Ask Big Questions
When you witness a story that’s so extraordinary… you know it. It’s a feeling you experience, and you can’t quite explain it. The story moves beyond any boundary or limitation set upon it and breaks into the coveted upper-crust of becoming an instant classic — a treasure to our story-craving culture.
That’s what happened to me when I saw the first Shrek film.
In all seriousness, a branded piece, by Harry’s Razors in partnership with The Representation Project titled A Man Like You, asks big questions in terms of how their product relates to its target audience’s emotions. It aspires to explore something deeper — venturing beyond just a run-in-the-mill ad. I wanted to break down and discuss why this short film works on so many levels: narrative, theme, and incorporation of branding. Before continuing any further, watch A Man Like You below:
The Break Down
We see our main character (let’s call him Young Man) packing up for school. He picks up a model space shuttle with hesitation… clueing in the viewer that a) he’s into space stuff and b) there’s another emotion behind the space shuttle. Upon further inspection, you can see his entire room is covered floor to ceiling with astronomical, celestial decorations and flight patterns.
Then, he peeks into his mom’s bedroom and we see how she sleeps on the left side, leaving enough room for another person on the right side of the bed. Close-ups of a couple pictures on the nightstand reveal that there was a father… He’s an astronaut. Presumably, he’s on a mission — somewhere among the stars. Next, Young Man spots a crashing meteor nearby as he walks to the school bus, and that’s our break into the second act.
Then, we meet the Alien who’s curious about the most advanced lifeform: mankind. Young Man convinces the Alien that he’s a man and they set out on a quest to teach the Alien what being a man is all about. That question, what does it take to be a man, is the crux of the film — the message. They walk like men, dress like men, shave like men (ahem, Harry’s Razors) and then they must hide from Young Man’s mother. We learn by dialogue that maybe the Young Man’s father is dead. Later on, the Young Man sits with the Alien and says that there’s no one way to be a man.
In an excellent match cut, the Young Man is seen supporting his mother, emotionally, by giving her flowers. Through excellent voice-over dialogue and performance, we learn that manhood is whatever you deem it to be. Strength can be compassion. Tenderness can be bravery. The film’s ending sends a message that we can abandon toxic masculinity for a higher form of being a man — a form that isn’t restrictive in its norms.
The style and execution of A Man Like You are impeccable because every facet of production is working on all cylinders. The writing and performances are immeasurably concise and pointed. It’s as if not a single word is wasted or without purpose. The camera angles are leveraged to squeeze out the most narrative information and emotion in every scene, especially that last shot with the Young Man and mother sitting on their porch — that wide shot tells us that they can make a loving home just by their closeness. Also, if you look closely, a shooting star zips past the left-hand side of the roof. You sneaky, sneaky filmmakers…
What Can We Learn?
A Man Like You is a wonderful piece of filmmaking and advertising that trades in selling a product for telling a story. It forces the viewer to challenge their own conception of manhood while presenting the brand as the ambassador for asking that big question, which postures Harry’s Razors as a company that cares for more than their bottom line. They took their target demographic and flipped it on its head.
Our mission for the pieces we produce at Revolution Pictures is to challenge the norms and tell stories. For example, our spots with Tractor Supply Co. go beyond the products that stock the shelves — we discover the stock of people who “live life out there.” The farmers, the builders, the doers. Through evocative and textured filmmaking, we were able to create a story for the target audience who shop at Tractor Supply Co. The attention to empathy and detail certainly elevated Harry’s Razors, and that was our hope for Tractor Supply’s branding.
I’ll go into more of these ideas of balancing data, empathy, and creativity in regards to successful brand storytelling in my next post.
By Benton Olivares