Brunswick Creative Campaigns and Content is one of the names that has risen above all others in this year's edition of the US International Awards. The 2023 Agency of the Year and its work stood out as a shining example of artistic brilliance amidst fierce competition and a pool of exceptional contenders.
In this exclusive spotlight, we invite you to delve into the mind of Talya Davidoff (Senior Producer) and Alex Corn (Creative Director) as they share the inspirations, challenges, and triumphs, that have shaped their extraordinary journey. Join us in celebrating their remarkable achievements and gain insight into the creative genius that has earned them this prestigious accolade.
Congratulations on your Specialty Award “Agency of the Year”! What does it mean to you, your team, and everyone involved in this project to receive this award?
It means – everything. The two films we put forward are pieces we’re incredibly proud of, and they are representative of the passion, dedication, teamwork, and creativity we put forward in every single project. We’re a firm that works together across many different sectors, specialties, and time zones to tell our clients’ stories in the most powerful and creative way possible. This award helps validate our efforts!
Can you please describe the moment you and your team found out about your big win?
We missed the live announcement! But found out over email and were blown away. We were hoping for our submissions to get recognition, but Agency of the Year – that’s something else. We immediately shared the news with our colleagues and our clients, enjoying a snowball effect of major excitement.
You submitted two films to this year’s awards edition. “Letters and Lines” for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery provides insight into Kenturah Davis’ process of portraying Ava DuVernay, who was honored with the Portrait of a Nation Award. The film “Mark Rouse and His Eyes” for the American College of Surgeons and the Surgical Care Coalition is about an oil painter who lost his vision to diabetic eye disease and covers the critical access to quality surgery, especially in hindsight of healthcare cuts.
Can you run us through the creative process behind the winning works you entered into the 2023 US International Awards?
Our work for the National Portrait Gallery started at the end of 2021 – and included support with video, digital, media engagement, public engagement, social content, etc. “Letters and Lines” was one of seven films we produced and one of two that focused on the artists themselves. It was meant to explore Kenturah’s unique process, her relationship/reflections on Ava DuVernay, the honoree she was commissioned to portray, and her specific approach to the portrait. The way we filmed was meant to mimic the way she creates.
Some of the most important pre-production work was a series of interviews with Kenturah. Understanding her approach and the tools she used – but also her energy and her values. She likes her portraits to be in motion – as the subjects themselves, people, are always in motion, changing, and growing, so we chose moments to shoot. Her process is meticulous, repetitive, and meditative, so we captured close-up detail shots. For the basis of her portraits, she captures her subjects on film using double exposure and slow shutter. We wanted to honor this subtly, so we shot with film using double exposures and added some double exposure to the digital in post. She speaks slowly, with intention, and works to keep a peaceful working environment – we matched the music and pacing of the film accordingly.
As for “Mark Rouse and His Eyes”, we’ve been working to stop healthcare cuts for about two years now, and it’s important to us. It’s one of the few ventures where you can see real, positive results, and how they affect people. That’s why we designed the film series this way, we wanted to show the on-the-ground effects of preventing cuts to Medicaid.
When we start the process of a patient film like this, we usually ask “What does it look like if these cuts happen?” It’s often a nebulous answer, “they might live three years less, they may have pain here or aches there.” With Mark Rouse, the answer was easy: if these cuts happen, Mark stays blind. His story is remarkable, and we wanted to tell it without getting in the way. But blindness itself is often misunderstood. Most people think it’s all black, a total lack of sight. But really, it’s a spectrum. It can be heavily obscured, with tunnel vision, blurriness, and distortion. We wanted to literally show that. Our creative conceit became that we would start the film replicating this kind of blindness, and as the story progressed, the imagery would become clearer, along with the narrative.
For the shoot, the DP had free reign to “mess up” the image as much as possible to really play around with it. He used Lens Babies, crystals, fishing line, streak filters, you name it. We also wanted to play around with a lack of perspective, so the interviews were shot against flat backgrounds with no real guidelines and off-framing.
