Grand historical narratives aside, what will we remember from this year? Small at scale is a theme for Flying Object: a feature film knitted together from phone videos of daily life, Tweets taking over whole platforms, WhatsApp chats that uncover bold insights. We’ve executed some of our largest ever projects without leaving our houses. Our small - sorry, “boutique” - agency won a (Campaign) Big award. We’ve learned things about working that’ll live long past the vaccine rollout. It might not have been the year we asked for, but we’re feeling stronger than ever.
So what did we actually do? What did we learn? What did we laugh at?
We worked with people in 192 countries and Ridley Scott to make a feature film
This year, we shot Life In A Day 2020: a documentary feature film produced by Ridley Scott’s RSA Films in association with Flying Object. (Well - I say “we” - none of the 300,000 clips filmed in 191 countries were actually shot by Flying Object, in any professional capacity, at least. Lockdown or not, filming all that in one day would have been pretty tricky.)
This is the second instalment of the crowdsourced film; the original Life In A Day, an idea of Tim’s when he was still at YouTube, was filmed exactly 10 years earlier. As with the original, Life In A Day 2020 takes a slice of the every day journey of life on earth, hoping to achieve something both more day-to-day and detailed, yet epic and all-encompassing, than any conventional filmmaking approach ever could.
We produced the call-out campaign for YouTube Originals (resulting in Flying Object’s first TV ad) and are now working on the launch, for Sundance 2021. Stay tuned to see how the experiment turned out.
We made billboards cool again
“Going up”, said the Guardian Weekend Magazine’s trend column The Measure, “Billboards: having a moment thanks to outdoor ads for Palace - and, weirdly, Twitter”. Weirdly or not, we’ll take it!
Thousands of commuters (remember them?) on the tube (we used to use it to get to work?) who were feeling down about Valentine’s Day (seems almost quaint?) were instead delighted by platforms-full of hilarious Tweets about the perils of dating. Like this:
At Halloween, we worked with Twitter again to repeat the trick - this time with murals, coming to life after dark through UV lights, highlighting a Tweet - this time accompanied by a spooky scary monster
Jade, our production assistant, made 100 new best friends.
In March, we started chatting to Wellcome Trust. They wanted to find out how young people were coping with the Covid crisis, and whether there was anything we could learn from them about managing mental health.
Working quickly and reacting to the fast-changing and uncertain times, we developed four creative methods to capture young people’s lived experiences of the pandemic: photo diaries; WhatsApp conversations with daily creative prompts; video chats where they could demonstrate their lockdown pastimes; and letters written to their future selves.
We ended up connecting with 14-25 year olds from all over the world - 32 cities in 15 countries were represented by our participants - and hearing a diverse range of perspectives on how to look after your mental health. The conversations were led by Jade, fielding virtual heart-to-hearts with multiple strangers per day. It was a heroic effort that we reckon earned her the title Most Zoomed-Out in a universally Zoom-filled year.
We’re currently working on a beautiful animated film inspired by the research project.
We’ve become animated about animation
Speaking of animations, we’ve gone mad for the stuff! It’s something we’ve always enjoyed doing but, in a year of reduced film shoots, we took the opportunity to think more in depth about our animation offering and throw ourselves into building our skill set.
We created a lovely piece about forensic science for FCN and have a slate of exciting projects launching in the near future covering all sorts of topics from identity in the digital age to true crime.
We adapted, figured it out, and got stronger
We worked from home, sat in video calls, shared recipes and good vibes. Nothing we’d never tried before, of course, but this time at a different level. Some practices we’ll keep when we go back to a more office-centric model, and however we do that will be substantively informed by our experiences this year.
Highlights from our Slack channels: Animals
Times like this, you can’t have enough random chat Slack channels (or, can you? We have five). One is dedicated solely to funny animals. In the spirit of public service, we’re sharing our favourite five:
- Look at this piano cat!
- And these hat-wearing sea urchins!
- And this sassy caracal!
- And this long-necked cow!
- And this goth chinchilla!
Highlights from our Slack channels: Memes
Memes have been a source of solace this year, in a weird kind of way. But special shout-outs go to:
- Gone Too Far Award: Everything is Cake
- Flying Object Popular Vote: Vibe Cat (in particular, Cat Vibes to Levan Polkka and the meme wormhole it has created)
- Extraordinary Achievement Award: Beveragino, a moment of purest glee that we all desperately needed
- Turner Prize: Namejiro, the nihilistic mushroom mascot
- Most Toxic Environment Award: Sue Sylvester vowed to create an environment so toxic (Glee: S1, Ep7) that everyone who’s experienced 2020 could relate (some of our favs here , here and in honour of Christmas coming up: here)
- Best Resurgence: Pope Francis holding things has been around since 2015 but the meme saw a comeback this year, giving many of us a small slice of joy (open for a surprise here )
- Making The Best of It Award : no explanation needed.
Bring on 2021.