Reel Design Challenge

By The Drum, Administrator

June 18, 2003 | 7 min read

Steven Walsh's 'Seach for Spark' Reel Design Challenge winner

Media convergence is beginning to affect all areas of the creative mix as new technology is developed allowing creatives to look outside their own field of expertise for solutions. Katy Archer looks at the results of The Reel Design Challenge, which asked Scottish creatives to use the medium of film to illustrate how creativity has impacted on humanity. Here are the results.

The worlds of advertising and film are coming ever closer these days. From Ridley Scott’s work in the advertising industry in the 60s and 70s to his cinematic debut of “Bladerunner” and on to Scorcese deciding to veer off the mean streets and direct ads for Johnnie Walker instead. Marketing and filmmaking are indeed becoming more and more entwined.

But, whilst these examples do symbolise something that is becoming more apparent within the creative industries, is there true convergence occurring?

The link between film and new media, following its coming of age, has been unparalleled, but what else is happening and what is the future for all things creative? And is the work that is being produced original in both its production and, more importantly, its way of thinking?

The Reel Design Challenge was set by The Drum and Scotsys at this year’s annual Creative Conference, and asked contestants to come up with a piece of film that uses the theme of originality as a starting point in an attempt to answer some of the questions posed.

The aim of the challenge was to find out how the different disciplines – graphic design, creative and architectural skills – were applied to filmmaking, and whether convergence was achievable. Only one aspect was insisted on – the film needed to convey the importance of creative thinking and how it has advanced the cause of civilisation as we know it. Not a hard task then.

The judges for the event ranged from all areas of the creative industries, and consisted of John McAleenan of Scotsys, Claire Aston of Apple, filmmaker Murray Grigor, Simon Mallinson of MTP, Hoss Gifford of MMI Media and Richard Draycott of The Drum.

Eighteen entries were submitted, all fighting it out to win the competition and become owners of an extremely attractive 17” Apple Powerbook, kindly donated by Scotsys.

The final four nominations were whittled down after an arduous judging session, giving a surprising result – with three out of the four entrants coming from the same company.

Chunk Ideas has long been associated with off-the-wall thinking in terms of the new media work that they take pride in producing, and the films that were submitted were testament to that. The final four consisted of Steven Walsh, Donnie Kerrigan and Brian Limmond from Chunk Ideas, along with Fergus Crook, who, at the age of 13, puts all technophobes to shame with his highly original piece of work entitled “Colour 2”.

The eventual winner on the night was Steven Walsh, although all the judges were high in their praise for the work that had been created by the final four. Commenting on the brief that was set, Walsh said, “The brief was a bit complicated and seemed to be asking about five questions that needed one answer. So, I concentrated on the very first sentence and basically the phrase ‘originality’ and where it comes from. I think about five 'key points' were mentioned in the brief, but I only covered about three of them and I wasn't sure that would be enough.”

The judges all agreed that the winning entry encapsulated both originality and the new media age within the disciplines of film. Walsh, drawing on his experience of working with Chunk Ideas, showed a flying pig making its way out of its home and to work and was likened by the judges to a video game.

The range of creative thinking and sheer originality that was displayed also impressed the judges. For Walsh his work was worth the difficulties in the brief and although he readily admits he didn’t receive the warmest of receptions from his nearest and dearest, the final outcome on the night of the Scottish Design Awards spoke for itself: “I showed my brother the film before the awards and he said, ‘That's rubbish’, his girlfriend said nothing at all and looked uncomfortable, my best friend said ‘What the hell is that all about?’ So, all in all, I wasn't expecting too much,” admits Walsh.

He continued: “I thought Donnie's was going to win and when his was shown and got a great reception at the awards, I was convinced. Then I saw Brian's film – he had kept it top secret in the office – and his was very funny so when I won, after confused stirrings and nervous laughter in the audience when people were watching my movie, I was shocked and embarrassed but delighted.”

Commenting on the work, judge Hoss Gifford said, “The winner really played to the medium of digital film. The main distribution channel for digital film is the internet and it allows you to play films back and flick through them in slow motion. So, “Search for Spark”, which moves very quickly to re-create a computer console game, can be played back to get its maximum effect.”

MMI has been dealing with all areas of the industry for some time, and fully welcomed the idea of convergence within the industry, admits Gifford. But in doing so they believe that they are ahead. “We have had to upgrade our equipment to particular specifications so that we can make digital films. One thing that was pointed out to me when we were doing the judging was the fact that kids in schools are probably better at doing this than adults – and it’s not because they are more advanced than us. Instead, they have better tools to do it with. Companies need to realise that they have to invest in these materials in order to make a difference in the work that they are doing.”

John McAleenan of Scotsys said of the winner: “I think that it is great. It is very nicely produced, to simulate a real console game. It’s a great idea, which answers the brief.”

Filmmaker Murray Grigor was as enthusing of the work, stating simply: “It has everything for me. It really jumps out for you and it answers the brief that we set.”

Grigor was also impressed by the standard of the entries as a whole, and that Walsh had taken, and encapsulated, aspects of the brief to its fullest effect: “What I liked about the winning entry was that you could look at it again and again and always get something new. That is very important in this day and age.”

For Grigor, the standard of work was not only impressive from the final four – but he also pointed out for special mention Fergus Crook’s filmmaking skills: “I was very impressed by the work that Fergus did and was more impressed when I found out how old he actually was. These days I think people get far too tied up with the new technological aspects of it. Instead they should be thinking about the imagination and creativity. That is the most important thing in all this, and the work produced by the final four certainly had that.”

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