Oscar Inspirations: Telling Tough Stories

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This three-part series will pull inspiration from the 2016 Academy Award nominated films, hopefully pushing you to explore new strategies in your film projects. Don’t worry too much about the execution of these ideas; the Trove team is ready and willing to produce the Best Picture you’re dreaming about!

If someone were to ask outright, “What would you like to see a movie about?”, it’s unlikely most people would ask to see the story of a mother and son held captive under threat of death for seven years. And yet, once you’ve started watching Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, you’ll have a hard time looking away. Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay turn in emotional and intimate performances as Ma and her son Jack, and you find yourself uncomfortable and claustrophobic inside their small world that Jack calls simply “Room.”

Room is based on a book of the same title by Emma Donoghue (who had the advantage of being able to adapt her own source material), and is a dark take on the stories of women held in captivity not unlike those we hear about on the news every few years. It’s a tough story (and the source material is a bit darker than the film that resulted), but one that ultimately serves a purpose. While your business or organization (thankfully) may not have stories this sad to tell, there’s still benefit to sharing your tough, difficult, or imperfect moments on film.

In his second book, Show Your Work, artist and writer Austin Kleon shares tips on how to ensure your product gains an audience, including “think process, not product.” This idea can be scary for companies or organizations who have garnered praise for a flawless or outstanding product. However, sharing how you got there can build trust, understanding, and appreciation for the work that yields the final product.

In many ways, Room shares the messy, scary, and ultimately rewarding process of becoming a family, but the film gradually builds to that point, concentrating more on the “messy” and “scary” before arriving at the “rewarding.” It feels more real and raw for letting us see those quiet moments that are generally glossed over. What parts of your process are messy or scary, but ultimately rewarding? How much of that process can you share with the audience of your film? For a manufacturer, this could include retelling the story of when a supplier got an element of the assembly line, wrong. For an event planner, it could include some of the missteps that were likely invisible to most who attended, and, for a giant of industry, this could be a unique way to acknowledge a major misstep before someone does it for you.

In 2009, singer and songwriter Dave Carroll looked out the window of a soon-to-depart airliner to see his guitar, and several others, being thrown from cart to cargo by baggage handlers; sure enough, he claimed his $3500 instrument upon arrival with a broken neck. Phone calls, emails, and urgent pleas to acknowledge wrongdoing or mishandling were ignored, so he told his tough story on his own. The video he released, United Breaks Guitars, garnered over 10 million views, inspired a trilogy, and finally prompted the response from United that Carroll had initially wanted … but it was too late.

Comparatively, let’s look at the tale of an organization that recognized its tough story, and told it themselves, thus reclaiming the narrative.

In 2010, o.b. tampons and their parent company, Johnson and Johnson, removed a product from shelves, without warning, in the U.S. and Canada, and later went back on their promise to replace it due to a shift in product design. The move caused outrage for brand loyalists and threatened to hurt o.b. as a brand. However, the company responded to its error and the ensuing outrage with a light-hearted and personalized apology campaign. The overall tone is funny, but it acknowledges their mistake and the inconvenience it caused an admittedly tough thing to do.

Whether it’s a gritty and difficult look inside family relationships, or a soaring apology for the effects of a corporate decision, telling tough stories can carry their own reward. No matter the tone you’d like to take, whenever you’re ready to tell your tough story and turn it into a triumph the Trove team is ready to help get you there!