A great piece of film will always elicit an emotional response, be it joy, discomfort, laughter, or a touch of melancholy. We’ve seen the trend in advertising, wherein brands are going right for the cockles of the heart with emotionally rich stories. But unless you shed a tear or break out in laughter, it’s hard for an outsider to know what you’re really feeling.
Saatchi & Saatchi tapped into those inner emotions with its New Directors Showcase—an annual selection of the best new directing talent that’s presented at Cannes—which it called Feel the Reel. Along with showing films, the NDS is famous for the accompanying grand theatrical piece. This year, the global agency network tapped wearable technology to mine individual emotional reactions to the work and visualize it for all to see. In short, if one of the 18 filmmakers’ films made you cry, it was visualized through a bracelet that changed color with your emotions.
“We literally monitored people’s individual reactions to what they were watching and not in a way that they can control,” says Andy Gulliman, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide Film and Content Director and the curator of this year’s reel. “We’ve monitored their body and how their natural emotions react. We then created data from that, which gave us a response to what they’re watching. So if the brain is thinking that you’re going to cry, then that light comes on.”
The “Feel the Reel” concept was conceived by Saatchi & Saatchi creatives Linda Weitgasser and Alex Sattlecker and brought to life using technology platform "XOX," created by Studio XO. Each attendee was given a sensory bracelet that tracked the body’s emotional responses, which were then visualized by visual artists Marshmallow Laser Feast with Berlin collective Elektropastete. The entire experience was a manifestation of the idea of wearing your emotions on your sleeve.
The work selected by the global Saatchi creative board was a mixture of upbeat and lighthearted work, with a few dark pieces and some technically magical ones—a departure from last year’s incredibly dark and rather violent collection of work.
Gulliman says the selection process had no specific agenda to diverge from previous years or look for anything in particular. It’s just about highlighting excellent directing talent. “What I have to do sitting on a worldwide creative board is make everyone focus on the execution, not just on the idea. Some stuff can creep ahead because it’s a brilliant idea, but from my production point of view I have to look for an idea that’s well executed,” he says.
He calls out “The Box” from Tarik Abdel-Gawad, which is an exceptional experiment with projection mapping, as one of his favorites. “You look at that and you think it’s a clever bit of post, but it’s all projection mapping done in camera. That is amazing! That is just, as far as a technical piece goes, phenomenal. He’s taken mapping to a different level. It’s easy to watch but if you try to figure out how he did it, then it’s impossible to watch.”
Another craft-heavy piece that Gulliman favors is “Moving On," a video for the band James from director Ainslie Henderson in which two balls of yarn are turned into characters that literally unravel to tell a touching tale of love, loss, and life. “ You look at that piece, which is just two balls of string all shot in camera, and to create a narrative like that where you’re emotionally connected, you feel like there’s life in those little balls of string, it’s phenomenal.”
Overall, Gulliman notes the lack of commercial pieces as a trend seen in the New Directors Showcase. “Content, not necessarily commissioned work, is on the rise," he says. "The work of these directors got their credit and applause based on the amount of people who’ve seen it, so there’s definitely a demand for self-motivated, self-generated content. You don’t necessarily need to be commissioned to get an audience. If the work is good, people will find it.”