How to maintain a winning straight 8 streak
Last year's Focus Shootout saw Iris Worldwide pick up Gold with its hilarious film, The Cost Of Living; their twelfth entry in the competition's history. We spoke to the agency's Global ECD, Grant Hunter, about how the team consistently think up new ideas for the unique format, and ask for tips for any brave companies looking to enter this year's Cannes Lions iteration.
This is the umpteenth entry into straight8 from Iris, and another deserved win. Do you find it difficult to come up with new concepts?
We’re fortunate to have a relatively large creative department and a team of people who are really engaged in Straight 8. There are always new joiners who bring a fresh perspective and then the competitive nature comes through in the teams who have entered before.
We open the brief up to the whole agency and have an intense two-to-three week period of shortlisting scripts then leave ourselves three-to-four weeks for the film production.
A lot of your straight 8 films have a playful solution to the limitations of the challenge. Do you think that's the key element to build a project from?
We always ask ourselves what makes this idea/script a straight 8 film? Some ideas are just good film ideas, but we like the fact that straight 8 has some distinct limitations so we intentionally lean into them.
We like the fact that straight 8 has some distinct limitations so we intentionally lean into them.
Justin Waites: The Man Who Is Out Of Sync is a great example of that thinking.
3 mins 20 secs is quite a long time so we are always looking to keep the viewers' interest and misdirecting them so we land a memorable punch at the end of the story.
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Do you find its techniques in search of a narrative or vice-versa?
Over the years we’ve competed in Shootout I think production companies tend to over-index on the production craft with elaborate rigs/camera shots, whilst the creative agencies tend to focus on the narrative/the idea and can often look scrappier when it comes to the production.
It’s natural for people to play to their strengths
Were there any particular learnings when making The Cost Of Living? What was the trickiest aspect?
Sam and Olly were the creatives behind that film and I know they became experts in the art of hanging objects with fishing line.
A big learning is to always check your focal length.
We always work with a DOP who knows how to use the 8mm camera so that we are as sure as we can be that the film will be focused and exposed correctly.
You see many straight 8 films, including some of our early attempts, where close-up shots in particular are out of focus. So a big learning is to always check your focal length.
You recently hosted a night of straight 8 films in your agency, in the hope of inspiring others to take part. What do you think makes the competition unique and what are some of your favourites from the past?
For creatives, it’s great to have the shackles off from the constraints of creating within a brand’s world. I think for junior creatives it’s brilliant training on how to produce a film production. The fact you have to plan every part of your shoot in advance and then shoot in a linear way, with one take per shot, brings a discipline and jeopardy which is unique to straight 8; there’s no 'we’ll save it in post'.
One take per shot, brings a discipline and jeopardy which is unique to straight 8; there’s no 'we’ll save it in post'
I think the other really unique facet of it is seeing your film for the first time on the big screen alongside the other people who have entered. The sense of anticipation, the questioning of whether it will be in focus, in sync, exposed correctly all race through your mind before the action rolls.
I love watching the faces of our shootout entrants when their film starts to play.
In terms of favourite shootout films I loved the intrigue and punch line of Rothco’s film about a guy’s Dad’s attempt at portraiture [Portrait Of Shame]. In terms of our entries, Beloved draws the viewer in, keeps their attention and then delivers a big smacker of a finale.
Have you shot your straight 8 for this year's Cannes Shootout yet? Any teasers you can give us?
We are in script development at the moment and there are a number of contenders so at this point I’m still not sure which one is going to make the cut.
There are definitely a couple that have the 'I didn’t see that coming' factor.