his passion for karate at age 6; he’d be inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame at age 10. However, it is his decision to teach karate to senior citizens that makes Wall’s story compelling and connects his biography to Zendesk. 

Wall first takes his karate skills to a nursing home after spending many weekends with his grandmother. Imagining that other seniors may be longing social and physical outlets just as she was, Wall soon discovers through his senior students that one is never too old to kick butt. The film was produced for $125,000 and is part of a Zendesk series on “Stories about helpful people,” fitting for a company that is encouraging its employees and customers to reimagine consumer support and what it looks like. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Simple Things Count

Microsoft and Microsoft Story Labs

Watch the film here.

Cinematography

WINNER: Hometown — Shot on iPhone by Phillip Youmans

Apple, TBWA\Meadia Arts Lab, Smuggler and OMD

For Black History Month in 2021, Apple allowed a takeover of its Instagram account that lasted for 33 days — the longest takeover in the history of the brand. Each day the images of a different Black photographer were featured. 

Hometown — Shot on iPhone by Phillip Youmans, whose 2019 feature-length movie Burning Cane won the Founders Prize and the award for best cinematography at the Tribeca Film Festival, focuses on four of the photographers who participated in the project and who are located in four different hometowns: Lawrence Agyei (Chicago), Gabriella Angotti-Jones (Los Angeles), Lauren Woods (Charlotte) and Julien James (Washington, DC). The short vignettes on each artist capture aspects of their work and also the variety of Black experiences in America today, from queer life in Charleston to Black female surfer culture in Los Angeles. As Agyei states in the film, his goal is to keep making images that “will change the way we see the whole Black experience,” a mission common to all the photographers in the film and Apple’s larger campaign. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Shot on iPhone by Damien Chazelle — Vertical Cinema

Apple, TBWA\Meadia Arts Lab, Superprime and OMD

Watch the film here.

Direction

WINNER: Shot on iPhone by Damien Chazelle — Vertical Cinema

Apple, TBWA\Media Arts Lab, Superprime and OMD

When Damien Chazelle won an Academy Award for Best Director for La La Land, a film celebrating Hollywood’s Golden Age, the ceremony was historic: Chazelle was the youngest person to receive an Oscar in that category. It is perhaps fitting then that his work for Apple dives into Hollywood history to make a statement on how films have long been shot and viewed. 

At just nine minutes, his short film covers an array of cinematic genres beginning with a black-and-white comedy and ending with a space-age sci-fi movie. There are also stops in Westerns, musicals and action adventures along the way. On one level the star of the film is a stunt man, obliged to repeatedly surrender center stage to each movie’s leading man, but the main character is, arguably, the vertical format. As its name indicates, Chazelle’s film was shot on an iPhone — and he did not flip its orientation to landscape mode. Art direction, props, costumes, cinematography and more were all reimagined vertically in a brief, dazzling and entertaining work. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Eric and the Bees

Zendesk and Even/Odd

Watch the film here.

Emerging technology

WINNER: Dictators

RepresentUs, Mischief @ No Fixed Address and Playtimemedia.tv

Mischief @ No Fixed Address used deepfake technology to expose some harsh truths about the U.S. political environment in two short films they produced in the leadup to the 2020 presidential election for RepresentUs, a bipartisan, grassroots, anti-corruption organization.

The stars of the two spots — directed by Zach Math and written by Kevin Mulroy — are North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Well, at least AI-generated facsimiles of them. Deepfake technology represents a unique danger to our confidence in media as well as our democracy, though here the two dictators actually raise an alert by issuing indirect warnings. They explain that due to extreme partisanship, unfounded skepticism and apathy there is no need for them to actively undermine democratic institutions. 

The spot proved so controversial that none of the networks aired them and Mischief @ No Fixed Address pivoted to paid media and social. The spots then went viral resulting in more than 1.2 billion impressions. 

Music & audio

HONORABLE MENTION: If You’re Ready and You Know It

Oura, Mischief @ No Fixed Address and Revolver Films

The children’s song If You’re Happy and You Know It gets an adult update in this minute-long spot for Oura, the wearable health-tech that has adopted a holistic approach. The film suggests that “if you’re tired and you know it, skip the gym,” and “if you are anxious and you it, take a break.” It is a clever and catchy way to encourage us to listen to our own bodies, with some assistance from Oura.

Watch the film here. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Daydreaming (In the Life Artois)

Stella Artois, Pereira O’Dell, Prettybird, Dentsu and Weber Shandwick

This 3-minute film directed by Paul Hunter and produced by William Green took the unusual reality of summer 2020, with many of us stuck at home alone, and made it the basis of a joyful spot as individuals’ daydreams take the form of physical twins who lead them dancing out into the sunshine. A cover by M. Ward of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s hit Daydreams and choreography by Mandy Moore (known for her work on La La Land) provide a contagiously feel-good quality. 

Watch the film here. 

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