Guide to communicating long form narratives to audience

Cannes day 2 witnesses Oscar-winning filmmaker Asif Kapadia and Alexander Schill, Global Chief Creative Officer, of Serviceplan group deconstruct their work and reveal cinematic secrets that will help transform stories into unforgettable experiences

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New Delhi: Creative directors often seek answers to the ‘blackhole’ like question of ‘How do you show what you feel?’ 

Answering the question of how to authentically market thoughts and feelings, Oscar-winning filmmaker Asif Kapadia and Alexander Schill, Global Chief Creative Officer, Serviceplan group deconstruct their work and reveal cinematic secrets to transform stories into experiences. 

At Cannes day 2, brought together by SAWA - The Global Cinema Advertising Association, the masterclass explored the dual impact of extended formats: crafting compelling brand stories and significantly shaping viewer emotions and brand perceptions.

Kathryn Jacob, President of SAWA kickstarted the session on an enthusiastic note by saying, “It's claimed that audiences have limited attention spans, but we are capable of engaging those distracted human minds.”

Narrating the art of storytelling that captivates audience, Schill - gave a short presentation about the long format in advertising. Tracing the evolution of storytelling in advertising, Schill said, “Ten years ago, when we were talking about long format, it was more or less about 30 seconds. If you were lucky, it was 45 seconds. Now, it is a combination of very short format combined with long format, which means like three minutes up to five minutes, even longer. So, very short, highly individualised video snippets combined with a long format are probably also the future.”

When it comes to long-format advertising, it becomes vital to effectively communicate the insights. Schill gave three-pointers for constructively communicating your narrative to the audience. 

Find the universal truth

"So when it comes to long format in advertising, the most important thing for me is, it should be true what you're talking about. You have to find a global truth, a truth that everyone can relate to, a global insight.” 

Get into the depth

Now that you have figured out the global truth to communicate, Schill’s memo asks you to dive deep into consumer behaviour and engage in deep authentic research. As Schill perceives it, “ If you have the time to really dig deep into these stories, then use it. Look very precisely at every angle and use what you find there. So really go deep into what you want to tell.” 

Engage in good craftsmanship

The last leg of Schill’s memo is about craftsmanship and artisan attitude. In Schill’s words, “Exhaustively craft out of it because you have the time to do so. Make it beautiful coming from every angle and everywhere. So really craft the shit out of it when you have the time to do so."

Speaking of long-form content such as documentaries in the advertising space, Kapadia had three takeaways for modern-day advertisers arranged in the order of progression. 


Specifying the importance of research Kapadia sketched out how he engages in deep research. “Before I make a film, I do some research, and it's really important at the start of a process to kind of just have your gut feeling and your instincts. What is it you want, or I want, an audience to feel?”

Characters form a story

The character arc not only sets the tone and mood of a story but also helps the audience evolve and grow with the character. As the character undergoes a transformation in the story, the audience also develops a strong understanding of who the character is, including the character’s past life and the events that shape him in the present.

Referring to Amy, a Grammy-winning film by Kapadia, he said, “Everything is led by the main character. Amy is the story, Amy is the character, the film should be true to the character that I'm making the film about. Drama, that things happen, things need to happen that you feel, that change, that lead you to different stages.”

Developing a strong foundation

A good script is like a strong foundation. Captivating scripts enhance viewer engagement, driving action and increasing conversion rates. Commenting upon the value of a good script Kapadia said, “How do I go about it? I do a lot of interviews, audio only. For Amy, I did about 120 interviews. I didn't know what the story was, I don't read lots of books. My thing is I learn by doing my own interviews and everything comes out of those interviews. 

Expanding his thought Kapadia said, "For what it's worth, there were a lot of people that were really troubled by the story of Amy, so most of those interviews I did in a safe space and in the dark, turning the lights off. I had to become a detective. It was an investigation,”

Trust your intuition 

“A lot of filmmaking is about your instincts and trusting your instincts. And almost at the beginning of a process, writing down on a piece of paper, a post-it, this is what I think about the story. Am I achieving what I set out to do?” said Kapadia while concluding his three-step process of developing a compelling storyline.

effective communication Cannes 2024 storytelling craft filmmaking advertisement research SAWA