Shilo and Ogilvy, Amsterdam's Mission to Burma

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Two weeks ago Cyclone Nargis hit the South Asian country of Burma (Myanmar). Since then, the Red Cross has estimated the death toll at up to 130,000 and the UN has been forced to slow aid because the Burmese military junta government has been disrupting the flow of aid to victims. Today, Ogilvy & Mather, Amsterdam, the Burma Arts Board and creative production studio Shilo unveiled the "Burma Viral," an animated call to action for raising awareness about the plight of the Burmese people by urging viewers to visit the Burma Arts Board site. The initiative began as a reaction to political issues and the film was all but complete when the cyclone hit.
We spoke to Shilo co-founder and creative director Andre Stringer about the project.

How did this project start out, and then, once the cyclone hit, how did things change?
The ideas and scripts were in development for a while and then there were some peaceful protests that began happening (in Burma) that I think inspired (the Burma Arts Board) to get the idea going a bit more. So we got the script and had an initial conversation with Carl (Le Blond, ECD, Ogilvy & Mather, Amsterdam) that got us really stoked about it. Beyond the script, the brief was just for us to be as creative as possible. So we just first sat down and absorbed the tone and feeling of what he wrote, then ran with it.

In terms of changes, we finished the initial piece about two weeks ago and then the cyclone hit, so we all thought it could be better if it addressed not just the political situation in the country but also this natural disaster and need for humanitarian aid. So at that point, we went back to the drawing board with Carl and adjusted the script a bit.

What inspired the look? Any particular styles or influences?
I don't think there was one thing that made us go for a specific look, I think we knew what we wanted to present – and there were some limitations in terms of not being able to shoot real planes or in Burma – we just wanted to make it as immersive as possible. So the look came from us combining film influences with animation influences and photographic influences. We wanted to create a piece that captured the emotion and tone of what we saw in our head when we read the original script, so it took time to experiment and try different things until we knew it felt right.

What were some of the biggest challenges, both conceptual and technical, of the project?
It was rigorous, in terms of executing the visual parts of the project. But ultimately, the music and score were probably the hurdle I felt the most relief about once we passed it. Nate (Caswell), our editor, and I did a huge amount of sorting through different tones and feelings trying to capture to right mood for the piece. And when we landed on this coupling of these two different Chopin pieces, it just clicked.

There were some logistical challenges, given it is such a long piece -- something like 45 shots that had to be done in about nine weeks. We just kept going back and re-painting on top of things. We started with drawings and ended up with something quite lush but still rooted in the idea of drawing people in to the emotion of the picture as opposed to a literal depiction of the issue. We wanted people to feel by the end, with the sun rising and the flowers blooming, that this is an important issue and there's a beauty in human kindness that we can't ignore.
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