Film Craft Grand Prix Goes to Channel4's 'Meet the Superhumans'

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"Meet the Superhumans," a spot created by the in-house creative agency of British broadcast Channel 4 4creative to support its coverage of the Paralympics, took home the Film Craft Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The spot was a quiet favorite among industry pros going into the festival and also earned a Gold Lion in the film category.

Jury President/Director Joe Pytka, who many in the industry see as the Godfather of commercials production, presided over a small 9-person jury of agency and production professionals, from nine countries, including directors Nicolas Perez Veiga of Primo, Argentina, Sebastian Strasser of and Wanda, and Abhinay Deo of Ramish Deo Production, India and Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam exec producer Elyssa Singstock. Mr. Pytka also led arguably the funniest press conference at this year's Cannes Lions International Festival, peppering the discussion with standup-quality cracks. "We just went through a week of torture," he quipped about the judging process. "If anyone has seen the movie "The Prophet," you would understand, except we weren't allowed to get out of this place at all."

Meet the Superhumans is a promo out of the UK's Channel 4 supporting its coverage of the Paralympic games. Tom Tagholm, repped out of Blink, directed the spot, which was created out of the broadcaster's in-house advertising department, which Mr. Tagholm oversaw for 11 years as creative director. Featuring uplifting music and sophisticated cinematography, it celebrates the Paralympian with the sort of majesty and flash typically reserved for Olympic athletes. It also splices into that more emotionally jarring moments suggesting how the athletes may have become disabled -- by accident, with shot of a car crash, or, by nature, with scenes of a sonogram and pregnant woman.

"It's a profoundly emotional commercial because it deals with people with tremendous restrictions on their physical capabilities," said Mr. Pytka. "At first you think it's an easy commercial, too much of a heart-tugging commercial, but it's very dramatic. It's also very subversive because it's parallel to the big Olympic events, which are perhaps dominated too much by economic interests." But most important to the craft category, Mr. Pytka explained, "Every aspect of the commercial is perfect. The cinematography is profound and subtle. The editing is clever enough in places it has to be clever, but then honest in the other places. The music is completely unexpected, and appropriate. The more we saw it, the more we loved it."

The winner was clear. "Even though we tried our hardest for an alternative, thinking the choice was too obvious, the more we tried, the more this commercial rose out of the rubble, and we're very proud of that," said Mr. Pytka.

As for those alternatives, the jury considered five other potential winners, but the main contender was Southern Comfort's "Beach." Created out of Wieden + Kennedy New York and directed by Biscuit Filmworks' Tim Godsall, it features a hirsute, obese man sauntering down the seaside with understated swagger. Mr. Pytka joked, "I don't think a fat guy walking down the beach should get the grand prize." But on a more serious note, Juror Michael Ritchie of Australia, Managing Director/Executive Producer at Revolver/Will O'Rourke, noted that the greatness of the work can be attributed to its restraint. "The director chose not to do a lot of things, which make that ad really good," he said.

Another much discussed work, which Mr. Pytka said that he hated at first, but came to love by the end of judging, was a risque film with a surprise ending. Created out of Being and directed by Jeppe Ronde of Bacon/Henry de Czar it shows seductive, artsy images of scantily clothed women in a brothel-like setting and stars Asta Philpot, a disabled man who advocates the right of those with disabilities to have an active sex life. The spot promotes promote Come4, a website that combines "philanthropy and pornography" and features sexual material to raise money for good causes.

The jury awarded 40 Lions, including 12 Golds distributed fairly evenly among countries. The U.K. earned three, for Credit Suisse's "Metamorphosis," PETA's "98% Human," and Guinness "Clouds," the latter which Mr. Pytka said was a personal favorite. The Australia, Brazil, France and the U.S. each took two, while Germany won one Lion.

Mr. Pytka said the winning work chosen, especially the Grand Prix, serves as a statement to clients about the value of quality production. "What we want to do is pick the best work to show what our industry is capable of, and for a long time there's been a sort of decline in the quality of work for a number of reasons. In harsher economic times people get very conservative and are unwilling to take risks. I'm not sure the "Grand Prix" could be called a risktaking film, but it's an uncompromised piece of work. A lot of times you can see strategies, you can see the client briefing the creative people, you can see it in the work. But in [the Grand Prix winner], filming it with respect and making sure that all the elements are intact and up to the creative level of the best of our craft shows that we kind of know what we are doing. We hope the clients see this, and leave us alone. Traditionally we are rule breakers. The whole creative process is about breaking rules and finding new ways to communicate, and I feel our profession has been restricted."

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