We’ve all been impressed by visual tricks and special effects in commercials but the latest campaign for leading children’s charity, Barnardo’s, tells its story with some good old-fashioned editing techniques and emotional performances. Shot by Rattling Stick’s Ringan Ledwidge, and created by Nick Gill with creative team Mel Lynch and Rory Hall from BBH, the regressive film tells the story of Michael, a typical product of the organisation’s work.
“We wanted to use the physical language of film to communicate the message and make the film about real lives and real children,” explains Gill, executive creative director on the campaign. “When you have a line like ‘Believe in Children’, you’ve got to make the films about real people but still find some way of dramatising them in interesting filmic ways using the physical language of film.”
The commercial opens on a 25-year-old Michael, shot in handheld style at a Barnardo’s session. He begins to tell his story and it seems that everything in his life is going well apart from the recurring nightmares about his past. The focus then switches to an 18-year-old version of the character, who is clearly much angrier and troubled. The film then moves back on through the child’s life, visiting him when he was 14, 12, eight and five years old.
“I decided to make it feel like a single shot by using simple old-fashioned edit transitions as Michael grows younger,” says Ledwidge, who clearly connected with his cast on the job. “I think the film gets across the amount of work Barnardo's does in order to take a broken spirit, build him up and push him out into the world as someone who can deal with things and be confident.” Gill adds: “We didn’t want to make a science fiction film, it had to be about believable performances.”
The creative director continues to mention the previous Break the Cycle and Turnaround campaigns for the charity, both of which also adopt intelligent methods to tell the stories of the children who feature. And he says that this time round is particularly important because of the amplified media scrutiny and the recent London riots.
“When Barnardo’s takes on a child the first thing they do is look at what happened in that child’s past and that’s a part of what we mean by believing in children. The stuff you read about children, particularly post-riots, is quite inflammatory.”
Balancing emotional performance with likeness in appearance among the acting cast was important for the job’s success and only a limited amount of post was used for a seamless journey through Michael’s life. At the end of the shoot, the 30-year-old actor we are first introduced to revealed that he actually went through care in real life and is a true reflection that the charity’s work is worth investing in.
“It’s about believing in the potential of children rather than writing them off,” says Gill, who kept the spirits up on set. It was also creative partnership, Mel Lynch and Rory Hall's first campaign. “These shoots can get very tense but you’ve got to make them positive and energetic and [doing this] certainly let Ringan weave his magic,” adds Gill.
You can find out more about the magic of Barnardo’s here and in the making of film below.