What were your expectations when entering? Did you assume, you would be in the race for a Specialty Award?
We were thrilled at the opportunity to get recognition for our work – and for the clients and people they feature. We did not even consider being in the race for a Specialty Award. But we are thrilled to have received it!
Now, please tell us something about yourself. Can you give us a brief bio and disclose your background?
Talya: I love telling stories – and I love film as the medium to share them. I studied English, Poetry, Psychology, and Theater – which honestly create a perfect blend of the human, psychological, and artistic elements of storytelling! After graduating, I worked in TV for a few years (for shows like HBO’s “GIRLS” and WB’s “Blindspot” and “Mr. Robot”), which gave me incredible firsthand experience and a strong work ethic. From there, I transitioned to an agency career at Brunswick, where I’ve been for the past eight years. Our team is small, which means we all get to play many roles – writer, director, line producer, and creative producer. Our clients span many industries – from healthcare to non-profit to fashion to tech. Each project is an exciting opportunity to learn something new and find new ways to share them with the world.
Alex: I moved to NYC in 2004 to go to film school and haven’t looked back since. When I was learning, film was the only way to shoot, but around 2007, 24p and HD started to come up, and I decided, right then, it was the future. I became a go-to for HD and digital knowledge during this period, which fueled my network pretty well. I worked as a shooter and engineer, mostly in TV and fashion - and I found a lot of the jobs I was on were run poorly. So I started producing them instead. From there, I started working for what was then MerchantCantos, now Brunswick Creative. I started as a producer/shooter but eventually worked more as a director, and now I am very proud to be a Creative Director on the film team.
What are some of your works that played a major role in your professional career or that deem to be important to you?
Talya: Working in television, especially on GIRLS, was a seminal experience for my production career. It was a show trying to make a difference in how we portray people in terms of physical appearance and personality. And working in television – that’s a tough but rewarding and very educational experience.
Since then, the most important pieces (to me) that I’ve worked on focus on the healthcare industry. There are about 14 doctors in my family (parents, grandparents, first cousins, aunts, and uncles). They each care deeply about helping their patients live better lives, which is why I feel so connected to these stories. Among this work are a series for a foundation working to find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease, a film for the American College of Surgeons that salutes the surgical profession, and many films for Philips Healthcare about the technology they produce and partnerships they create to help improve lives.
Art is as important to culture as medicine is to health. Thus, the film “Letters and Lines” most certainly joins the rank of films most important to my career.
Alex: Two moments in my career stick out as huge lessons I’ve taken with me as time goes on. The first paid job I ever worked, I was a gaffer on a very well-funded NYU student thesis. I was working under a now pretty well-known DP who I won’t name. I was super fresh and wanted to play with every toy in the box. We started to light a scene of a guy sitting and reading. He looked at it, went to the side table next to the chair, and turned on the lamp. He looked at the stand-in, read the meter, and decided this was the key light. I was kind of flabbergasted, and when I asked him why we weren’t going to add more, he said, “It’s doing everything I need.” I’ve taken that with me to everything I do – assess honestly, don’t overcomplicate, only use what’s needed. If it looks good, it looks good.
The second is a job I did on a whim. Sony asked me to test out some prototype cameras for them, the F5 and F55, before they were released. The big deal with them (among other things) was that they had this super wide color gamut. My wife is Indian, and I’m a big fan of Indian culture, and this was right around Holi, a festival where everyone throws brightly colored powder at each other and has a blast. I decided to gather a few of my camera friends and shoot a local festival in exchange for coverage. It ended up being so successful Sony put it at the center of their campaign for the cameras, getting placement in Tribeca and Sundance. Before that, that sort of reach seemed kind of impossible, but it taught me good work will get recognized and to just be confident. It sort of permitted me to dream big, as cheesy as that sounds.
What was the most challenging project you worked on so far?
Talya: The piece for the American College of Surgeons was quite challenging in its locations. We filmed four surgeons over four days at GW Hospital: a working hospital, in a very busy location, during the pandemic. Each day began at 5 am and posed the challenges of navigating surgeons’ ever-changing schedule, staying flexible and nimble to keep a small footprint on an emergency room floor, ensuring everyone has signed release forms, keeping the integrity of a surgical set-up in simulations, and maintaining communication among the surgery staff, the hospital’s marketing staff, and our client, the ACS. We filmed approximately 9 hours of footage, uploading each night after wrap, and turned around the edit in under two weeks. And it was so, so worth it.
Alex: Right at the start of the pandemic, we did a commercial for a private jet company. It was July 2020. I was stuck in a small NYC apartment with my wife and our toddler. It was a stressful time. We got word that we needed to pull up our timeline and shoot our spot in three weeks. We didn’t even have a script. Well, after six weeks, 11 shoot days (3 of which were aerial using camera jets and real planes) in 9 states, using a cast and crew of about 60, shooting stills and film in tandem during dawn and dusk, meaning 18 hour days, produced remotely from my apartment, in the height of the worldwide pandemic, and for about $1m, our spot hit the air. It was the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done.
Can you describe your creative process for us?
Talya: It starts with connecting to the client, understanding what they want and what their audience wants. Making sure they feel comfortable, staying transparent, and keeping them updated along every step of the way. Figuring out the more tedious logistics (who/what/where/why/can we film? What library of assets do you have? etc.), as well as the intended emotional impact and messaging. Then it’s researching the (often complex) topic at hand, becoming as much of a mini-expert as the time allows. From there, it’s gathering all the pieces and thinking about the best way to tell their story. At this point, it’s time for my favorite part of the creative process: collaborating, collaborating, collaborating with my teammates. This is vital. We all have different backgrounds, reference pieces, passions, and tastes - all of which help boost the creative process enormously. And from there, we make an award-winning film ;)
Alex: I think Talya summed it up pretty well, especially becoming a mini expert and collaborating. The only other thing is that I like to see if there are any angles to the story that are untold or unexcepted and if that can be used to tell the story better. But the most important thing is to honor the truth.
In your opinion, what makes a “good” corporate video? And how important is branded video content for brands?
In our opinion, a good corporate video does a few things. Firstly, it tells the truth. Or a truth. It should feel like it’s coming from an honest, unique point of view. Furthermore, it reflects a style and perspective chosen with the client and its messaging in mind. And lastly, it understands its audience having an accordingly tone and aesthetic.
Ewa Ewart is a journalist and an award-winning filmmaker who specializes in groundbreaking and influential documentaries. Born and raised in Poland, she spent most of her career based at BBC TV in London, England. She has traveled and worked in many countries, producing and directing programs ranging from investigations and political to social observational documentaries.
We are thrilled to have you on the jury for the 2024 US International Awards. Please tell us more about your work background and your everyday work life. Could you also tell us what you enjoy the most in your job?
My journalistic background is in TV News. I learned about documentary filmmaking at the BBC in London. Back in the 1990s, it was a golden era for documentaries. There was money, and we traveled the world making films on various fascinating and relevant subjects. It was an inspiring stretch of my work as a filmmaker, and it lasted a good few years. I am now a freelancer and enjoy the freedom of freelancing offers. However, raising funds for a project can sometimes be daunting and time-consuming. I never had to worry about getting budgets for my films while working for the BBC.
What do you enjoy the most in your job?
I love the documentary format for many reasons, but one is of critical importance: documentaries offer you enough space to tell what happened and why it happened. It was the main reason I eventually had enough of news. This format often leaves the viewer with many unanswered questions. In a documentary, you have time and space to create in-depth context for complex events and make them easier for a wider audience to understand.
You have made plenty of films - are there projects that stand out for you personally?
When I work on a film, it always seems unique and the most important thing to me. But there are some films I made that I still feel attached to personally. “Children of Beslan” is one of them. It is the story of the tragedy that happened on September 1, 2004, when a group of heavily armed Chechen rebel extremists stormed into School No 1 in Beslan, Russia. For three days, more than a thousand children and adults were held hostage in a sweltering gym, denied food and water, and forced to keep their hands over their heads. The siege ended three days later when Russian Special Forces stormed the school to free the hostages. A series of explosions and an exchange of gunfire killed over 350 people- half of them children. I chose to tell this story with the words of those who survived- young heroes; the youngest was six, and the oldest was 12. I worked on that film for nearly a year, traveled many times to Beslan, and got close to these exceptional children. This experience is still very vivid.
What are you currently working on? And what else is planned for the upcoming time?
The year 2023 is proving to be busy. I will have made two 60-minute plus documentaries by the time it ends. "Until the Last Drop" is a film about rivers and people, their relationship, and interconnectedness. It tells a story of despair but also of determination and hope. The film exposes how human activity is a leading cause of a growing freshwater crisis. However, it shows we can also be part of the solution and tells the inspiring story of how people fight until the last drop to protect rivers worldwide.
My current film – working title "Magda"- is of a very different kind, based on the main character's video diary. It tells her extraordinary journey while living with breast cancer. It is a moving and inspiring story of a woman who decided to live and took up the challenge of fighting the disease.
You were awarded several awards yourself. What does an award represent to you?
I always accept an award as a recognition for the work of my entire team, who helped to create the film. It is never my film or my award. It is always a team effort, and teamwork is the most rewarding aspect of my job. An award means that the film's story proved to be timely, its topic relevant, and, above all, that its execution was almost flawless! And I, of course, enjoy the red carpet a lot.
In your opinion, what makes a “good” documentary? Alas, what are you looking for in a winning entry?
For me, the power of a “good” documentary lies in compelling characters with charisma with whom the viewer can connect emotionally. You can have the most exciting story idea, but the film will inevitably flop if your characters are dull and unconvincing. It works the other way, too. Sometimes, the story is not the most engaging, but nevertheless, it is still important and deserves to be told. A good character will help to rescue a somewhat uninspiring narrative.
Do you have any tips production-wise for documentary filmmakers and potential entrants?
Ask yourself what kind of film you would like to watch – it is a good place to start and will likely lead you to the right topic for your documentary. Set a good time to start the development of your treatment and let your curiosity wander far and wide. Look for relevant subject information in the most unlikely sources, apart from the obvious ones. You will likely stumble across an unusual idea to make your points in the film and discover unique characters. Remember that less is more, and be disciplined with your focus. Always have a plan B. More than anything else, tell yourself that you will make a great film!
The prestigious US International Awards are thrilled to announce the official call for entries for the 2024 edition. As a platform for celebrating outstanding creativity and innovation in brand videos and documentaries, the US International Awards seek to honor exceptional storytellers, filmmakers, video creators, and creatives alike. The call for entries will run until February 16, 2024.
Film producers, agencies, client companies, and students are welcome to submit their creative work. Entrants can make submissions in over 100 categories within the main categories: Corporate Videos, Online & Social Media Videos, Documentaries & Reports, Independent Videos, Student Videos, and the additional Production Art & Craft categories.
Esteemed panels of judges are eager to witness unique perspectives and artistic brilliance and will evaluate the submissions based on their concept, objective, creative and technical excellence, and innovation.
The winners will be officially announced during an online Winner Announcement in June 2024. "We are excited to open the doors for entries for the 2024 US International Awards," said Alexander V. Kammel, Awards Director. "In a world where creativity knows no boundaries, these awards aim to spotlight those who have made extraordinary contributions in brand videos and documentaries."
All further information on the categories, entry fees and conditions of participation can be found at www.usinternationalawards.com.
About the US International Awards
The US International Awards honor the world’s best branded video productions and documentaries. The awards, formally named US International Film & Video Festival, have been taken over and re-branded in 2021 by Filmservice International, Europe’s biggest organizer of corporate film festivals. With the original festival having a fifty-five yearlong background within the industry of corporate videos and documentaries and the expertise of Filmservice International, the renewed US International Awards joyously start into this new era.
US International Awards
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